Quo Vadis Civitas? – Thoughts on the European Conception of the City Today
The article deals with the change of paradigms in European urban thinking through time. The principles of Modern City Planning of the first half of the 20th century, which despised the classical ideals of the European city and of historical urban environments, as well as the subsequent advent of their counterplot, i.e. the approach of integrated conservation and preservation planning, are seen as the two main opposing tendencies of city development in the last 100 years. They have preceded and prepared the way for a new urban consciousness which puts emphasis on the principles of sustainable development in both global and local terms. While the pressing demands for sustainability have been taken into consideration and even recorded in the law on a certain level in most European countries at the turn of this century, there are still many other new-type urban phenomena which express the present-day tendencies of change in our city-life. The breaking of the traditional space-time relationship due to the arrival of the Internet and the multicultural post-modern urban nomadism, which both go together with a tremendous worldwide economic, social, and environmental restructuration, are among them. As a result, the concept of place has lost its former meaning as an explicitly physical scene. At the same time, mentally, socially and culturally processed issues, such as the identity of a place, have become more and more important putting emphasis on the type of interaction between different people and the places of their lives. Thus the question of dwelling and the expression of multi-cultural identities have become fundamental urban issues. Today in Europe city planning is often less concerned with building new environments than with transforming extant environments and creating interaction and synergy between old and new. Multicultural and tolerant living environments with different historical, social and cultural layers function as magnets for creative people and for inspiring city-life.
Kaisa Broner-Bauer is an architect D.Sc. (Tech./Arch.), and professor emerita of Architecture at the University of Oulu, Finland. She has studied and worked in Finland, France, the United States, and Japan and is the author of numerous publications on architecture, historic preservation, and urban studies. Her present research interests include the questions of identity and transcendence in architecture and the built environment.