Is this the City of the Future?

Future city

Is this the City of the Future?

Is the city of the future full of Tinder and Amazon?

This article is a longer read;

If we shift our lives more into digital space, what will the city of tomorrow look like? This is the question that Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer are trying to address.

The waitress has just taken the order and typed it into the system on her tablet. Maybe Escargots de Bourgogne followed by a Coq au Vin with a glass of Chablis, who knows. Café du Soleil on the Upper West Side is one of the city’s best French restaurants and, like many other New York eateries, unceremoniously banished its al-fresco diners to clear plastic bubbles last fall to protect them from the virus. Clever? Dystopian? Or just a little taste of the future for all of us?

“Due to advancing digitalization, we have lost the city as a public socialization stage in recent years,” say Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer. “Due to the global corona pandemic and the associated precautionary measures, the question of the future of our coexistence has gained additional relevance. Will we ever regain the urban space we have lost?”

This is precisely the research quintessence and core message of the two curators and architectural theorists who run the Centre for Global Architecture (smirk allowed, sic!) in Vienna and London, and who were chosen as the commissioning duo in 2019 by the then Minister of Culture Gernot Blümel (ÖVP). Together they are designing the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which should have taken place last year. In four weeks, on May 22, the Giardini are finally scheduled to open their doors.

“The city is becoming invisible,” says Mörtenböck, the slightly shorter-haired of the two art twins. “Grown urban structures, public institutions and accustomed forms of social organization are increasingly coming under pressure. Significantly involved in this are the digital platforms on which we network, because they offer convenience, efficiency and purpose, and in this way form a virtual substitute for the real, built city in which we have so far socialized – whether that’s Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Quora, Google, Tinder or Grindr.”

There is hardly an area that is not affected by digitalization and mapping: consumption, leisure, sports, entertainment, education, knowledge exchange, healthcare, mobility, job placement, food supply, services of all kinds, even love and sexuality are being outsourced to the digital space. And with the bits and bites, not only are socio-analogous interactions diminishing, but at the same time delivery cars, logistics centers and sealed-off server farms on the outskirts of the city are increasing.

“We don’t want to just stand by and watch the loss of shared urban space; we want to participate in shaping the new urban platforms,” says Mörtenböck. “And maybe the task of us urban planners and architects is changing in the sense that in the future we now also have to help design these virtual urban spaces, instead of leaving the programming solely to the big corporations and tech companies.”

To take this, city of the future, pseudo-urban mind game to the extreme, the two curators invented the term platform urbanism. In the Austrian pavilion in the Giardini, this urbanism, which has been researched and documented over the past 24 months, is to be made manifest – in the form of a multimedia exhibition with images, text, sound, film and stage. In addition to the two curators, around 50 bloggers and thinkers from all over the world will have their say.

“The distance between my lips and my next text message depends on the Apple face recognition algorithm and a smile,” says British artist Ofri Cnaani, for example. Her blog entry is to be made readable, audible or perceptible on another sensory level in the exhibition in a way not yet officially defined by the curators.

And Pedro Gadanho, director of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon, says in cynical but perhaps not so unworldly terms: “Platforms? A few unfortunate one-night stands of a pandemic! A flat cityscape devoid of the excitement of a chance encounter. The purest zoombie urbanism of an illusory e-connectivity, all jargon, all formulas, all on-demand. And never leaving our 7.5-square-meter apartment again!”

This, in all likelihood, fairly digital, fairly virtual biennial contribution will be complemented by an interactive forum where – certainly not now, but perhaps in a few months – real discussions and debates will take place in presence mode. It is difficult to predict what concrete content can be expected. The two curators are being too cagey about it. What is clear, however, is that the question of how we want to play an active role in shaping our environment in a collaterally-crippled urban reality has gained such urgent topicality with current events that Mörtenböck and Mooshammer’s look into the global crystal ball is downright shocking.

“Ideally, platform urbanism will make our lives easier, reduce bureaucracy and empower us in communicating and organizing,” says Helge Mooshammer. “Ideally, platforms will be a service that transcends space and borders, and we will have the opportunity to engage as co-designers and co-curators.” Ideally!!

“But in the worst case,” says Mooshammer, “in the city of the furure, we are degraded to obedient citizens who have no say in the matter, but who must work off our debt to the political and capitalist systems in the form of money, time and data.

In the worst case, we become small variables in a large credit score society where our citizenship model is replaced by a membership model.” Lots of questions. Lots of critical comments. One can only hope and look forward to the answer!!

(Wojciech Czaja, 04/25/2021)
Source- Der Standard

Photo credit -Levine-Imago

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