More than a year has gone by since the beginning of the pandemic and little has changed. Yet, a growing awareness that cities are undoubtedly “at stake”, as announced by Utopian Hours 2020’s claim, is palpable. The experience of the past year has clarified the role proximity has in life quality and this once again leads us to seek comfort in the “15-minute city” idea. However, reorganising spatial distance cannot be the only solution. The 15-minute model New Urbanism has promoted since the 1980s is now outdated and inadequate to rebalance the differences in our cities.
Utopian Hours strikes back with a proposal that pushes the envelope: the 1000-minute city, where time —and not space— becomes the measure of things, where the city embodies a condition of being and not only of matter, also suggests that city making yields to the making of the citizen.
The city is everywhere. Indeed wherever a citizen lays their hat or rather connects to the wifi, there is a city: today we see urban form and spirit decoupling. (Utopian Hours had already introduced this vision of city quitting as “decoupling urban spirit from urban form” last year).
The modern city —the very one that in the encyclopaedia and Enlightenment’s conception is defined as “a sum of architecture and walls”— is outdated. The civitas —which was the old Latin definition of the city— has returned to centre stage encompassing a vision of the city where architecture and walls leave room to a spirit; what we now trivialise by using the term citizenship, or better, urbanity defines an outlook open to the world, ambitious, cultured and tolerant.
Urban realities have gone beyond the industrial revolution’s idea of the city, a trading conundrum of an almost infinite supply and demand of goods and services. And what substitutes this industrial aggregate that gave birth to the cities we know today? A network of dispersed markets for goods and information.
The city becomes an attractive magnet of forces concentrated in space, formed by a polycentric network of dispersed and well-connected citizens.
Torino Stratosferica’s idea of urban planning is that it should not only be concerned with space making, but first and foremost with time management. In other words, as well as readjusting our cities with micro temporary solutions, it is urgent to think about how to manage our being “temporary citizens everywhere”. In short, a change of direction is needed, from city making to citizen making.
The 1000-minute city claim, which Torino Stratosferica’s editorial team chose as the title for this year’s Utopian Hours festival, is counterbalanced by the concept of “The city is everywhere”, a more pop subheading that aims at holding together the contradictions implicit in every slogan, ideology and keyword with which we try to shape the future.
The thousand-minute provocation serves to make us think. In the vision of a city that is everywhere, open and widespread, like the whole of Europe —to follow Renzo Piano’s fascinating metaphor— a city that transfers its essence from space to time, a question arises: what will the limit be? What will happen to the 98% of the earth’s land still not urbanised (to paraphrase Koolhaas and Bantal’s message in Countryside: The Future)?
In other words: what are the “urban values” that the 1000-minute city brings as a gift? Let us not forget that many “1000-minute” cities, seeds of hypertrophic urban development, already exist today in many areas of the world, even if they are far from us and the prevailing narrative.
This reminds us that both the Anthropocene and the city’s evolution are two spirals of the same DNA, and that the threat of extinction can become the vertigo of human metamorphosis, if we manage to act in symbiosis with the planet, while giving free rein to the unrestrained desire of being ever more an urban species.
The cultural dimension that year after year Utopian Hours wants to reveal to the collective and global discourse on cities is that the city is to be understood both as an original product of the mysterious cognitive revolution, which occurred during the evolution of Homo Sapiens (Cities are mental weapons), and an instrument of acceleration of human dominion over the planet, which originated with the agricultural revolution and the consequential surplus management.
The utopian hours are an invitation to take us to a higher, broader and deeper level of consciousness, where it becomes evident that the two purposes coexist and that it is up to us to invent a way to govern or transcend them. From this perspective,
imagining cities on other planets becomes the rational and psychedelic solution to the above mentioned awareness.
Utopian Hours is the festival of cities, an international event dedicated to “city making”. Three days to explore the most pressing issues of urban environments and learn about successful experiences from different cities around the world — comprising visionary challenges, ambitious placemaking projects, social and technological innovation, and collective imagination.
Available both in-person and online streaming on utopianhours.it.
Utopian Hours 2021 takes place from 8 to 10 October 2021 at Centrale, La Nuvola, Lavazza, via Ancona 11/A, 10152, Turin, Italy.