New Humanity Movement

Social Harmony and Art

The shape of the city

The city that shapes


Ideas and proposals to help us know better where we live

(First part)

1.    The city: does it still exist?
2.    Cityfest: focusing on the city
3.    Knowing and loving one’s city
4.    Describing, exploring and imagining one’s city

1. The city: does it still exist?

‘City’, as such, does not exists. Many cities have existed, and many still do today: they reflect different ways of organising space. As an example one could mention the Greek ‘polis’ and the Roman city. Moreover, we have the European and Oriental one, the Arabic, the Baroque and the modern one, ending up with the dissolution and dispersion forms encountered in the contemporary city.

Every city is different from all others. Each city has its own peculiar form, the result of a protracted evolution which contains past modifications and present conservations for the future; each generation leaves its own mark.

We need to look at the city with ‘new’ eyes. We could admire a square, a street or a landscape; yet we need to go beyond the mere appearance and perceive the ‘pulse’ of the people living there: their activities, their language, their symbols, their defeats and their conquests.

Walking in the city. In the Bible, walking along a street is a concrete image of the journey of human life. Walking along a street means meeting both friends and strangers. It is in the daily encounters within our neighbourhood, our village or our block that we become aware of where we live and experience the presence of the others, even those who are different from us, and learn to live together.

The city’s dual nature. The city is a place, a community, to which we feel we belong (polis); at the same time it is also a place towards which people converge with a common purpose (civitas). This dual nature sometimes causes some tension: on the one hand we yearn for the communitarian dimension in which we all feel equal, and, on the other, there is the continual urge to open up and welcome others and to widen our horizons.

The city’s architecture. Architecture, i.e. the shape of the city, influences the inhabitants and their behaviour. Architecture expresses the cultural conquests of mankind (suffice to mention the contemporary infrastructure of Medellin, or the transformation of Curitiba in Brazil, or the modern cities in China and all over the East); in doing so, it changes the inhabitants’ way of life, their customs, and their culture. It either facilitates the interaction between persons or emphasises isolation and fear.

Each city has a particular calling. According to Chiara, every city has its own particular characteristics which are necessary for the successful outcome of the ideal project of a united world. These diverse particularities are a richness for a world heading towards the ‘ut omnes’: it is for this reason that we feel the need to set in motion (or sustain) a dialogue between cities which highlights the characteristic traits of each city.

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