VISIBLE CITIES – INVISIBLE CITIES
AT HOME IN THE CITY
HARRY PYE’s POSTCARD FROM LONDON
Tarvo Hanno Varres
ROCK-MUSIC FROM BUDAPEST
AMSTERDAM IS A CITY
PERM. WHERE IS THIS PLACE? WHAT IS THIS PLACE?
A HAPPY MORNING
VILEN KÜNNAPU’s SHORT
INTERVIEW WITH THE POET
SCENES OF PAIDE
Jan Ping aka Brüggemeier
VISIBLE CITIES – INVISIBLE CITIES
|Like a painting, which is not just a piece of canvas in a wooden frame, or a building, which is not only an assemblage of stone and glass, cities also have a meaning beyond houses and streets and parks. Cities are not just the subject of public administration and traffic engineering and the best possible services for people – cities, as paintings, poems, symphonies, and buildings, have meaning which constitutes their artistic existence, their cultural reality. Any attempt to discuss cities under these premises, to analyze their complexity in terms of their symbolism, requires a generalist’s perspective, a view that transcends the borderlines of disciplines and methods as no other field in the humanities.
August Künnapu, Gun Foundry
Acrylic on canvas 95 x 154 cm, 2005
To focus on what cities mean, both in imagined cities or in their built equivalents, goes far beyond the already complex approaches which urban studies have established. Even great urban historians such as Pierre Lavedan and Lewis Mumford fail to discuss the content of the city beyond its basic and necessary physical form and function. They refer to content as something irrational and irrelevant in favor of socalled statistical “facts”. In recent years Jacques Ellul and James Dougherty provided valuable new insights from a perspective based on innovative readings of the scriptures thereby expanding and at the same time limiting the scope of their research. There is no doubt that the lack of meaning in city planning is generally felt.
Cities as documents of human cultural history do more than serve utilitarian functions, and are more than planned and built forms of communal life. The physical form of a city, not unlike that of a painting, a poem, or a symphony, has spiritual significance which transcends that which can be measured, explained, and justified. The meaningful significance is manifested in the physical existence; it is – in Heideggerian terms – the realization of truth in the work.*
The physical character of the cities, therefore, is not to be separated from the meaning of cities. Quite the opposite is true: one expresses the other. To reduce urban investigation to one or the other can only lead to inaccurate and often false results. What has already been established, a scientific iconology of architecture, is urgently needed also for urbanism. The reading of the urban form on the surface is not sufficient. We also must investigate how these forms were understood in different times. In order to understand the complexity of the city one cannot separate the physical reality from the spiritual significance. As in all art both are inseparable. As Goethe uniquely articulated it: “The inside is the outside and the outside is the inside.”**
Symbolic representation is essential in the conception, creation, development, and understanding of cities, as cities are those works of art in which man is most involved, he lives in them, he shapes them not only as an individual, but also as a community. Cities, therefore, are art forms that most intensely shape the daily life of human beings.
Udo Kultermann is Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He has published widely in the fields of art and architecture and is the author of 35 books, including “Architecture of the 20th Century”, “New Directions in African Architecture”, “Contemporary Architecture in the Arab States – Renaissance of A Region”, “Architecture and Revolution. The Visions of Boullée and Ledoux”, “The New Sculpture”, “The New Painting” and “Art and Life – The Function of Intermedia”. He currently resides in New York City.
* Martin Heidegger: „Die Kunste im Technichen Zeitalter”; ed. by the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, Munich 1956.
** “Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale.” Quoted after: John Dewey: „The Essential Writings”, ed. by David Sidorsky, New York 1977, p. 279 – 280. See also: U. Kultermann: „Kleine Geschichte der Kunsttheorie,” Darmstadt 1987, p. 273-274.