Let’s consider two types of space: the physical one and the virtual one. The first one is well-known, well-studied and used by us on a daily basis, while the second has upset our lives over the past 15 years and, even if it seems an established and inherent reality in our habits, we are not yet aware of the changes it has introduced into our lives and of those it will make in the near future.
Is it safe to assume that this is the most radical architectural invention of the century? How does it interface with physical space? With what consequences and future implications? In the following text, I will try to share with you a few thoughts with the wish that it may trigger some reflection within you, which can enrich the dialogue on this perhaps underestimated theme.
In the last century, there have been many illustrious personalities who have tried, with foresight, to imagine what the face of our cities could have been like today, making many erroneous assumptions.
During the early twentieth century, the cities of the future were often imagined as vertically developing cities, with moving walkways suspended in midair and with airships transporting goods to built-up areas.
Our trust in technology has given way to the most diverse visions of a forseeable future governed by machinery and infrastructure. Technology has instead developed in a completely different way and the internet has vigorously changed the course of development in another direction, opening doors to another subject, which has overwhelmingly entered the urban scene: the virtual space which, in an attempt to design a hypothetical future scenario, I think must be taken into consideration.
Now, talking about a non-physical space could be an end in itself, therefore to give a concrete value to this new subject we have to understand if, and in what way, it interacts with the traditional space.
Personally I find this interaction undeniable and stronger than ever when a shoe store closes because it is brought to its knees by Zalando‘s fierce competition, and the same goes for Amazon which is eliminating any form of retail; I also see it when online travel agencies manage to provide a service equal to that offered by physical tour operators. Therefore, we observe this growing trend concerning virtual space replacing physical space, and the direct consequence is that the already abundant excess built space loses its function by presenting itself as a space that has lost its reason to exist, and thus appearing unused, going to add up to a relevant heritage in a state of neglect.
These are spaces that somehow interrogate us and line up waiting for their role to be rethought.
In the hypothetical scenario in which this trend continues, also thanks to the new Blockchain technologies, it is not difficult to imagine an overview in which every form of building dedicated to public services loses its value.
What then will become this enormous heritage?
Which are the spaces that today retain a meaning for our society and why?
Food delivery has marginally affected how often we usually go out for dinner on the weekend. In the same way, Netflix or online streaming have not reduced the significance of places like cinemas: if the virtual space cannot replace these physical spaces it is because they are preserved by the social function they perform.
It is therefore interesting to imagine a community that in the future will be able to capitalize on the great void left by all those forms of services that will no longer have a reason to physically exist, instead favoring the activities that contribute to set the scene to allow the occurrence of that phenomenon that we call “Urbanity”.
Translated into English by Luna Lebang.
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