Virtual metropolis. Architect Olga Chernova on the greatest city of our time

/ Architecture /

There are people (and, alas, statistically speaking, they are in the majority) whose idleness is an absolute blessing for the world. When Rothschild, walking down the street, noticed that the janitors were discussing the prices of railway company shares, he made the right conclusion: it was time to sell the shares, because "if these people got to them, it means that the business smells like kerosene"... And indeed, Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, came soon.

Almost a hundred years later, "these" have reached international tourism and global migration. It would not have been happy, but misfortune helped - the coronavirus allowed the cities where tourists loved to vacation to rest at least a little. At the same time, the infection did not stop real travelers, just as it did not stop Marco Polo, Amerigo Vespucci or Nicklouho-Maclay in their time.

At all times, there have been people who preferred to sit still, jealously defending the land of their ancestors (who also sat in this place and, in turn, defended the land of their ancestors). And there were others who, changing landscape after landscape, walked, rode and swam to new horizons.

Photo: Rafael de Nadai / Unsplash

It probably all started with prehistoric hunters and gatherers who migrated in search of prey and fruit and vegetable garnish. Then the "proto-homesteaders" came up with the idea of growing crops, and the travelers tamed sheep, cows, horses and dogs and went with them in search of cereal grains. Later, the homesteaders learned how to form clay bricks and use them to build houses and fortress walls. Nomadic cattle breeders realized that they could storm all these fortifications and appropriate what they had gained by hard work. But not all sedentary couch potatoes were content to sit still - a new dynamic type of colonists emerged, sailing out of the metropolis and discovering new shores, where they built new cities in the image of the city and planted culture. And then there are the migrants who move from places where they think they are living badly to places where they think they will be well off.

Migrants are the new barbarians from whom civilization has to defend itself

And now we live in a global world and are trying to understand each other's broken English, which the British - as history has shown, the most skillful colonists - spread as part of their expansion. In this new world, there are no longer any unknown shores where you can set up a new colony - except for the lunar and Martian ones, perhaps. But there is still the illusion that somewhere where we are not, it is good to live, or at least we can take a break from ourselves. And crowds of migrants and tourists are rushing to follow this illusion. Travelers who bring their culture and its achievements are a blessing to the sedentary non-travelers they visit. People who bring their own problems with them - and they are, alas, the overwhelming majority among migrants - are evil. Migrants are the new barbarians from whom civilization has to defend itself. And to protect against them, as in ancient China, the modern "Great American Wall" was built on the border of the United States and Mexico.

Photo: William Bayreuther / Unsplash

However, dynamic travelers have always been a minority compared to sedentary householders. Even the army of the Golden Horde was many times smaller than the settled peoples it conquered. Therefore, when millions of tourists and migrants began to travel, a kind of "nomadic lifestyle bubble" was inflated, which, if not due to the coronavirus, then for many other reasons had to burst.

Photo: Serhat Beyazkaya / Unsplash
Photo: Ryoji Iwata / Unsplash

And what are we left with after the bubble bursts? Sit on the porch and read about Elon Musk's plans to conquer Mars? In my opinion, a real nomad (from the Turkic "koch" - traveler) has room to travel on earth! After all, what is a metropolis today? While Athens or Rome, Amsterdam or London used to be great cities, the center of great cultures, today which metropolis can be considered the source of global culture? New York? Shanghai? Tokyo? London? Dubai? Paris?

If you look closely, none of them can be called absolutely progressive. Each of the great cities has something cutting edge, but it is also adjacent to something that is downright dormant. If we want to present the most progressive, most architectural, most cultural city, we will start assembling a collage in which we will combine the residences of Apple and other major Silicon Valley corporations, public spaces in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and other cities in Northern Europe, and the monuments of Central Europe that are kept in perfect condition, Deutsche Bahn train stations, new Chinese or Dubai metro stations, Singapore's green residential skyscrapers, the Hadron Collider and medical factories of the Swiss-German-French agglomeration on the banks of the Rhine, Tokyo's shopping superstreet, and somewhere in the distance, at the very edge of the city's panorama, the colored roof slopes of Kyiv's Comfort Town are likely to be flaming.

Comfort Town residential complex. Photo: Andriy Avdeenko

Where is this greatest city of our time located? In the virtual space of the global digital network, from which we are now gaining knowledge about all the most progressive, cool and inspiring things created by mankind!

Each of the great cities has something cutting edge, but it is also adjacent to something downright dormant

Modern culture is no longer concentrated in the city with its libraries and universities. It is in online encyclopedias and virtual communication between specialists from all over the world. We can say that global civilization and its culture are in the digitized metropolis! And this is not a conservative, static museum, but an actively developing system. The ambassadors of the new digital global metropolis, the new colonists who open new shores for the values and continuously improving experience of the virtual capital, are specialists whose competence has outgrown local boundaries and can be applied in different parts of the world. They are constantly striving to meet new challenges, and as soon as they have completed a project in one part of the world, they start looking for a new one in another.

Photo: Jared Murray / Unsplash

In addition to colonists, a global virtual metropolis must, of course, have citizens. Those who are trying to apply the most relevant experience in their country, in their city.

And finally, the third and perhaps the key class of the virtual metropolis are the heroes, the inventors of new experiences.

At all times, the emergence of a new metropolis has been accompanied by the birth of new architecture, new formats of social relations, new types of housing and the organization of property rights.

The new "virtual" metropolis consists of real objects and experiences scattered around the world

What new things can we expect from our global virtual metropolis? For example, a new attitude to housing: not as inherited "family castles" but as a service that can be provided by an international corporation, similar to a global hotel chain. Ownership of square meters can be replaced by ownership of shares in the company, which give their owners (new colonists living in one city or another) the opportunity to get an apartment of the right size, in the right location, sometimes renting additional meters to those secured by the shares, and sometimes receiving rental income on the shares if the meters secured by the shares are not needed. (For more information on the concept of "Housing as a Service", see "Cohousing - to live or to survive? Coliving, Cohousing and Rental Houses in the 21st Century" (Vol. 13). We should probably expect the emergence of global citizenship with a passport that is accepted in all countries of the world. And finally, a currency that will not depend on the whims of local politicians and economists.

The epithet "virtual" does not fully express the quality of the new global metropolis: it consists of real objects and experiences scattered around the world, and its virtuality is merely a way of uniting them into a single system. However, the search for precise definitions is already the domain of researchers and historians, who have the right to perceive reality as a completed process. For us, who live inside the process and have a strong influence on its development, this is not history. It is life!

/The material was published on pages #33 of the PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA volume/.