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10 / 09 / 2004
Manuel de Solà-Morales (Architect): “The biggest danger faced by our cities is segregation”

Catalan architect Manuel de Solà-Morales explained his thesis on architecture against cities at the Dialogue “Cities and Citizens in the 21st Century”

Architect and urban planner, Manuel de Solà-Morales, stated that, “it’s very difficult to determine intellectual or conceptual difference between the city and architecture”. Solà-Morales explained that, “the city is architecture, and this architecture is not city architecture than it doesn’t exist”. Solà-Morales admitted that he believes “there are clear limits between the administrative, the professional and the pedagogical.”

According to Solà-Morales, “people often believe that modern architecture does not make good cities, but they hardly ever think that the modern city is incapable of producing adequate architecture.”

Solà-Morales spoke of the relationship between global and local. He said that, “the city is local and conveys that which is specific, whereas architecture represents all that is global”. Solà-Morales argued that, “architecture evokes ideas, strengths, emotions, intelligence, comprehension of the world and human’s ability to excel, and therefore conveys universal content”.

Solà-Morales said that, “the main element of contemporary cities is interaction and mobility”. To him, the city “is a place where everyone is constantly on the go, whereas in the country, it is quiet.” He stated that, “this mobility has sped up over recent years.”

Solà-Morales stated that, “the biggest danger faced by our cities is not dispersion or congestion, but segregation”. He defined segregation “as the consolidation into packets of functions that tend to close in on themselves, thus created spaces for the rich and the poor, office areas and residential neighborhoods.”

Solà-Morales criticized the future Ciutat Judicial that is being built in Hospitalet, about which he said that, “it is essential anti-urban”. Another criticism of his “is that industrial architecture has been expulsed to unknown places in the city where they no place nor form, whereas they could co-exist with the city.” Moreover, Solà-Morales spoke of public facilities, which are also undergoing this segregation. He spoke of hospitals, schools and sports centers as being “ugly and anti-urban”. However, Solà-Morales argued in favor of “the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao because it is very urban and is integrated in the city.”

Solà-Morales, who designed l’Illa Diagonal, spoke of the architecture of luxury or fame as “that which justifies itself, that looks at its belly button. It is a type of architecture that seeks justification in that which is surprising or commercial”. Solà-Morales believes that “this type of architecture is partly caused by the competition between cities that want to appear as tourist and commercial markets. Many politicians, promoters and institutions use architecture as advertisement.”

He stated that, “the idea that cities like Barcelona have been built in spurts coinciding with major events such as universal exhibitions and the Olympic Games is not historically true”. Moreover, according to Solà-Morales, this concept “simplifies the idea of the city”. He holds that, “the urban-ness of a new building is apparent in whether it truly fights against segregation.”

Solà-Morales explained that, during the discussions about buildings between mayors breaks away from the profile of the city “that forgets its impact on the land”.