Gaia and Thalassa have been confronting one another for thousands of years – in the reality of the physical world and in individual and collective psychological perception - with “reasons” and “actions” that pro-foundly condition their contrasting interests. The principle of defence against natural forces and the desire to dominate the destructive power of the sea, is the basic element that characterises the Mediterranean port city, right from the protohistoric era, a place of conflict and encounters of civilisations. Here the eco-nomic-political reasons that drove the rural and pastoral populations from the inland areas to the river del-tas are clearly visible. On the uncertain boundary between land and water, tribal traditions gradually sur-render to the innovative vis of mercantile populations, forming a settlement and relational network that will develop, in a highly original way, along the intangible lines of peripli and portolani. The Mediterranean city – an unstable but vital universe – shows that it is capable of attracting and generating impressive flows of men, goods and ideas: a varied humanity, driven by a desperation that is no less than cupidity or spirit of adventure. For thousands of years, the Mediterranean city, a crossroads of millenary tracks and routes, de-clines and regenerates, and appears to obey the very slow cycles of the Earth rather than the fortunes of human vicissitudes. "Mediterranean mythopoeia". In the Theogony of Hesiod (VIII century B.C.), “wide-bosomed Earth” , daughter of Chaos, brought forth the starry sky, Uranus, the mountains and the sea. A new creative act is repeated with the myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha, after the deluge had submerged the lands, and the world was repopulated with men and women generated from stones. Life and death, wealth and wars start and finish on the banks of the Mediterranean, reflecting the same divinities of Ares and Portumno, from which the ports and the Greek-Italian communities devolved: the mythical birth of the coral, the stone of blood, that from a living substance became amorphous also refers to this. Ontogenetic literature on urban space – moving from the cultural archetypes of western history to the re-cent debate on water-front structures - has shown how the Mediterranean city is a place where disputes and conflicts that are elsewhere irresolvable can be settled: the digester organism, where everything is transformed and, paradoxically, tout se tient. In our brief illustration, we wish to show how many elements common to the urban development of Medi-terranean cities can be assimilated to the marine organisms that the German biosopher Ernst Haeckel de-scribed, at the end of the XIX century, in“Kunstformen der Natur”, (1904). This work – considered the “Bible” of Jugendstil – was destined to have a profound influence on both the imagination of artists and on twentieth century architectural criticism. Haeckel’s echo can still be found in the Städtebilder of Walter Benjamin, built in the second half of the Twenties: flesh and stone, humanity and physical consistency in the cities of Naples and Marseille mingle and merge in a disturbing process of metamorphosis. "Morphology and morphogenesis". In the historic development of the Mediterranean city, along the entire line of the basin, the functional tri-nominal settlement-port-emporium has produced urban structures and buildings that have remained func-tionally and typologically unchanged. A standardisation that has not, however, precluded each settlement from assuming original and distinctive characters, completely different to the contemporary morphological structures located in the immediate hinterland. Despite its permanence and antiquity, the Mediterranean city has shown a fragile equilibrium, which lasted up until the first half of the XX century: with the industrial development of the continental areas and the decline of colonial interests in North Africa and the East, dis-ruptive socio-economic processes have emerged (or worsened) in both urban structures and as regards maritime traffic. The buildings and the structures retained “obsolete” – and therefore the “losers” in the urban competition – have been removed and assimilated into new structures, or have slowly changed iden-tity. In many of the cases examined, the “withdrawal” of the sea, namely the advancement of the coastline, is a historic phenomenon that over the centuries has profoundly changed the face of Mediterranean cities; It is also a sign of an unresolved conflict that has alternated the fortunes of the various competitors. Compared to the past, the continental world is now stronger, more dynamic and pervasive than the maritime one, which has been in a phase of regression and decline for at least a century. In this, unlike that which is happening in continental and inland cities, urban development, rather than lay dormant “on the bottom”, tends: a) to aggregate and densify in a space constricted by the morphology of the site, similar to that which happens in biological marine structures [reef city] through a mechanism of porous macro-organic concentration (case of the cities of Naples, Trieste, Genoa and Marseille). In this case, the traditional city renews itself, and renews its physical and social habitat, with continuous inflows and exchanges of minority and sometimes marginal groups; b) to “retrocede in the seafront position” [demotion effect] following a process of gradual burial of marine surfaces and the advancement of the coastline (case of the cities of Trieste, Alexandria of Egypt); c) to lose [empty shell effect] its functional vitality, through a mechanism that purely preserves the physical structures, but weakens or extinguishes them (case of the city of Venice or of the Ligurian towns of Portofino, Portovenere - Cinque Terre) The urban phylogeny of the case studies shows how, with events of varying intensity, these changes occurred within the whole Mediterranean Basin; in all of the examples cited, the urban expansion process has occurred at the expense of the sea, but this phenomenon could very rapidly, due to climatic changes or erosion, change sign and direction. If the “withdrawn sea” repossessed – as has already happened in history, its original space, a large part of the manmade works built along the cost and in the “reclaimed” hinterland over thousands of years of natural and human toil, would be submerged. Just as, likewise, many of the ancient port cities, now buried, could return to being bathed by the sea, or even regain, as in the Pliocene era, a large part of the emerged territories; in Italy, up to the slopes of the Apennines and the Alps. «Beyond the horizon lies the secret to a new beginning. » Directing our gaze to an apocalyptic future – already presented in the film Waterworld (1995) – the Medi-terranean cities of 2168 could float, like jellyfish, in a strange aggregation of buildings and agricultural culti-vations anchored to the submerged ruins of the ancient settlements: happiness for architects and classic philologists, the umpteenth start of the cosmogonies generated by the “Middle Sea”.

Andreina Maahsen-Milan (2015). Reef City, città fluttuanti. Nuovo e vecchio Mediterraneo.. Segrate (Milano) : MAGGIOLI.

Reef City, città fluttuanti. Nuovo e vecchio Mediterraneo.

Andreina Maahsen-Milan
2015

Abstract

Gaia and Thalassa have been confronting one another for thousands of years – in the reality of the physical world and in individual and collective psychological perception - with “reasons” and “actions” that pro-foundly condition their contrasting interests. The principle of defence against natural forces and the desire to dominate the destructive power of the sea, is the basic element that characterises the Mediterranean port city, right from the protohistoric era, a place of conflict and encounters of civilisations. Here the eco-nomic-political reasons that drove the rural and pastoral populations from the inland areas to the river del-tas are clearly visible. On the uncertain boundary between land and water, tribal traditions gradually sur-render to the innovative vis of mercantile populations, forming a settlement and relational network that will develop, in a highly original way, along the intangible lines of peripli and portolani. The Mediterranean city – an unstable but vital universe – shows that it is capable of attracting and generating impressive flows of men, goods and ideas: a varied humanity, driven by a desperation that is no less than cupidity or spirit of adventure. For thousands of years, the Mediterranean city, a crossroads of millenary tracks and routes, de-clines and regenerates, and appears to obey the very slow cycles of the Earth rather than the fortunes of human vicissitudes. "Mediterranean mythopoeia". In the Theogony of Hesiod (VIII century B.C.), “wide-bosomed Earth” , daughter of Chaos, brought forth the starry sky, Uranus, the mountains and the sea. A new creative act is repeated with the myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha, after the deluge had submerged the lands, and the world was repopulated with men and women generated from stones. Life and death, wealth and wars start and finish on the banks of the Mediterranean, reflecting the same divinities of Ares and Portumno, from which the ports and the Greek-Italian communities devolved: the mythical birth of the coral, the stone of blood, that from a living substance became amorphous also refers to this. Ontogenetic literature on urban space – moving from the cultural archetypes of western history to the re-cent debate on water-front structures - has shown how the Mediterranean city is a place where disputes and conflicts that are elsewhere irresolvable can be settled: the digester organism, where everything is transformed and, paradoxically, tout se tient. In our brief illustration, we wish to show how many elements common to the urban development of Medi-terranean cities can be assimilated to the marine organisms that the German biosopher Ernst Haeckel de-scribed, at the end of the XIX century, in“Kunstformen der Natur”, (1904). This work – considered the “Bible” of Jugendstil – was destined to have a profound influence on both the imagination of artists and on twentieth century architectural criticism. Haeckel’s echo can still be found in the Städtebilder of Walter Benjamin, built in the second half of the Twenties: flesh and stone, humanity and physical consistency in the cities of Naples and Marseille mingle and merge in a disturbing process of metamorphosis. "Morphology and morphogenesis". In the historic development of the Mediterranean city, along the entire line of the basin, the functional tri-nominal settlement-port-emporium has produced urban structures and buildings that have remained func-tionally and typologically unchanged. A standardisation that has not, however, precluded each settlement from assuming original and distinctive characters, completely different to the contemporary morphological structures located in the immediate hinterland. Despite its permanence and antiquity, the Mediterranean city has shown a fragile equilibrium, which lasted up until the first half of the XX century: with the industrial development of the continental areas and the decline of colonial interests in North Africa and the East, dis-ruptive socio-economic processes have emerged (or worsened) in both urban structures and as regards maritime traffic. The buildings and the structures retained “obsolete” – and therefore the “losers” in the urban competition – have been removed and assimilated into new structures, or have slowly changed iden-tity. In many of the cases examined, the “withdrawal” of the sea, namely the advancement of the coastline, is a historic phenomenon that over the centuries has profoundly changed the face of Mediterranean cities; It is also a sign of an unresolved conflict that has alternated the fortunes of the various competitors. Compared to the past, the continental world is now stronger, more dynamic and pervasive than the maritime one, which has been in a phase of regression and decline for at least a century. In this, unlike that which is happening in continental and inland cities, urban development, rather than lay dormant “on the bottom”, tends: a) to aggregate and densify in a space constricted by the morphology of the site, similar to that which happens in biological marine structures [reef city] through a mechanism of porous macro-organic concentration (case of the cities of Naples, Trieste, Genoa and Marseille). In this case, the traditional city renews itself, and renews its physical and social habitat, with continuous inflows and exchanges of minority and sometimes marginal groups; b) to “retrocede in the seafront position” [demotion effect] following a process of gradual burial of marine surfaces and the advancement of the coastline (case of the cities of Trieste, Alexandria of Egypt); c) to lose [empty shell effect] its functional vitality, through a mechanism that purely preserves the physical structures, but weakens or extinguishes them (case of the city of Venice or of the Ligurian towns of Portofino, Portovenere - Cinque Terre) The urban phylogeny of the case studies shows how, with events of varying intensity, these changes occurred within the whole Mediterranean Basin; in all of the examples cited, the urban expansion process has occurred at the expense of the sea, but this phenomenon could very rapidly, due to climatic changes or erosion, change sign and direction. If the “withdrawn sea” repossessed – as has already happened in history, its original space, a large part of the manmade works built along the cost and in the “reclaimed” hinterland over thousands of years of natural and human toil, would be submerged. Just as, likewise, many of the ancient port cities, now buried, could return to being bathed by the sea, or even regain, as in the Pliocene era, a large part of the emerged territories; in Italy, up to the slopes of the Apennines and the Alps. «Beyond the horizon lies the secret to a new beginning. » Directing our gaze to an apocalyptic future – already presented in the film Waterworld (1995) – the Medi-terranean cities of 2168 could float, like jellyfish, in a strange aggregation of buildings and agricultural culti-vations anchored to the submerged ruins of the ancient settlements: happiness for architects and classic philologists, the umpteenth start of the cosmogonies generated by the “Middle Sea”.
2015
Keywords
147
171
Andreina Maahsen-Milan (2015). Reef City, città fluttuanti. Nuovo e vecchio Mediterraneo.. Segrate (Milano) : MAGGIOLI.
Andreina Maahsen-Milan
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/632813
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