The Sexual city and urban deregulation: how can they live together?

What is a sexual city? Are our cities the same as 20 years ago? What has happened to our common spaces?

Using a generalisation, cities today can be categorised into four parts:

  1. Historical and representative centre (Europe) or Trade & Business Centre (USA and Asia). It is the power section where skyscrapers or old towers (San Gimignano) underline the male sexual strength.
  2. Posh modern residential areas with middle class quarters and commercial centres. These are the areas that represent the border between wealth or poverty as a way of life. When a society is rich, then these areas are clean and ordered. Sometimes they lose their regional identity and become a ‘No Place’.
  3. Dilapidated peripheries looking often more close to shantytowns or a wilderness than to a lovely town. Just remember that even some Western cities have recently experimented with the curfew. It started several years ago in Paris in the banlieue and now it has arrived in many cities (Manchester, Rio de Janeiro, London)

And what is the fourth part?

The social divide between rich and poor is creating a Latin-America effect in Europe too. Starting from East Europe, the areas of the new rich are secluded, protected by security systems and by armed guards. A city within the city, with its services, gardens and private infrastructure. A city which is invisible but beats as the others. The female sexual city is that fourth part.

What was once called the Western world has experimented, over the past 70 years, with several forms of modification of the natural and of the urban landscape. The results have been impressive in a few cases and mixed in many others, if one takes into account indicators that go beyond the value of the built up areas or the technological levels accomplished through the building of majestic groups of skyscrapers.

And when someone talks about Green Cities be sure that he thinks of one of these parts and not to the whole. Apart from the question of whether Green is the right word, how can we transform a city into a Digital Green City? Quality of life, level of social interaction, energy consumption, have been for decades considered of minor interest in urban development vis-à-vis more basic necessities like water, sewage, transportation, energy supply, living space and basic amenities.

Digital energy (i.e. the full integration of electric mobility, digital house and urban information networks) is going to change urban design paradigms and to offer both to Western and emerging countries the chance to avoid pre-emptively or to reverse the curse of urban fragmentation and debasement. But the 4 areas of a city represent 4 different targets and have to be considered differently.

Representative and Elegant areas are ready for the Digital Green Transformation if this transformation adds a subliminal sexual value – promoting the female sexual city. If renewable technologies are examples of art and are unique, art and culture are at the same time cost/effective soft power instruments and very flexible collective image shaping tools.

Just to give some interesting examples:

  • Barcelona was among the first cities in the world to transform itself in depth by mixing adroitly the restoration of older building and boldly constructing anew. It was also the first city to adopt building regulations that enforced the use of solar panels;
  • Lisbon has shed its decadent and decaying ex-imperial look by adopting an advanced urban plan that changed the evolution of the metropolitan hierarchies from the concept of conventional urban centres to the recognition and use of constellations of centres, characterised by multimodal access, and large areas which are free to evolve thanks to the connectivity offered by insertion of a metropolitan and international network;
  • In Saudi Arabia local ecologists are starting to question the lack of connection between the luxurious buildings under construction in Mecca, the attention to a fragile desert environment and the respect of the basic value of a pilgrimage that demands equality and sobriety from all believers participating;
  • The Brazilian city of Curitiba has consciously put together in its urban planning the concepts of sustainability, luxury, nonconformity and excellence. Advances need still to be made in terms of digital mobility, but Curitiba is vastly different from the usual concept of social and spatial stratification seen in most cities around the world.

We all know that the world population will increase in the next two decade and so will the urban population to an even greater degree: the challenge is, especially in vibrant emerging countries, to avoid chaotic urbanisation and its huge attendant costs by developing the female sexual city.