As smart as you are
Shining blue sky, white clouds of perspective, in the foreground a bird’s eye view: clear, regular, not too many
buildings, overlooking tree-lined avenues, squared squares, shimmering canals, manicured lawns. The spaces
are populated by relaxed people, happy couples, small multi-ethnic groups walking or cycling, resting on a wall
or sitting on a bench. They are wearing coats, in the same time their children are running with a t-shirt Oftern
appear balloons. If some cars have to appear, they are strictly spaced from each other and probably white, electric
and autopilot, with an appearance similar to the old space-movie. On the buildings, of course, the triumph of
vegetable gardens, plants and photovoltaic panels, while in the air are floating small colored icons as symbols of
energy, mobility, commerce or internet connection...
If you are looking at this image... you’re probably faced with the representation of some stupid Smart
City of the future, or, more easily, some urban project transformation that intends to propose itself as
smart, in fact. Apparently these are very normal cities, neighborhoods similar to others we have seen a
thousand times, only more pleasant, greener and cleaner. The tension towards the future of the smart
city does not manifest itself in complete forms, in aggregations of iconic, phallic, ultra-sized objects
such as in science-fiction scenarios or in cities conceived by avantgardes, futurists, constructivists and
metabolists. Its strength, according to the vulgate, is hidden in the “intelligence” of the connections,
which precisely changes the interrelationship between the inhabitants and the cities between the citizens
and the houses, the food, transport, the objects they use - through transmissions of information,
but without revolutionizing the face and the structure of the containers, the buildings, the roads they
have to travel.
Thanks to this increased ability to receive instant information on traffic, food availability, climatic conditions,
events; thanks to the possibility of sharing living, work, study, transport and urban vegetable
gardens these technological infrastructures will allow to reduce waste, pollution, the use of exclusive
spaces and without impositions, for pure mutual convenience. And this sweet revolution of lifestyles
will lead to the temperament of the institutions that govern the territories, to the increase of free time,
of tourism, and at this point of the green and playful spaces.
Or at least, it should.
So many years that the rhetoric of the Smart has established itself versus the international and local
government institutions - involving a strong shift of public money from traditional forms of welfare
to the creation of fablab, coworking, cohousing, smart district, makers fair, cycle paths, carpooling, car
sharing, bike sharing.
We can find more and more criticisms about the growing and unstoppable control that the networks
exert on citizens, control extended to every aspect of their life and concentrated in the hands of powerful
institutions, more private than public: movies, tv series, Wikileaks, and everyone tells us that if we are
always localized, if every passage of money is monitored, if every online reading preference is recorded,
all this is marketed by a small group of people at very high prices and it can be used against us.
But to all these critics, and their readers, the same treatment is always reserved: they are branded as
conspirators, naive romantic and pathetic retro. Even those who admit the roughness of control insists
on the last point: yes, privacy is important, but we can’t go back? We must use the new means to our
advantage, let’s rebel, we use social networks to act from below.
If we know everything about the clash between confident and suspicious, on the so-called passatist attitude.
Like the picturesque four centuries ago, the smart city is a combinatorial gaze imposed on the world: J.M.
Turner composed a landscape with ruins, shrubs, animals and pastoral figurine, a mirror of water and a
sunset. The authors of renders bring us boats for the tourist, cycle path and the flowers on the balcony
for the responsible citizen, the Tesla for the manager, and everyone lived happily ever after.
Rousseau’s enthusiasm for the alpine cow that gave pink strawberry milk and for the good wild in the
state of nature, and Marie Antoinette, who thrived happily in his fake farm in Versailles, are synonymous
of the owner of a flat in the vertical Woods that feels ecological because of the trees on its terrace
and thinks of living in a dynamic city because with a bike-shared you can get in two minutes to Apple
store, to the new fablab or to have a drink on the reopened interactive factory.
And just as the picturesque was opposed to the sublime, to the aesthetics of extremes, contrasts, temporal
abysses, volcanoes and storms, so the smart city repudiates any excess, expels every conflict from its
landscape, flattens the sense of history in an idyll of equivalents. Lorrain’s mirror reflected, thanks to
the colored glass, an intense landscape of pink tones, the screens of our smartphones filter the real projecting
it into the most boring science fiction film of all time, in the dream of an harmony without utopia.
Imagen: Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino, J.M.W. Turner, 1839, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Carlalberto Amadori from Urbino. Master of Science graduated with honor at Politecnico di Milano. He
has been teaching assistant at Politecnico di Milano and at Landworks in Sardinia. Visiting lecture at
University of Architecture of Ferrara.