Will this Be the Century of the City? Let’s not Miss it (Again)
Planum. The Journal of Urbanism
67 - 75 p.
The new course of Urbanistica has asked for a comment on the next Urban Agenda, precisely as international agencies are repeatedly proclaiming that the twenty-first century will be marked by the triumph of the city. Yet this triumph must be addressed cautiously. Cities have become a worldwide phenomenon, a belief shared by a few European Commission papers that place it at the core of the development strategies of the old continent. While the ‘return’ of the city has been celebrated for some time now, it is clear that European cities never really ‘went’ away. Moreover, they are rather dissimilar from those triumphing in the rest of the world. Why insist upon cities then? Why re-ignite expectations that were raised a long time ago, that fell through after a few disappointments and delays? In doing this do we not risk, feeding the “fog of amiable generalities”2, so common when debating about the city? This paper will offer an analysis of the urban dominant narrative, highlighting some of its weaknesses. It also seeks to assess the claim of the urban century from an Italian perspective, combining analytical and normative arguments for this purpose. In the following pages, some well-known yet unresolved issues will be discussed. These include: a) the peculiar institutional and geopolitical position of Europe; b) the configuration of the Italian settlements, and the features of an emergent urban question; c) the lost opportunity of the post-industrial transition and the still immature forms of property development. The conclusion considers the priorities of an urban agenda in Italy. Italy needs to identify the path of development that cities will follow, which will enable them to challenge and exploit the global economy to their benefit. In the pursuit of this goal, the specific characteristics of Italian cities must be kept in mind.