A Quantum City or How to Talk about Cities?

by mr

A Quantum City

review by Petra Tomljanovic

City. Divided tensions, expectations; new images, mastery of orientation skills, the jitters, the fear of the unknown. A new city, your city, for a couple of hours, couple of days, infinite, unfathomable, foreign, extensive, dirty, creative, green, relaxed, unique…

I wake up, the city is beautiful, I hate it, I love it, I cry, I suffer, I discover it, get to know it – everything is happening at once – Andy Warhol, The Beatles, Dennis Hopper, the scene, the streets, taxis, ads, LSD, fake eyelashes, wigs, red, red, red … The pose, the art and 15 minutes of fame, Martin Luther King and racism. New York, Alexandria, Athens, the Gods, Zeus, Florence, sushi, Michelangelo, classical antiquity, the golden ratio, atria with Doric or Ionic colonnades, palazzos, Petrarch, Goethe, love sonnets, haiku … I ask people on the street what and where to eat and where to sleep, how to get money; I meet the Queen of England, and Shakespeare in London… This is a place of irony in a permanent state of contradiction. Numbers, statistics, empathy, commitment, risk, safety, all of this is a city. Paris, Beijing, revolution, feeling at home, dying for an idea of a city, destruction, commitment, joy, determination; Hammurabi, Gilgamesh, Confucius, Vienna, art, Art Nouveau, death; Jakarta, to be born again, to be lost, become a multitude, to be connected, Allah, internet ….

A Quantum City

The book A Quantum City is based on narratives about our being in the world, about our relationships through which we create habitats. Made by the research team of the Department of CAAD at the ETH Zurich and Singapore (Ludger Hovestadt, Vera Bühlmann, Diana Alvarez, Miro Roman, Sebastian Michael), the book is an extract of infinite lists, indexes, a history of thought;, a novel, a sonnet, an encyclopaedia, a short story, a diary, an ad, a play, an epic poem, a magazine, a collection, an exemplar, fiction, utopia, dystopia; it’s auto-referential, philanthropic… And at the same time, it isn’t any of it. This is a book which has an infinite number of authors and which has none. It bears similarities with Eco’s Infinity of Lists, A History of the World in 100 Objects or even with Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge. These are works which generate curiosity for more learning, deeper and diverse understandings. Every end is also the beginning of a new journey into the realm of new ideas, into new cities.

A Quantum City represents and speaks of avatars, of manifold Orlandos, of manifold cities, about the absence of fixed localities of living, about layer upon layer of fossilized time, about the complexity of a city. Cities reflect culture, the civilization and its advances, the changing foci of intelligence; they are adaptable, decadent. We reinvent a city in each of its periods. On one hand, we know the discourse within which the generic creates a new perception of a city where everything becomes optimized and designed. The generic creates a global world, but it also flattens all the nuances of existence. A Quantum City is well aware that scientific discourse about the city cannot capture all of its complexity in which urbs and civitas meet, in which an infinity of things, with little avail, form an indescribable, nonclassifiable, scientifically unfathomable character of a city. A Quantum City believes it is necessary to master the approach to the generic and affirms the idea of a city as a positive and layered place rich in experiences. Within its 800 pages, A Quantum City appropriates images, events and actors from a millennium-old history of knowledge. It is literally an information overload, in a book format, which presupposes our active engagement and calls for a further research into the majority of references brought up in the book.

What do cities even represent? As stated in the book’s prologue, the authors believe that – after a certain time spent in reading and traveling – we would come to think that cities have always been places where Gods dwell. They are the places where the infinity manifests itself, where things which are immeasurable and excessive are accepted. Cities are places of comedy, tragedy, drama, irony, pitfalls, intrigues, places where dreams come true, places of indescribable beauty …things we avoid thinking about because they make us uneasy. But still, they taunt us. However, cities also welcome us, but only – if follow their rules. Cities can never mimic nature or its cycles of change. The laws which generate cities are made through amendments and sections, through excess, chaos and planning … and through our interaction with them.

croatian version on vizkultura.hr
book can be found on amazon.com

A Quantum City, Mastering the Generic
Applied Virtuality Book Series, vol. 10
Ludger Hovestadt, Vera Bühlmann, Diana Alvarez-Marin, Miro Roman, Sebastian Michael
824 pages, 6.6 x 2.3 x 9.6 inches, 1.7 pounds
ISBN-13: 978-3035606263
Publication Date: 12.06.2015