Richard Sennett: …you today about what seems to me to be the most urgent prob­lem that we face social­ly in cities, which is how can those who dif­fer live togeth­er in the same place. It’s a prob­lem the­o­ret­i­cal­ly raised by Immanuel Kant in a famous state­ment which says that the crooked tim­ber of human­i­ty can­not be made straight. Which does­n’t mean that Donald Trump can be cor­rect­ed. But it rather means that it is impos­si­ble to find through ver­bal means, through talk, through dis­cus­sion, a way for peo­ple to arrive at kind of mutu­al tol­er­ance, at a kind of com­mon under­stand­ing, which straight­ens out their dif­fer­ences. Or at least this is how Kant has been read after his time.

And I’ve asked myself whether that propo­si­tion that peo­ple’s dif­fer­ences can­not be accom­mo­dat­ed, what that has to do about plan­ning. Does that mean that plan­ning a city where peo­ple live togeth­er is a hope­less enterprise?

I want­ed to come back to this image that Jean-Louis showed this morn­ing because in a way it rep­re­sents one answer to Kant’s ques­tion. It’s what’s some­times called the good fences argu­ment, or in this case the good high­way argu­ment, which is the only way for peo­ple who dif­fer to live togeth­er is by sep­a­rat­ing them. And that’s an argu­ment that’s made in the social sci­ences by var­i­ous peo­ple now who are argu­ing that basi­cal­ly what the city should be is a series of frag­ments of dif­fer­ence in which the dif­fer­ent groups do not inter­sect because noth­ing can be made straight by putting them together.

So what Jean-Louis has shown us is an answer to Kant’s ques­tion, and it’s a wrong answer. In my view, what an open city means is that peo­ple are exposed to one anoth­er. That that high­way is tak­en down or bridged in such a way that peo­ple can live togeth­er with­out hav­ing to exchange ver­bal­ly. That’s my idea of the open city, that it’s a place where phys­i­cal pres­ence with the oth­er, and com­fort with the phys­i­cal pres­ence of the oth­er, does the work of allow­ing peo­ple to live togeth­er even if they are not engaged in the process of negat­ing their differences.

I want to empha­size this is not a solu­tion. There are no solu­tions. That’s a [plan­ner?] fan­ta­sy: you have a prob­lem, for every prob­lem there’s a solu­tion. If there’s isn’t a solu­tion, there isn’t a prob­lem. I don’t think that way. And the essence of the open city approach is that there are [indis­tinct] prob­lems which leave the prob­lems there, but at least in which the agency of plan­ners and the pub­lic is engaged in try­ing to rec­og­nize that there is some­thing that is dif­fi­cult, and rather than say, What can we do?” say, At least we can do some­thing physical.”

In my view, there are three ways in which the Kant prob­lem can be addressed through plan­ning. It first can be addressed through mak­ing porous edges, which is anoth­er rea­son I want­ed to show this par­tic­u­lar image. The essence of the uses that we’ve made of traf­fic in cities and of mobil­i­ty more gen­er­al­ly is to make them imper­me­able bound­aries. There is no exchange pos­si­ble under a phys­i­cal con­di­tion like that. And I think one of the prin­ci­ples of open city design is to try instead of look­ing at bound­aries, look at ways of mak­ing porous bor­ders between dif­fer­ing com­mu­ni­ties, eth­ni­cal­ly as well as class bor­ders, at which the edges become places of phys­i­cal pres­ence, co-presence, and even phys­i­cal exchange.

Planning in New York in the 90s, we had this— Always, when we looked at the very sharp bound­aries between racial com­mu­ni­ties in New York City, what could we do to pro­mote inte­gra­tion.” And we learned that that word, inte­gra­tion, was the wrong way to do this. We should have been instead think­ing about where the edges of these racially-segregated com­mu­ni­ties (which were also eth­ni­cal­ly seg­re­gat­ed), where we could locate phys­i­cal resources like schools or health clin­ics that oblig­ed peo­ple to be in the same space with those who differed.

A sec­ond prin­ci­ple of open city plan­ning that address­es the Kant prob­lem is the issue of syn­chro­nous space. Which is a very fan­cy way of say­ing that mixed uses do not nec­es­sar­i­ly mix peo­ple. If you have a city which dur­ing the day is all about peo­ple going to work and then at night there’s a tran­si­tion where it’s all about par­ty­ing and drink­ing (all those oth­er good things that we should be doing now), and that the one func­tion suc­ceeds anoth­er, you do not have, in my view, the kind of mix­ture that allows peo­ple to grad­u­al­ly feel that they are com­fort­able or able to man­age dif­fer­ence. They have to hap­pen at the same time.

Again I refer to what we did in New York. We tried to put— For instance, in the late 80s and 90s, we tried to put AIDS clin­ics in the midst of shop­ping cen­ters. So while you were shop­ping, you’re see­ing peo­ple who are ill. You’re in their midst. And that is a pro­ce­dure that has con­tin­ued in New York by putting old age homes in shop­ping dis­tricts, and con­verse­ly putting into pub­lic hous­ing lots of non-residential activ­i­ties which hap­pen at the same time and bring very dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple together.

The third and prob­a­bly the most com­pli­cat­ed way of open city design which address­es Kant’s prob­lem is incom­plete build­ing. You have a great exam­ple here of phys­i­cal­ly how to do this in the Aravena projects which build half a good house and peo­ple com­plete the other. 

Extended more large­ly, incom­plete design involves the kinds of expe­ri­ence of ter­ri­to­ries which feel under­planned, and which peo­ple col­o­nize because their uses have not been fixed. That might seem to belong to the non-planned city, as Joan Clos was talk­ing about. In my view, it takes plan­ning to leave some­thing incom­plete. That is, it takes a mas­ter plan rather than any kind of spon­ta­neous local activ­i­ty to make a city incom­plete, where peo­ple can col­o­nize places where they don’t belong, or use them for uses that aren’t ini­tial­ly evi­dent. You can’t rely on local­i­ties for incompleteness.

So these are the three prin­ci­ples of open city plan­ning that address Kant’s prob­lem. That they are porous bor­ders rather than bound­aries. That there are mixed uses which are syn­chro­nous rather than sequen­tial. And when there’s incom­plete­ness that is made by design rather than trust­ing to spon­ta­neous local activ­i­ty alone. And if those three prin­ci­ples were fol­lowed, we could erase this image. Thank you very much.

Jose Castillo: Thank you very much, Richard. Jean-Louis?

Jean-Louis Missika: Thank you very much, Richard. Of course I can­not answer the ques­tion. But I can put some ideas on the table in order to have a dis­cus­sion, a con­ver­sa­tion, about what is the main sub­ject of your speech, which is urban plan­ning can do some­thing to the phys­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion of the city. But, peo­ple are not things. They are not objects. They can feel. They can accept. They can refuse. And of course, when they have a lot of very impor­tant dif­fer­ences in opin­ions, in reli­gion, in beliefs, they can dis­agree to liv­ing together. 

First of all, I want to stress one point which is impor­tant in the the­o­ry of opin­ion. Extremization and rad­i­cal­iza­tion of opin­ions and beliefs occur when peo­ple are not con­front­ed with adverse opin­ion. And I think it’s very impor­tant nowa­days, because this is the main prob­lem we have to man­age in a city like Paris or a city like London. The ring road, the high­way we have seen in the map… The ring road is not only a phys­i­cal fron­tier. It’s also a social fron­tier. And of course the ques­tion of inte­gra­tion is very complex. 

But in a glob­al city, con­fronta­tion of opin­ion, beliefs, and val­ues is absolute­ly nec­es­sary. The strength of a city is direct­ly relat­ed to this kind of con­fronta­tion of opin­ion. And we know that in cities where peo­ple are not con­front­ed with dif­fer­ent kinds of opin­ions, rad­i­cal­iza­tion is the result. For exam­ple, In France when you are look­ing at the votes for the extreme right, for the Front National, you see that the vote is high­est in the cities where you have no immi­grants at all. And it’s the low­est in the cities where you have more impor­tant fig­ures of immi­grants, like Paris. In Paris, the National Front is very weak. 

But if you ask peo­ple if they agree to be exposed to oppo­site beliefs or val­ues, the answer is obvi­ous­ly no. They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to do it, as Paul Lazarsfed has shown eighty years ago in The People’s Choice about vot­ing. And I think the ques­tion is not only a ques­tion of social net­works, Internet, and so on. It was exact­ly the same in the age of tele­vi­sion, and it was exact­ly the same in the age of the print­ing press. It’s a ques­tion of how dif­fi­cult it is to be con­front­ed with a vision which is so dif­fer­ent from my vision. And of course every­body in his every­day life is in this situation.

So it means that of course urban plan­ning is not enough. Urban plan­ning is a nec­es­sary con­di­tion, but it’s not a suf­fi­cient con­di­tion. Why? Because with urban plan­ning, you are open­ing the fron­tier, the phys­i­cal fron­tiers. And this is the main con­di­tion to have this social melt­ing pot, social con­fronta­tion, which some­times is very vio­lent but cre­ates the vivre ensem­ble, liv­ing togeth­er, of a glob­al city. And what you need is first of all cre­at­ing these bridges between com­mu­ni­ties, and after that see­ing what is pos­si­ble to do in terms of edu­ca­tion, in terms of employ­ment, in terms of social rela­tion­ships between these dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. But what I think is that if you don’t make the first step, which is which kind of city you want to design in order to cre­ate social mix­i­ty, func­tion­al mix­i­ty, and cir­cu­la­tion of peo­ple, flu­id­i­ty between dif­fer­ent places, you can­not do the next steps.

And anoth­er very inter­est­ing fig­ure is that the places where—for exam­ple in Paris, the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of pop­u­la­tion is at the high­est lev­el in the places where you have no pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Because peo­ple feel that they can­not get out of their ghet­to. They can­not get out of their ter­ri­to­ry. So, if I am a ter­ri­to­ry and I am closed in this ter­ri­to­ry, it’s like a jail. So I act like a prisoner.

So I think that urban plan­ning is not the answer. And as a soci­ol­o­gist I under­stand that you say that. But it’s part of the answer, and I think it’s very impor­tant. Thank you.