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Michel Gondry – short film in the triptych Tokyo! (2008)
Can a city (not) be authentic?

E m i l    B u r b e a 


It is true that you can answer this question either one way or another, depending on how you define the terms involved or, even more, depending on what system it is used to relate them. Not being able to involve such formal demonstrations, I am counting that most of us live and have to have a direct understanding of the city.

In this respect, one of the main characters of Michel Gondry[i], a young director looking for work in the Japanese metropolis observes the imperfect spaces between the buildings. He senses that these derelict spaces could be the perfect ground of a ghostly parallel world[ii]. But I think that, more than fantasy, this sampling of the remnant spaces is a very honest way to look at the city and to grasp its fractures among different zones and borders powered by the authoritarian discourses of unity and identity.

No, the city cannot be the simple amount of agglomerated buildings in a given territory, neither the well-ordered space among them, but the background fabric that supports the different ingredients and contests them at the same time. Like a field of forces more and more intense, this urban energy is trying to erode or even engulf its own characteristics, until the point that every constituent element accepts its transformation. The will for this remodeling is permanently negotiated by each one of us, day by day, step by step. This is how the city has to be conflictual, an environment of permanent change rather than a fixed form eternally defined by its own authenticity.

If “Timelessness was inbreed at the country[iii], it has to be that the city created History.


[i] Michel Gondry, director – Interior Design, short film in the triptych Tokyo! (2008)

[ii] “Something’s wrong with these buildings. They refuse all physical contact with each other. […] Every night, flat ghosts slide in and out these gaps and wander about the city. Wander about the city… scaring the people to death. The authorities fill in the gaps with concrete, but the buildings keep moving apart, letting the flat creatures take over.” (min.13)

[iii] “veşnicia s-a născut la sat”; Lucian Blaga – Sufletul satului (poem)

Emil Burbea is a practicing architect, senior partner at Republic of Architects. In the last eight years he enjoyed being invited as teaching assistant at UAUIM. In both postures, he promotes the necessity of a permanent negotiation between the public and private interests in order to find the right configuration of the built environment. His PhD thesis was inspired by the “Heterotopia” of Michel Foucault – a practical tool to infiltrate or detour the mainstream power authority, hoping to find new and candid human interactions.

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