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13/09/2021

Retro 2020 “TOGETHER HAS CHANGED”

To explore how the habitat – in a very broad approach – is changing, and specifically how the physical distance recommended postcovid accelerates these transformations, the multicultural studio Cutwork has defined in a manifesto “Together has changed” five key concepts fueling new life stories: the reinvention of our collective story, the end of work (or the emergence of new lifestyles), new family models (or the exploration of new types of relationships), the confrontation with nature (living with other living beings), the appearance of liquid territories (living in a mix of urban, rural and nomadic). We take here an excerpt from this last axis. All the texts (with their sources) are available on www.cutworkstudio.com .

Manifeste du studio Cutwork extraits du chapitre ``Territoires liquides

“Over the past 30 years, the cost of living in cities has increased dramatically. In Toronto, for example, the price per square meter increased by 425 %, compared to 133% for family income. Although the city is still the most attractive model today, can we really expect it to remain a dominant model? (…) To what extent is the city a resilient model if it leads to worsening inequalities? Can we realistically expect cities to economically support an influx of over 3 billion people by 2050?

The attraction to space and the great outdoors is not just a trend that reflects these conditions. New forms of flexibility and the notion of distance in our lifestyles and work can lead to a shift towards a decentralized way of life – mixing lifestyles between urban and rural in emerging “liquid territories”. (…). In March 2020, nearly one in four people left Paris to spend their confinement in the countryside. Almost all major cities have experienced a similar urban exodus (…). Of course, these are short-term signals, but what is the quality of our cities if we end up wanting to leave them in times of crisis?

The city has become the embodiment of systemic inequality. (…) Not only are spaces costing more, but they are constantly shrinking (…) Housing as we knew it before confinement was a space with a very precise definition. Yet today, our private, narrow spaces are reaching their limits. We have to sleep, work, cook, eat, play sports, raise children, all in an extremely compact environment. With or without containment, this is becoming the norm. How can our quality of life not be reduced if we continue to be crammed into increasingly small spaces?
In 1845, Elisha Otis Graves invented the elevator. (…) This key invention has enabled cities to develop and become denser vertically to limit their sprawl, while welcoming an increasingly large part of the rural population.

Today, laptops, smartphones and widespread access to wi-fi have once again radically changed our relationship with the environment. Mobile by definition, the laptop has a very direct impact on architecture: it frees up space for its predefined functions. With the laptop, now from anywhere, even from our bed. With the rise of remote working, this trend towards greater flexibility is only accelerating. The current homes were built under a scenario that is losing its relevance today.

We need to change perspective and rethink our habitats to support this change. If the challenge of the last century was to densify our cities vertically, the challenge today is to rethink our spaces to make them more elastic in their uses – in line with the way we actually use them. This incredible change has fueled the emergence of new types of architecture:, in particular, shared workspaces and models of cohabitation. These experiences are opportunities to explore new, more flexible ways of accessing and sharing spaces. In our compact apartments, versatility is essential. It’s no longer about having as many square meters as possible, but about rethinking how our spaces can easily allow different activities to take place in one place. The challenge now is to design them in such a way that we can easily reconfigure each space to use it in various activities: sleeping, working, socializing, and more.

The improvement in functional fluidity and the logic of shared spaces permeate all scales and all living standards: interior rooms, entire houses, configuration of neighborhoods, expansion of the city and now and even joins the old opposition between city and campaign are impacted. We are already witnessing the development of a mixed, rural and urban way of life. Because people do not flee have not only fled the countryside during their confinement: well before March, we saw the start of the trend of “city dwellers leaving the city”. Over the past nine years, a million people have fled, left New York City. According to Bloomberg, nearly 300 people a day leave the region. If we can maintain our personal relationships and some economic activity at a distance, and if the city’s systemic pressures continue to escalate without any control, this shift to a decentralized or mixed life is economically and socially inevitable. (…)

Cutwork

Transport will play a decisive role in this development. Smart driving and hyper-mobility could truly become a norm in cities over the next decade. Even the advent of flying cars is coming sooner than we thought. Companies are already planning to open airports to accommodate this type of car in urban areas from 2023. These new forms of transportation are set to radically change our understanding of space, time and distance. They will reduce our perception of the three. This same sense of upheaval occurred very quickly at the beginning of the 20th century with the construction of the world railway and the democratization of individual cars and international flights. Once the contemporary version of these systems has made it possible to achieve economies of scale and become widely accessible to all, what new ways and networks of living and working will emerge?

For 10,000 years, man has become more and more sedentary. Yet today, some of us have returned to nomadic life, as global mobility increasingly challenges our traditional ways of living. Digital nomads are forging new networks between cities around the world, spending precious time here and there. These first vectors of movement, passing from one place to another, announce that our largely sedentary habits could evolve into a sort of “grasshopper” lifestyle.

With the sedentarization of urban life, the countryside has become a place of vacation and retirement. Today, this pendular migration is almost exclusively observed in summer, but if we could imagine moving more freely and more frequently, a very different, more integrated way of life, which brings together these two distinct spaces, could emerge. (…) What if our whole conception of the daily journey was replaced by an annual flow of continuous migrations? If we continue to pool costs so as to make remote work even more flexible and facilitate access to greater mobility, we could explore a new type of “liquid territories”, where we would be much less tied to a particular place. (…)

Extract published in the number 205 of Intramuros.