The city, any city, is an ambiguous object or, if we prefer, consists of several phenomena that, although interacting, are placed on different levels: regardless of the definition of the city that you want to adopt (theme that goes beyond the tasks of this essay) every human settlement consists of two entities. We can call them layers or spheres of reality, plans or even ontologies, and the fact is that one of these areas is easy to describe because it includes the city that we see, the real city, an object always imposing and imposing, even when it is not of dimensions enormous. We could call this entity the visible town or, better, the observable town to avoid confusion with a hypothetical invisible city, which is there, but hidden, like the courtyards of the forbidden cities.

The observable city is made up of buildings, buildings, and structures, but also of physical persons and animals, and all the objects that are placed there, in addition to the orographic substratum that contains it and which in some cases is powerfully shaped. , for example, to the dams of Amsterdam, New Orleans or Venice, or to the San Francisco road junction, which is perpendicular to the elevations of the place. The observable city can be vast and complicated, so much to tear away the universal admiration, but it does not constitute a theoretical problem: here is “the City is there,” as the inhabitant said pointing to Byzantium to the wayfarer, istinpòlin (his ten polin) from which the name of Istanbul. But behind (in front, below, above, inside, perhaps around, in short, intimately interconnected with) this city there is another that is not observable with any kind of physical wavelength, but that produces, in the literal sense of ’cause’, ‘fa’, ‘build’, the visible city.

It is urban society, with all its characteristics, demographic, economic, political and cultural, without which the city would not be as it is, indeed it would not be at all, because the city is not a natural fact, a mountain of stone on to which the human mold spreads, adapting itself, but an artifact, produced as a result of specific social processes, not always transparent and not always reconstructable in the intention-realization path, but in any case existing. «Every city – uses those who love rhetoric – has a soul,» that is, it possesses specific characteristics that are perceivable as unique and original, and that distinguish it from other cities. All of us, sooner or later, have been practicing, from ordinary observers or urban experts, trying to reconstruct the exchange protocols that link the stones to the spirit, the observable city to the society that produced it, asking what collective intelligence has built that particular palace or sacred building, that intricate set of buildings, streets and squares, especially when we are faced with the fascinating traces of missing urban civilizations.

Archeology, the history of art and architecture, and other social sciences that deal with the past of places, in the last few centuries have contributed significantly to the knowledge of the origins and evolution of the urban phenomenon. Together with the functional sciences of the city, ie geography, economics, sociology and the like, which enlighten us on the material bonds, within which we must move to build a city, the various urban disciplines have allowed us to accumulate a growing amount of data on the relationship between the architect and the artifact. Many mistakes have been made and continue to be committed, mainly when one proceeds morally or ideologically because the matter is slippery.

In fact, the numerous attempts to link the nature of the peoples to the physical characteristics of the settlement territory have produced large quantities of commonplaces, but few scientific certainties. Instead, literature offers us numerous and egregious examples of studies that demonstrate convincingly how the attractive facades that fill the banks of the canals of the Dutch cities, with tall and narrow houses, derive from economic needs, and in general the ornate of the residences and of the medieval city halls was the expression of the meaning of a public city, which we do not find in the medina of the Arab towns, where the splendor is all inside, or how the Roman towns were derived from military models or Madrid’s Avenida from imperial needs and so on (M. Romano, The Aesthetics of the European City: Forms and Images, 1993, Romano 2004, 2008 ).

There is then another level of complexity because if the city is the product of urban society (and that city ​​is the product of that urban society), the inverse relationship is also real, that is, that the city represents the context in which it develops. Or a particular type of society moves. We mentally to compare the kind of social interaction that we can observe in a neighborhood of ‘bass’ like the Pallonetto di Santa Lucia in Naples or the souk of Marrakech, on the one hand, and the edge cities of Los Angeles, the canton of Basel or even the most familiar Brianza, on the other.  also because this is a specific point of the discourse on the outskirts and therefore it will be necessary to deepen it. Here it will suffice to note that while on the protocols of transformation from society to city we have a lot of knowledge, on the reverse process – what kind of real city causes a particular type of social relations – we have few and often conditioned by ideological attitudes.

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