Reinventing the sense of continuity in urban structure through pauses


Reinventing the sense of continuity in urban structure through pauses
Colloque International : De Xenakis à nos jours : Le Continuum et son développement en musique et en architecture


At first glance, the modern city constitutes a continuing united system in space-time. Roads, buildings, open spaces comprise the idea of urban structure into an interwoven system. On second thought, contemporary cities are seen as townscapes composed by a random collection of fragments, rather than a meaningful landscape of interrelated spaces. These gaps disrupt the overall continuity of the urban form. Nevertheless, they can often be interrelated with everyday expressions of public space activism.
These space-time pauses/tensions on the urban structure constitute a variety of bottom-up initiatives that challenge the increasingly, regulated, privatized forms of the urban system and at the same time defy or escape existing regulations. Tactical maneuvers stand in contrast to the carefully planned city and break the rules for short periods with unexpected, risky activities that inject the urban voids with new functions and meanings. The permanent form of the city and the temporary interventions in it, are what de Certeau call strategies and tactics. During the last years, are observed many actions aiming at the reappropriation of urban voids throughout Europe.
The question which is emerging from such a study is: How these actions can enhance the overall system, although are breaking the rules of the state? How can monotony rhythm of space-time be interrupted and, at the same time in communication with new tones of public life? In exploring these questions, this paper presents two cases: a series of practices implemented by the Atenistas group in the city of Athens, Greece and the appropriation of a lake in an abandoned factory in Rome, Italy. Atenistas, is a group that searches and identifies vacant or misused spaces. They have managed to implement a series of strategies in organizing and activating, not only the spaces as such but in terms of emerging the social network that will sustain and maintain these spaces. The second example is about an abandoned factory which bought by Antonio Pulcini, who intended to transform it to build a shopping center. During the constructions, an unidentified water source from which the water had covered the whole area was revealed. This condition provided the neighboring residents with the advantage to occupy and appropriate the space. Their actions eventually determined the lake’s future use in an agreement with the state. Both cases reflect how the spaces that disrupt the urban structure can be seen as fertile grounds for social regeneration through tactics, rather than one fixed plan.
This thesis aims at bringing new insights about the potentials of residual sites and their role in the development of modern city. It attempts to demonstrate how informal activities in urban voids can interrupt the monotonous continuity of the city bringing new social patterns and promoting a more creative continuity of the urban system which can enhance the social bonding whilst fostering the creation of meaningful social relations. These cases can offer lessons for other cities that wish to improve the public life of their urbanites through pauses enhancing at the same time the sense of wholeness.


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Centre Iannis Xenakis
European University of Cyprus
University of Cyprus
École nationale supérieure d'architecture de Normandie (Darnétal, Seine-Maritime)
Université de Rouen


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Anaxagorou, Glykeria et University of Cyprus, “Reinventing the sense of continuity in urban structure through pauses,” Centre Iannis Xenakis., consulté le 27 mai 2024,