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URBAN ARTIFACT or URBAN DETACHMENT







When Aldo Rossi writes about the notion of the city as a work of art and urban artifacts contained within, he begins to speak about the value of space measured by age. With a work of art being an object that is made by human, the scale of measurement begins to zoom out and refer to the larger picture of the city understood through the human dimension and the chronological mappings of artifacts. Aldo defines and urban artifact by the value it has accrued contingent on age, state of preservation, rarity, but most importantly its inflections of social patterns and behaviors to a respective context. There exists an inherent empiricist attitude that looks beyond the mere utility and function for a more analytical and multi-dimensional observation of the haptic, sensual, or spiritual.

Despite the unconventional theory set forth in Aldo’s essay, a couple of decades later the status quo had transformed and the human condition became highly defined by the information age, questioning the value of an urban artifact in the present day and allowing a search for a possible parallel. The issue with the urban artifact in our present day relates to image vs. representation and more specifically the qualitative differences that are diminished by society’s high exposure to pulsating images of noise that rarely become transmitted and read as sound. No information is put to the test of the aforementioned factors defining artifacts. Value fails to accrue from the contents of the digital age when all material seems to effortlessly bypass the test of age.

Systems have been employed that attempt to measure the value of information stored on the cyber library. Society can easily voice opinions on the comments section of an online entry while the number of hits received registers popularity. Other systems have been employed such as the “like” button, an empathetic gesture, which serves as a testament to one’s interest in material requiring more effort such as the physical movement of pointing device to a button and the actual pressing of the button. Nevertheless, the word “like” speaks to the abrupt nature of how material is presented to humans because how can one really “love” something if only encountering it for such a short period. And lastly the “share” button a system that requires even more human engagement than the “like” button and exerts a sense of ones sympathy to the material at hand. Despite the many systems, the digital age fails to meet the criteria of the urban artifact as it defies the palimpsestic nature of the city.

Value of an artifact is attributed by the idea of its possible destruction through the periods of a city. Information on the urban network has no palimpsestic merit as it never becomes scraped over and rewritten, reinterpreted, or renewed. There just exists this continual spawning, generation, and conceiving of content stored in data banks that are readily available at any given point in time. Empiricism is impossible as there is nothing to scrutinize when all is there. The city has not yet been compromised by engulfing social patterns and behaviors of these truths. Soon enough, the cities will be altered and urban artifacts can no longer hold importance in society.

Saif Haobsh


"Aldo Rossi, L'architettura Della Città." Aldo Rossi, L'architettura Della Città. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.