On the Shadows of Cities by Gregor Eichinger

  • Lecture

835 N Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069

modern architecture loves the sun and not the shadows –
so the façades and the concepts of the buildings
migrated from the shadows towards the sun >
but this overflow of light stimulated 
not only positive perceptions.
exposed to the sun we are in stress,
silence and comfort would be provided by the shadows.

with this increased transparency and reflecting glass,
the old culture of shadows – furnished by architecture – vanished
and these shadowless buildings have a fluid transition
into the night, where the façades finally come to life –

so we can read them also as
architecture of the night >
but in this lecture we are interested in the public space
created by architecture during the day –

and in this period of the day –
our personal feeling does not receive from the built environment
the comfort that it craves on an emotional level –
architecture would be able to satisfy this desire.

when we now roam the user surfaces of our cities,
and take pride in the results of city planning,
pleased with the offerings of public space –
we should know that –
with the shadows, we lost public space.

public space that invites us to stay
that cares for us and
intelligently understands our needs.

the last shadow resorts of our cities are
equipped with public furniture telling us
”don’t use me“ and ”please go away“ >
how could this happen?
let’s go back –
back to the beginning in the past

the connotation of ”agora“ is a gathering of the people and the army
and the agora is the symbol of democratic order
>also a stage for the free speech, public meetings, trade, and so on.
the agora, the public space is a space of potential >

next step – public space as theater
arenas started as theaters- the space of the audience.
the audience was the citizenry –
the theater was sized to fit all citizens of the polis
two theaters combined to produce the amphitheatre –
the arena is since that time the place for spectacles and sports >
these arenas had complex shading systems made from huge textile

city as stage
in the small castles and fortifications
of the aristocrats was not enough place for their festivities –
so they started to use
the public space of the town –
theater and opera in the streets >
the places were used for spectacular events,
with famous painters, sculptors working on the decors
like here in milan, the place in front of the dome >

the echo of these parties transformed public space
into an elegant catwalk for the citizens >
stairs in front of churches were favored stages –
every decent show needs stairs even today
and markets and festivities took place in the public,
all kinds of parties, protests and executions –

in the baroque these city activities migrate
into the retreat of the big palaces
and at the end of the baroque period –
the retreat from these palaces into privacy begins >
in this age we find the roots for

our modern street culture –
street as home –
the taste of being on the road
started to become a lifestyle
it emerged to an entire culture
related to the streets –

the retreat into the safety of the suburban homes began,
leaving the streets alone >
using these streets only as a media to reach
fast and easy another built destination
without wasting time in public space.
the privacy of home is the center of existence,
and public space means
controlled room situations for social events,
like cinema, lobbies, shopping malls, bingo halls, etc >
public space became a scary place –
observed through the new cctv-cameras
delivering the images into the safety of the homes.

with the help of the new communication-technology
computers, e-mail, cell phones, myspace, twitter, etc
we as people are now addresses that have become
independent from the location of our homes >

we are part of many mobile networks and
are fit to repopulate the streets
we can leave home, we don’t have to wait
next to tv and telephone or for the postman
to bring us written communication –

street life is now interesting again; fashion and music is
developed in the streets –
scouts are x-raying the streets
for the newest trends to transfer them
into the waiting shops within a week
the streets are again a nonstop working
creative factory.

so when streets offer convenience –
it is mostly combined with shadows,
with shadows which invite us to stay.

the history of the shadows starts with the first tourists,
which were tourists of the shadows –
in summertime they visited the mountains and there
only the shady sides of the valleys
hotel names like shadow home prove that till today >
in wintertime the destination was nice at côte azur –
not in summertime because you could not show your dresses
because it was too hot –
and the sun ruined the complexion.

when the facades have shadows >
they are able to communicate –
and people understand the personality of the inside >
the promising comfort,
and sweet attention

and the promise is fulfilled with awnings
providing more comfort in public space –
providing welcome and convenience
in a neutral open space.

these awnings are the protective hands of the buildings
like the sun-sails of the arenas,
touching people in the streets.
and this protection creates an emotional relationship between
the city and the citizens –

the shadows in the streets establish a fluid transition
between inner and outer space –
shadows that lead into buildings.
the street level of buildings become
a component of public space.

so in terms of public space
shadows have a strong emotional aspect >
the sun is physical and beautiful,
but shadows hold elegance.

the future shadows of cities can be dark, medium,
light, speckled, oscillating, vibrating, seducing, melting – 
and they will create space –
in which new public furniture will be situated

we developed in several projects –
public furniture which is more appealing,
stronger, tougher, more complex and surprising
than whimsical indoor pieces.
strong furniture to conquer new frontiers
of public space in front of your house,
offering in the battleground of our streets >
inviting and touching solutions.

The MAK Urban Future Initiative (UFI) ran from 2008-10 at the Fitzpatrick-Leland House and was dedicated to creating meaningful cross-cultural exchange about the challenges confronting cities worldwide.