Issue 00/14
Romance of The City

ιδMag Editorial

Welcome to ιδMag, a digital publication that will appear every four months with new stories that will demand we consider the city as more than a product of our need for rules and order; a ‘stroll’ through the city we would like, enabling us to explore the dynamics of their possibilities to the full and helping us raise its potential. The fact is that our confident wandering will enable us to chart new solutions and hopes for the city in a context characterised by new relationships, new professions, new knowledge and new values for a new age.

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In the département of Aveyron in the French region of the Midi-Pyrénées, clinging to the side of one of the mountains that subtly rises over the valley crossed by the River Dourdou, lies the small town of Conques—Concas in Occitan. It has barely three hundred inhabitants and a mediaeval physiognomy left intact by the pilgrims who travelled to the town in the eleventh century. Its main thoroughfare opens on to the monumental abbey of Sainte-Foy, and in its interior we find the robust Romanesque architecture that seems to whisper the verses of a story. The sound becomes epic in the cloister, where we discover the true composers: hidden in a capital are the stonemason and the craftsman, reciting the Romance of the City with their tools in their hands.

View of the Abbey of Sainte-Foy de Conques, Conques, France

Capital at the Abbey of Sainte-Foy de Conques cloister, Conques, France

They strolled through the dismal streets of the material city where they had once founded their empire. Overthrown by the dawn of time, they secretly began to build a wonderful labyrinth of thoughts and intuitions that would subsequently be described by enlightened learners and scientists as the città ideale—an endless globe where all the metropoli, cities, villages and hamlets rest on the shelves of a bookcase of light. This unsettling scenario that extends in all directions and consists of galleries with shapes related to eternity is filled with anonymous men and women that one day set about carving it on a malleable territory of stone. Since then they have administered it without ever unravelling their secret: a code beneath which lies hidden the Romance of the City. Concealed between rows of volumes, covered by the dust of centuries, this primeval román is lost among old chronicles, yellowy compilations and cracked papyrus scrolls attached to the old shelves. This extraordinary book with infinite pages that is constantly changing contains all books, all the stories of all cities, those we have visited and those we cannot even imagine.

Joris Hoefnagel: ‘Map of Palma Nova,’ in Civitates Orbis Terrarum, c. 1573. George Braun & Frans Hogenberg, Zurich

Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban: Plan citadelle Neuf Brisach, commissioned by order of Louis XIV, c. 1697. Musée Vauban, Neuf Brisach, France

Although its origin is simply an urban form with a specific location for practical reasons associated with the most basic needs of settling, seeking refuge, relationships and bartering, in essence the city is a living organism. Before the city we had citizens, who shaped it as a work grounded more in ideas and hopes than in stone and cement. As was the case with the first conurbations, cities still need human interaction to acquire their full meaning. Thanks to its citizens, a city becomes a complex fabric of social hybridisations, a common territory for thinking, dreaming and creating—in short, for living. A place that is a common area, a space that structures discourses and where these flow freely.

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Jules Gervais-Courtellemont: Towers of  Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, 1928

ιδMag is a digital publication that will appear every three months with new stories, stories that will grow as buildings and houses grow, demanding that we not only consider the city as a product of the need for rules and order but also as a construction forged out of the enormous power that only we possess—that of creating fictions that link memories, encounters and imaginaries to live the multiple lives we would all like to lead when we barely have one. We thus embark on a ‘stroll’ through the city we would like, enabling us to explore the dynamics of their possibilities to the full and helping us raise its potential. The fact is that our confident wandering will enable us to chart new solutions and hopes for the city in a context characterised by new relationships, new professions, new knowledge and new values for a new age.

We should like to conclude by expressing our most sincere appreciation to Ismaïl Serageldin—Director of the Library of Alexandria, Lawrence Chua—Professor of the Syracuse University School of Architecture, Jasper Visser—founder of Inspired by Coffee, and Hortense Archambault—artistic co-director of the Festival d’Avignon from 2003 to 2013, for the time and effort they have dedicated to this venture. With them, dwellers of the city of their dreams, we would like to invite you to stroll through a new city that is more than just the result of fate, design, time and memory. A city free from rhetoric that has to deal with the onslaught of its senses, reveries and frustrations; a city that, bearing in mind our past and our waking life, we are still able to build over and again to channel our hopes and expectations.

Welcome to ιδMag, our starting point in this everlasting and consequently impossible task of reconstructing this Romance of the City.