The Imagined Place

Issue 00/14

The cities of the future are those that do not impose, but offer their visitors the tools they need to build their dreams—that other life they imagine.

When my six-year old daughter gets angry she insistently says that she wants a different life in another country; she wants other parents, to meet new friends and to become a painter, though not the kind of painter who sells her work but the kind who prefers to keep them for personal enjoyment.


Cao Fei: RMB City, 2007–11. Second Life: ‘city-lab based in the virtual world Second Life for experiments in art, architecture, cinema, design, economy, literature, politics and beyond.’

This imaginary territory, this place where everything can begin anew, be refashioned, reinvented, where the developments of each individual can flourish and bear fruits—that dreamt paradise is the common place of young spirits nonconformist to the reality supplied by others. And from this yearning to be the architect of one’s own affairs and circumstances—suffice it think of Second Life or The Simms, stems the inevitable need to emigrate to that other space that is a meeting point for souls thirsty for fulfilment, a ‘place of opportunities’ and a device for redefining each and every individuality.

The cities of the future are those that offer their visitors the possibility of building the life they imagine within their physical limits: in them they will find all the ingredients to meet their needs and fulfil their aspirations. Not necessarily in order to live there, but so that a mere visit may be enough to see themselves again, to restore their energy and recover their original confidence in the idea that all that which they imagine is possible … because there is always somewhere where dreams have a tangible shape.

Cities in which the basic services that define the life of any Western society as we know it today are complemented by another genuine and customised offer, that escapes the standards of marketing and adapts more to the drives and needs of the individuals who undertake them than to a stereotyped reality typical of any Marketing manual.

Cities that do not ‘pursue’ visitors in order to integrate them into their culture, but accept their peculiarities and add them to their own features, not by deliberate decision but by the very growth dynamic that defines them. These communities are difficult to classify; they can answer any question posed of them and can be broken and recomposed as often as necessary.

EA~Electornic Arts: ‘Open for Business,’ The Sims 2, 2006. The Sims

EA~Electornic Arts: ‘University Life,’ The Sims 3, 2013. The Sims

Everything becomes clear and transparent, in all areas. Their establishments are more than just bars, offices, restaurants and exhibition halls: they are plural, multifunctional spaces described as ‘gastronomic spaces,’ ‘cultural centres’ or ‘workplaces.’ Limits are blurred and suddenly people don’t only turn up to share a meal but to learn, to work, to rest. Everything is in the same place or, as we knew them, things appear in unimaginable combinations.

These are cities that develop gradually, reflecting the hopes and energies of those who inhabit them and those who visit them in search of an existential, vocational and professional space made to measure.

Similarly, cities end up capturing this spirit and breathing it into unsuspecting visitors who come to get to know them expecting and seeking nothing in return.