The first edition of domusforum: a day to remember

One year ago, public and private institutions and experts such as Saskia Sassen and Evgeny Morozov met to reaffirm the role of Domus as a protagonist of the international cultural scene.

11 October 2018 was an important date, and not just in the history of Domus, so we like to think. The first edition of domusforum - the future of cities was a decisive step towards reaffirming a role the magazine played for decades in the Italian cultural landscape, as a catalyst for ideas and visions and their interpretation through the canons of the sciences of architectural design.

Not that the magazine ever abdicated that role, but today’s complexity calls for an increasingly transversal approach, a debate open to new interlocutors and timely instruments. Domusforum has been all this, a platform for dialogue not only between disciplines but also between cultures, without prejudices but with the scientific stringency that has always distinguished the review founded by Gio Ponti 91 years ago.

It is significant that, after the institutional greetings were out of the way, the conference opened with the presentation of the results of the impressive survey that Nielsen conducted for Domus. The pollster interviewed the citizens of six global cities and involving as many international social-science experts.

Drawing on this evidence, the mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala then delivered a long and impassioned speech, retracing the transformation, and seeking to imagine the future of Milan. A former industrial city, today it is a case study of a global city capable of embracing the paradigm of competitiveness without distorting its vocation. And without losing the proverbial ability to leave no one behind.

After the first citizen, it was the turn of the speakers who followed each other on the stage, each of them offering a broad range of thoughtful insights, never trivial, sometimes unsettling. Saskia Sassen put the audience on guard against the phenomenon, not yet fully understood, of the financialization of cities, while the Egyptian diplomat Fatih Saleh explained how ancient Cairo is getting smarter. Jacques Lévy, a geographer at the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic then confronted us with the deepest of the dilemmas affecting urbanity: how can we inhabit a place without making it uninhabitable for others?  

Next it was the turn of the round table at which Giuseppe Guzzetti, president of the Fondazione Cariplo, Antonio Calabrò, vice-president of Assolombarda, and Michele De Lucchi, at the time editor-in-chief of Domus, discussed the crucial issue of the outer city and its discontents.

After the talk by the Oxford professor of philosophy Luciano Floridi, an expert on the crucially relevant subject of digital ethics, the day ended with two highly applauded speeches. The first was by the Ghanaian activist Samia Nkrumah, who thrilled the audience with her stories of resilience and solidarity, and the second by the sociologist Evgeny Morozov, who wound up the proceedings with a warning: are we sure we’re in good hands when in fact we are handing over our cities to the tech giants?

This is another hallmark of Domus. It takes up a position, but also exerts doubt.

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