Domusforum 2022 – Urban elements

In the drastic paradigm shift underway, Fire, Earth, Air and Water are no longer mere matter or mere resources, but true generative principles of the new reality

The events of the last two years have raised definitive doubts over economic, social, geopolitical and climatic models that were believed to be consolidated.

This drastic change in paradigm has given rise to the pressing theme of the relationship between human society and what is now defined as the “biosphere”.

We are now being forced to turn to technology, no longer to bend nature to our will, but rather to protect it and render it an ally to human progress. The starting point is that formidable human laboratory that for the last 10 thousand years has been the city, a traditional driver of vision and energy, but that is currently responsible for more than 70% of emissions and a place of ever more unacceptable inequalities.

Photo Nick Fewings

In what is, to all intents and purposes, a post-modern paradox, we are once again faced with the four elements of pre-Socratic cosmology; Fire, Earth, Air and Water, no longer seen as mere matter or simple resources, but as core principles of reality.

Any sustainable, inclusive and pacific event depends on technological - as well as political and cultural - solutions that promote air quality, conscious water consumption, balanced exploitation of Earth, and the renewal of fuel sources.

Fire, as it has been since the dawn of time, represents energy. The energy that moves vehicles and industrial machinery, that heats homes, powers smart cities and inevitably drives competition within the global playing field. It must change in order to ever increasingly embrace the paradigm of environmental, social and geopolitical sustainability.

The Earth is the home of human activity, as well as a source of food and material resources. Its unchecked consumption is, however, causing geological problems and imbalance within the ecosystem that risk rendering large areas of the planet uninhabitable. Can the human community expand in a responsible manner?

Air presents us with the challenge of pollution and everything this leads to in terms of health for humankind and the planet. It is also the medium though which ideas and information travel, in that intricate architecture that is global society. It is ethereal by definition, yet extremely tangible in terms of use, and therefore demands new forms of responsibility.

Water, source of life par excellence, is the delicate home of biodiversity, while also posing a growing threat to coastal populations. And while on the one hand, it forms the connective tissue of the market, and therefore of customs, it is also ever increasingly a symbol of inequality between abundance and scarcity. These are pressing and widespread urgencies that need to be answered with new models of development that respond to climate change and promote both responsible individual behaviour and sustainable industrial practices.

Thus, from living and consuming goods and energy to moving and producing, all the players and decision makers of communal life are called on to take part in a true re-designing of reality, a new architecture of human activity that is based on a renewed relationship with the four base elements.

This while also considering the human factor, i.e., the “fifth element”, which intersects with and profoundly modifies the other four, shaping not only the world and forms of behaviour, but also the very future of the species.

The fifth edition of domusforum - the future of cities, therefore, examines the answers that our societies offer in response to the epic challenge that we are facing. Involving companies, institutions, civil society, the academic world and the design community to create a dialogue between differing mores and focus critical thought against all forms of radicalism.

Opening image:
Jeremy Perkins
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