Welcome to the world of infrastructure with its flows, cut flows, intersections, portals, and surfaces – the visible interface whose function is to mask infrastructure’s concealed naked functionality. Today form is secondary; its place is merely to decorate function.
According to progressively minded thinkers such as Jeremy Rifkin, the third industrial revolution – the revolution of the 21st century – is creating a new infrastructure which “is destroying time and squeezing space”. Almost all the authors published in this issue understand this ‘new world of infrastructure’ as an inexorable approaching reality. However, whereas Jorn Frenzel (p. 26) and Leonhard Lapin (p. 98) propose using alternative models (‘fluid’ infrastructure in the case of the former, and infrastructure involving self-organizing public spaces in the case of the latter) to resist the oncoming totalitarian system of machines, Aleksey Levchuk (p. 30) presents infrastructure as an illusory instrument of salvation which itself is only a step away from collapse, together with the form of civilization to which it has given rise.
The Russian version of Wikipedia defines infrastructure as follows: “Infrastructure (Lat.: infra – ‘below’, ‘under’; Lat.: structura – ‘structure’, ‘position’): a complex of interdependent service structures or objects comprising and/or providing the basis of a system’s functioning.”
The physical part of the system is based on the roads and streets network, the universe of dromocracy (Virilio), which is determined by maximal speeds. But at the same time there is another, slower regime which is gaining strength in infrastructure. This regime relates to the functioning of public spaces. The latter are losing their original insular character (localization in the form of squares), and are joining together to form clusters in a way which makes them extensive and potentially interminable. In the 20th century the city was cut into pieces by highways given over to automobiles, but now the highways are being replaced by boulevards (p. 36) with a complex system of various methods for transporting today’s new hero – who is a hybrid of a human being and a technical device (Gerald Raunig), e.g. a cyclist, skateboarder, roller-skater, ‘Nordic walker’, etc.
You can move at any speed, but you do not stop – or, to be more precise, you stop only in order to then move further, in virtual space, by connecting up with infrastructure’s virtual realm. As the art theoretician Boris Groys said in a recent lecture, “Modern man moves somewhere between fitness and blogging’’, and “there are no longer any viewers left [in the society of the spectacle]”. In other words everyone today is an actor and performer. This is why even art, which used to be viewed as something elite, hidden away in the semi-religious space of the museum, has today come outside – and is now a kind of theatre set for citizens (p. 90) producing continuous streams of selfies which are immediately posted on social networks.
The world of infrastructure receives its power in exchange for the comfort of its users, who are in the process of informational self-consumption. The universal fascination with urbanism is a kind of cult of infrastructure whose rituals consist in constantly servicing and discussing it: optimization of movement, expansion of opportunities for cycling, furnishing of the space ‘between buildings’. Also in this category is the concept of development based on the street block (a type of development which is in fact not that different from ‘line development’ [the type of development, championed by Ernst May in the 1920s and 1930s, whereby buildings are positioned not in a continuous front along the perimeter of a plot of land, but in parallel lines inside the plot, and often with their side ends facing the street; see p. 58); all this underwrites a theatre of everyday life, i.e. of the world of infrastructure which has replaced structure itself but which endeavours to conceal this fact.
Jorn Frenzel. Fluid infrastructures
Aleksey Levchuk. Infrastructure and the end of civilization
Anton Smirnov. The estrangement of the engineer
fi. Timo Hamalainen, Panu Lehtovuori. City of boulevards or city of malls? Urban transport Infrastructure retrofits are changing the urban landscape in Helsinki and Tampere
fi. C&J Architects. Reconstruction of Siilitie metro station, Helsinki
ee. Mihkel Karu. Rail Baltic: connecting Europe
ru. Ivara Slivkas birojs. Mitava Bridge (pedestrian bridge), Jelgava
ru. Ilya Filimonov. The St Petersburg metro: a forgotten public space
Urban environment and structure
Danil Ovcharenko. City of street blocks or city of architectural ensembles?
ru. «Studio 44». Architectural and planning concept for a residential district. ‘Ideal City’ (competition entry)
ru. Development: the big story. Interview with Yekaterina Gurtovaya
fi. Hakli Ky. Omenapuisto kindergarten, Helsinki
lt. Gintautas Natkevicius, Adomas Rimselis, Agne Natkevicijute. Crematorium, Kedainiai
ee. Kavakava. Tartu Healthcare College
Hedwig Fijen: “We are conducting a DNA analysis of European culture”
ru. LES. Temporary infrastructure for the Museum of Street Art, St Petersburg
DiscussionSelected texts from the exhibitions at national pavilions of Estonia, Latvia and Russia at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia
Leonhard Lapin.Public Space in a New Paradigm
Artis Zvirgzdins. Modernism in Latvia – Housing programs and a Search for Identity. The Case of Series
Sonja D. Schmid. Celebrating Tomorrow Today: The Peaceful Atom on Display in the Soviet Union
fi. K2S. Headquarters of Arctia Shipping (icebreaking company), Helsinki
lt. Arches. L House, Vilnius
ru. Aleksey Levchuk. Office for Apollo, St Petersburg
lv. DR Arhitekti.Summer stage at Fantasia Children’s Park, Ventspils
ee. KAOS.Tartu University Treasury
Design & technology