5 questions on Europe

By Stefano Boeri

1) The structure of Contemporary Europe is very diversified: how can we understand better this newly enlarged map?

Europe is still expanding today, tomorrow it may retract. Europe doesn’t have fixed frontiers, and if we think about it we realize it has never had any. Europe has always been a cultural condition, not a geographical one. As a cultural entity it has constantly changed its perimeters. It has extended as far as Athens or Jerusalem, it has retracted to the shores of the northern Mediterranean and the Baltic, it has expanded again, at times losing pieces within itself, opening up chasms inside its own body. Europe is a flux. Mobile and slow. This is its value and its great potentiality for the future of the world.

2) What do you think about the new employment and new economic geography in Europe today?

I believe that – if we also take the East into account – Europe contains every possible declination of the production and distribution cycles of goods, but these are no longer specialized within one single country, they are spread over the geo-political scale of this mobile continent. Think of the textile industry: things are decided in France, invented in Italy, made in Romania and sold in central-northern Europe …

3) What is the role of culture in this Europe of social and political diversity?

Fundamental. As we have shown in our atlas-research “USE- Uncertain states of Europe” (edizioni Skira 2003), edited by Multiplicity, the European space has 4 great “structures” which are lasting in time. In the first place there is a space where exogenous traditions and cultures are metabolized, and from which they are re-exported after they have been reinterpreted. In the second place there is a space in which relationships acquire an extraordinary intensity. Thirdly there is a territory where “nothing is ever canceled”, where cultures, languages and traditions accumulate rather than substitute each other. And lastly there is a place “where many decide”; a territory of concerted action, discussion and continual negotiations. A concerted action which is at times unnerving and conflictual, given the incredible diffusion of institutes and entities that have the economic, juridical, political and cultural resources to intervene in this space and impose their own interests and desires. But this infinite concerted action is a great guarantee of democracy …
Each of these 4 structures belongs also to other parts of the world. But all 4 together belong solely and exclusively to Europe.

4) Can the importance of the public sphere and contemporary expressions of creativity be considered “the common ground” on which to build a common Europe?

Only in part. Innovation in Europe today derives above all from self-organized, spontaneous situations. Not from the institutions, and not from the self-celebrating world of art, architecture and fashion …

5) The world is important, but the local is more: do you agree with this statement?

I believe that it is interesting to observe the world today through the needle’s eye of the local space. It is in the local space that the energies which flow through the world become visible. The flow of goods, men, ideas, information, images … clash in the local space, they shape it and are conditioned by it. The local space relates globalization, its aporias and contradictions, better than any aggregate vision. We have an extreme need today for stories of places, biographies of spaces, histories of territories.

Stefano Boeri, director Domus, co-founder Multiplicity, professor Politecnico Milano, co-curator USE (United States of Europe).