»Urban expansion, overcrowded roads during rush-hours, and motorways flooded with endless chains of lorries, may bewilder an occasional viewer. The current form of capitalism, spinning around a family house and a car, production by order and free global market had a globalising effect on the city; the moto of the present time – mobility - of goods, capital, even people – has become dominant over all other issues. Everything needs to be in constant circulation. This is the result of the development of capitalism, giving rise to monstruous infrastructure that has a detrimental effect on cities, turning them into road junctions.« (Vincent Doumayrou, Le Monde diplomatique, April 2010)Several times during my last visit to Podgorica, the conversation between my hosts tuched upon the construction of motorways, and its related problems. I am well familiar with this topic. In the 1990's, I was one of the co-fouders, together with other colleagues-arhitects, of the »Odprti krog« group, the Open Circle. The Open Circle was a civil society initiative who among other goals advocated for alternative motorways and a more comprehensive approach towards all forms of traffic in Slovenia. We argued that the government needs to prepare and present to the public at least three different development scenarios, before adopting the final motorways programme (the non-active scenario, foreseeing the continution of the situation as it was at that time, the progressive model of emphasised growth, and the scenario of ecological, sustainable urbanisation and use of space).
Of course we ourselves were in favor of this last one, for it was clear already at that time, what devastating effects the existing trends in traffic and urbanisation had. Only on the basis of the evaluation of all three scenarios should the government adopt a lond-term spatial strategy. For the selected model, it would then draft a comprehensive traffic policy, giving due attention to all asepcts of transport. Such strategic documents and analysis would then serve as a starting point for detailed decision-making on tracks and size of eventual new traffic routes. We ademantly defended quality, dense urbanisation models of mixed use, enabling easy access to work, residence and education within reach on foot or by bike, or serviced by public transport systems.
The Odprti krog also argued that the key issue is ACCESSABILITY and not mobility. However, almost all our efforts at that time were in vain. Those were the times when the whole civil-engineering industry, influential individuals, experts, businessmen and politicians were only interested in motorways, for political, international, social and economic reasons. That motorways, and the accompanying overwhelming investments also enabled personal gains while causing massive debts to the company, can be seen today, when numerous scandals on cartel agreements are poping up to the surface, as well as costs exceeding by billions of Euros the intially foreseen amounts. Now that we are faced with the global cirsis and practical consequences of such partial approaches, now, that people are spending hundreds of hours in traffic jams, each of them is slowly beginning to understand, that progress is not a now-way road that enables driving at an ever higher speed.
Thus a few days ago the main news in the newspaper and on TV was that the EU is threatening to bestow huge financial sanctions upon Slovenia for having exceeded the alowed trash-hold of dust particles in our cities! Also, for the first time the results have been published of a study, according to which 200 people per year die in Ljubljana because of polluted air! And for the first time ever, the main cause of such pollution is mentioned – the personal vehicles traffic! Slovenia is today holding the unfortunate first place in Europe in the number of land kilometres covered by its inhabitants!!! and the third place in the price the individual has to pay for his/her mobility in space!!! When it comes to comprehensive and sustainable dealing with transport and traffic policy, Slovenia can serve as a negative example, that Montenegro should not repeat. In particualr, because it is not so exposed internationally as Slovenia is, with its strategic position between the Alps and the Mediterranean, between North and South, Eastern and Western Europe.
Traffic cannot be regulated by building new roads. Again an old rule turned out to be true: that those who sow roads, shall reap traffic. Before constructing the motorways, people in Montenegro should first aks themselves, how they want to spend the following years of their lives or the lives of their children: in constant movement, in traffic jams and in the car, or rather walking through a park along a shady and lively road, on a bike along an alley of trees, on the train or in a comfortable bus, talking or reading a book or newspaper, perhaps even in the shade of the tree in front of their house, where they live and perhaps also – work?
In order to achieve sustainable traffic regulation, we need to think thoroughly about the dwelling patterns, logistics, use and quality of ambience, that would reduce the dependence on a personal car to the minimum. A pattern, that would allow for accessability for pedestrians, safe mass use of bicycles for short distances, and an alternative – ecologically and economically efficient, low priced, comfortable public transport. A motorway is an urban elemtn of such scale and dimensions, that it turns into its own opposite. Instead of a road that should serve as a link, it turns into a cutting line, dividing the landscape through which it sears.
As such, the motorway stands as a symbol of a extreme situation in a civilisation, representing a pardox of progress, a Pirrhic victory of the modern era perspective, a perspective that has replaced the meditation vertical of gothic transcendence for the speed of searching of the illusionary and unreachable point on the extreme horizon of the planet. We are speaking about collective fascination with progress, about the approach, that cannot, does not wish to, or is unable to look back on the consequnces of its own actions, so it is no wonder that this view has been used by the great film masters. Let us just remember the introduction sequence to Paris Texas by Vim Wenders, or the concluding sequnces from Solaris by Andrej Tarkovski, or Odissey 2000 by Stanley Kubric.
Once we become aware of all that, it becomes clearer and more logical to think, while discussing the possible motorways and their consequences in Montenegro, at the same time about the quality of possible slow or slower life, about potentials of existing network of smaller roads and pathways, closer to the poetics of a field track, as described by Heidegger in his notorious little book. Such reflexions should not cause problems to Montenegrins. By miracle, I have found in my computer a letter that I wrote on this subject nine (!) years ago to Svetlana Racanović for the Cetinje Biannual in 2002, and later also to Igor Rakčevič. And over these nine years, my dear friend has managed to bring some of his dreams to reality!
From the letter on the occasion of preparations for the Cetinje Biannual in 2002:
“I understand the forthcoming Cetinje Biannual as an attempt how to achieve a restoration of a fuller, richer life everywhere, not only in
The three working groups that we have created (art, architecture and education) potentially represent a cultural whole, while the forth one (civil society) may enable, that each of them fulfils its special, personal or professional character, and (just like language) becomes accessible and open on the pathway of life of each individual or community. Together with my colleagues from the
When leaving, I briefly mentioned to you an idea which I had on the way, though now that I am reading in the MobilArt about the “Chain of research” and “Art Souvenir”, I see that something similar is about to be brought to life. Then this idea of mine could serve as a complement. It is about developing and reviving possible alternative routes, footpaths or ways of moving through space, with which we could bring together the abandoned or forgotten rural and urban natural or built spaces, thus helping to preserve and revive the broader cultural space.
According to the first impression, this cultural space is incredibly rich and fairly abandoned, which in a strange twist of logic also means – preserved. From the five-year fight with the national plan for the construction of motorways in Slovenia we can presume, that interested parties will only exert pressure on certain locations in the country (a text by an “expert” published in the “Putovanja” information magazine that we have received on the meeting as PR material, already goes along those lines, speaking about quantity building along the most quality sections on the coast), which they will want to connect with rapid movement systems, such as motorways (which were already presented in Cetinje as one plausible future possibility).
This global logic of creating centres makes the space inbetween marginal, or even „annuls“ it both temporaly and spatialy. Montenegro is not a country of huge transit routes, that is why it could be easier for her to apply wisdom and avoid the dangerous extremes in this direction. Fractal geometry teaches us that the size of the land or the length of the coast depends on the scale, through which we observe it. Which means that by adding quality to the relationship, one might increase its quantity. Through slower movement and hightened attention, time too is reinvented. It comes out from the place with which it is merged and where it is accumulated.
My concrete proposal would be to organise a short joint trip through a specific region in Montenegro in a less conventional way, following lesser tracks with different interested people, preparing meetings along the way with people who live there, and who would be willing to give shelter and food, share a poem, join in a conversation or projection.
Perhaps we could go on foot from Podgorica along one of the rivers (Morača or Cijevna) to the
The unusual in all this would be the understanding, that this trip is a kind of innovative pilgrimage where the road, time and events on it are the ones who give the meaning to the final goal. Milan Kundera in his Immortality writes about how modern Man exchanged his footpaths for motorways, only to find his entire life changing into a distance between point A and point B, which needs to be covered as quickly and with as little trouble as possible. So, our goal would not be to cover the distance between A and B as quickly as possible, but to discover, experience and learn along the way as much as possible.
- to exchange experience and learn from one another in real time and space
- to feel the roots of past through geography and history, to be able to sense possible future through the present moment
- to meet new people who might later continue to work on the vision of alternative networks, pathways and roads
Some of the possible topics to be dealt with along the way:
- The poetry of Njegoš and physical space of
- The ancient and modern meanings of pilgrimages
- Time and Space as one
- The meaning of water, money and language in the landscape (tradition and future)
- Alternatives in agriculture (Perma(nent) (agri)culture) and ways of living (Eco-villages global network) in the world and in
- How and why to graft fruit trees along the footpaths
Long-term goals would lie in the research and development of alternative paths and footpaths, that would enable both the local people and the visitors:
- to develop a deeper sense of time and duration in space,
- to bring together the existing smaller settlements and houses with their surroundings and larger towns, to develop local economy (oikos-nomos) and to prevent their decay and depopulation
- to gradually revive the forgotten locations
I hope this will be of some assistance to you. Regards, Ira”
Ira Zorko, Cornucopia
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