How much the concept of “city” and that one of “home” can overlap? What really makes an urban centre better than another? Which is the value added by which a capital becomes a model? Modernity, of course, liveability, conveniences. But also greenness, history, monuments. We think of those fabulous cities depicted by an imaginary Marco Polo in Calvino’s book, or of a remote farm, so defamed and yet longed-for, that a pair of red shoes can make near and real. We are looking for beautiful, spectacular, modern things, as well as we long for the trees, the sea, the air, the presence of one of our memories, the tradition… And, sometimes, also for a little, innocuous fault that allows us to “wear” our own city, as we do with an old shapeless sweater not thrown away because it’s warm and comfortable and we feel at home when we put it on. Then, how to reconcile the dichotomy between efficiency and personalization? Between something that makes a place completely desirable but at the same time not depriving it of the characterization that makes it always recognizable, and moreover for those who live there? Is it possible to create a model, repeatable and equally applicable in the four corners of the earth

Born of this kind of investigation, the project “City Models” – rib and complement of the reportage “The Width of the Line” – wants to face in a more intimate and sympathetic way the relations, the contrasts and the interpenetration between the human soul and the city “container”, between uninhabitable cities and our sense of belonging. For the first time in the history of mankind, people of urban centres is exceeding the countryside residents. In thirty years, 75% of the world population will live in a universe of glass, steel and cement. Four are the models suggested: four examples of cities (Dubai, Tokyo, Berlin, Shanghai) that took up the challenge, transforming their image and their contour in order to meet the requirements of beauty, exceptionality, efficiency, sometimes wealth and magnificence. Four cities that in the last decade changed their aspect, integrating at times the memories of the past, or else wiping out every trace of it, creating a new and perfect city. A moral judgement about the transformation procedures is intentionally uncertain, even if it is present in an imperceptible way. Four corners of the earth with a different past and distinct prospects for the future.

Text by Massimo Mastrorillo/Chiara Oggioni Tiepolo