Posted by: glue | August 23, 2008

Urban Karst

Walter Benjamin (with Asja Lacis) felt the porosity of Naples, Italy: the more passages available, the more the opportunities for creativity. “At the base of the cliff itself, where it touches the shore, caves have been hewn. As in the hermit pictures of the Trecento, a door is seen here and there in the rock. If it is open one can see into large cellars, which are at the same time sleeping places and storehouses. Farther on steps lead down to the sea, to fishermen’s taverns installed in natural grottoes. Dim light and thin music come up from them in the evening. As porous as this stone is the architecture. Building and action interprenetrate in the courtyards, arcades, and stairwyas. In everything they preserve the scope to beocme a theater of new, unforeseen constellations. the stamp of the definitive is avoided. No situation appears intended forever, no figure asserts its ‘thus and not otherwise'”. Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis, in Reflections.



The category of porosity is extensible, for example, to Beirut, in this essay by Nadir Lahiji.

“If one term could be offered to characterize the city of Beirut, it would certainly be the word ‘permeable’. Permeability denotes the state in which the categorical distinction between the city, body politics, and the text written on that body, dissolve. On this body, one can “read what was never written,” as the German writer Hugo von Hoffmannsthal once said. Porosity is the image of this (un)written text which defines the physical and political (pre)modernity of Beirut; it constitutes a continuum in the shifting identity of the city and its social body. Porosity of Beirut is the symptom of an urban life in which the remnants of the pre-modern and pre-capitalist social forms that never succumbed to the modernist segregation of life between private and public spheres survive. In contemporary Beirut, the metaphor of porosity of undifferentiated space competes and survives side by side with ‘modern’ Beirut in a dialectical relation between interior and exterior which belongs to the modernist representational space.”

Instruction: The Genius Loci of your region is a potential map of the macrocosm, across all the institutions organizing the place.

Instruction: The descriptor of the iconic scene provides a search term guiding further connections (conductive inference).


  1. Mise en Abyme

    Not that the relationship between the landscape as ground and the other layers (psycholoogical, social, political, ethical) carried on it needs to be isomorphic, homologous. The site of a Memory Palace could be used to organize any information. More importantly, it is not that the institutional practices inhabiting the ground are already porous, but that porosity (in this case) becomes a plan for how to act within the scene. A possible totem image? The earthworm.

    Instruction: replace narrative models of coherence with figural ones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: