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23.9.06

Renaissance: view of an ideal city

posted by Jamila: composing from Florence



Piero della Francesca's "Ideal City," with its perfected grid, reminded me instantly of New York City. A touch of warmth kindled in my heart at the memory of my City. But this image is a far cry from the New York I know, and I paused in my nostalgia to consider the extent of the ideal...

1. Geometry—the grid
2. Antiquity—the architecture
3. Divine—no humans could possibly live here: where are they?

The third point is what I really want to stress. I absolutely cannot imagine human beings inhabiting this Ideal City. Where is their trash? Their dogs' crap? Or, at least, the owner stooping down to scoop up the dog crap? Even in the days of togas and laurel wreaths, mankind was in many ways a slave to his waste. Divine ideals frighten me for this reason: should we bother aspiring to a level of being that contradicts our own existence? I suppose this aspiration characterizes the so-called "plight of humanity," and the tension we experience as we sway between man, the animal and man, the thinker produces a hefty volume of art and literature. It's a common and inevitable symptom. And it's beautiful.

I cherish my cities, my ideas of cities, more modern than Piero della Francesca's. A common dream of mine involves an automobile-driven descent through the twisting off-ramps that bend into a foray of neon against darkness.

Ages shift; ideals shift; ambitions remain the same...

While I love traveling back in time via ancient structures, I must remind myself: the ideas are embedded in the stone. The ideas are modified. These modified ideas must be built into newer stone...

And the beat goes on.

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