Home sweet home: how to reconstruct the city?

"This huge half-ruined city in which three and a half million people drag a frightening, desperate existence, almost without realizing it, live in tragedy as in their natural element, but not for fortitude or faith. For fatigue."
From "Germany, year zero" by Roberto Rossellini

The city is made for the vast majority of houses, which give form to the city, because they are the mark of everyday life. The monument is something different: it is the symbol of the city, which does not live on a daily basis.

From this point of view "noble architecture" and "spontaneous architecture" are not qualitativly different. The spontaneous architecture is often a finished product filed on time, adapted to the territory, very appropriate to the function to the psychology and behaviour of the community that built it.

Architectural form is the expression of the culture of its time and space-house is a plot of social and psychological interrelationships that exist between people and groups. As place in the city, houses become the places where there is a collective historical identity.

The importance of the house is not limited to the surface of the building itself as refuge from the outside, but also is the place to live. The house is more than a place to live, because is the expression of material needs, but also of deep psychological instances. The house determines the personality of those live in and losing own home is a trauma.

For these reasons, keeping the community together and involving inhabitants in the reconstruction should not be underestimated, when reconstructing the city.

The model proposed in the manual “Safer homes, stronger communities a handbook for reconstructing after natural disasters” gives short important starting points to realize a participated reconstruction:
Those points are:
- a good reconstruction policy helps reactivate communities and empowers people to rebuild their housing, their lives, and their livelihoods.
- reconstruction begins the day of the disaster.
- community members should be partners in policy making and leaders of local implementation.

None the less, it is important to reflect on private and public city space, because the meaning of a house could be polyvalent.

The space-house says a lot about the culture of inhabitants. For example some historical types are separate and distinct from the urban space; others are fixed and defined roles. Many types of housing are "introverted" starting with the Greek-roman domus bounded by a wall and open to the atrium watershed, denounces social structure rigidly distinct, poor social relationships and a clear division between public life and private life. The same for the Arab-Muslim house built around the garden. In the camps where the interior and exterior is poorly distinguished and the house consists of openly multipurpose spaces, the conventional roles are poorly observed. The house lives on the street and people of any age, sex or status are mingled together.

Is it important to think about the indoors as space, which interacts with the public spaces and contributes to the identity of the city itself?

Jane Jacobs in 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' gives a theory:

“A city street equipped to handle strangers, and to make a safety asset, in itself, our of the presence of strangers, as the streets of successful city neighbourhoods always do, must have three main qualities:

First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.
Beirut 1994 - Gabriele Basilico (1944-2013)

And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.” 

The neighbourhoods, the public spaces are elements, which maybe depend from the plan itself. But what can be today the best housing model, which allows more involvement by inhabitants and allows places to socialize, without losing the two spheres, that of 'the public' and that of 'private'?

Maybe it is not impossible to think about the model of ‘cohousing’ as participated reconstruction planning.
First because the sphere of public and private space can be controlled by the resident through shared areas and services. And second but not less important, the residents direct the management in a collegial manner, where participation is the key word.