In its iridescent significance the term ‘porosity’ develops from an analytical, descriptive element towards a category of urban concept.1 Its source is a report on Naples from 1925 by Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis:
“The architecture is as porous as this stone. Building and action interpenetrate the courtyards, arcades, and stairways. In everything they preserve the option to become a theatre of new, unforeseen constellations. The definitive, the fully-formed is avoided. No situation appears to be intended forever, no figure asserts its ’thus and not otherwise’. (…) Porosity results (…) from the passion for improvisation which demands that space and opportunity be preserved at any price.”2
Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis observe the intertwining of urban spaces and the urban texture from a cultural and social perspective. The layering and mélange of spaces, the perforation of borders and the ambiguity of thresholds are perceived as specifically urban qualities. In contrast to that the modernist city continues to be characterized by homogenous zoning classifications and solidifying borders. ‘Porosity’ becomes a counter model, a critique of this city. As Amin Ash and Nigel Thrift put it, “porosity is what allows the city to continually fashion and refashion itself.”3 For them the focus is on people’s everyday life, as it comes to life in the report on Naples. The porous city could enable typical urban ambivalences: distance and proximity, exclusion and integration, heterogeneity and homogeneity, anonymity and community, penetration and density. This requires significant urban spaces as well as, at once, a dense interweaving and use of these spaces. Richard Sennett, who understands the porous city as a site of radical mixture, puts his finger on the wound and asks: Why don’t we build them?4 Even regarding the porous city from an explicitly architectonical perspective, ‘porosity’ becomes a crucial spatial criterion.
1 Amin/Thrift 2002, Stavrides 2007, Secchi/Viganò 2015, Sennett 2015, Wolfrum/Janson 2016
2 Benjamin/Lacis, S.309, 310
3 Amin/Thrift 2002, S.10
4 Sennett 2015