Spatial chaos and the city of the 21st century edition:Architecture Festival: Warsaw under construction, edition 4 location:Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland date:1-31 October 2012
Taking as a starting point Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens’ 2011 Geneva installation, in which the order of the letters in the phrase ‘l’ ordre n’a pas d’importance’ is shifted around without losing meaning and legibility, I would like to reflect upon the organisers’ starting point that the opposition between the modernist notion of order and its anti-thesis, ‘chaos’, is no longer adequate to describe present and future urban challenges. And yet, it is a dichotomy that continues to inform the politics of urban transformation, expansion and renewal in many places around the world.
One of these is Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, that will be taken as an example here. Tropes of chaos, urban dystopia, pathology and disorder have come to be routinely applied to this city, which is itself the historical product of the modernist planning
ideals of Belgian urban planners and architects during the colonial period. But whose ‘order’and ‘chaos’ are we talking about? Since 1960, the city has indeed grown away from the order of the colonialist modernity that the Belgian colonizer imposed upon the city’s surface.
In the process, the urban residents of Kinshasa have invented very different modes of ordering in and for their city.
They have destituted former orders and contested official definitions of what public space and sphere are meant to mean. And while the Congolese government tries very hard to resurrect these former models through its so-called ‘revolution of modernity’ which was launched by
President Kabila earlier this year, the inhabitants of Kinshasa have also been busy with substituting and recharging these former orders with all kinds of different meanings, thereby infusing the city with their own norms, rules, ownership regimes, infrastructures of affect, and
architectures of feeling. In this way, every day again, people invent and reinvent what it means to be and be together in the city.