Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The world famous monument of Byzantine architecture. View of the St. Sophia Cathedral at sunset.
A border has a double purpose: it divides and simultaneously unifies. An ambiguity intrinsic in its etymology: cum-finis, the ending we share with others, the essential obstacle to overcome. Not for nothing border areas are also areas of crossings, linguistic and cultural common identities, complicity and smuggling. However, a three meters barrier around a district is not a border: it is just a wall. A wall that divides, rather than unites. A wall that does not add, but takes off: even the sight from both sides. A wall that locks not just outside – the different, the unexpected (that are complications and at the same time the spice of life); – but also inside, our home, our habits, our beliefs. Besides, symbolically, a place surrounded by a wall is a place where there is less exchange, where the air is bad, in the long term unbreathable. Only, because to live in it, we can get used to it. With the same spirit in which we live closed and separated in tourist resorts situated in countries that are poor, but we prefer to ignore it. Therefore we lock ourselves inside: to enjoy the seaside, but with an inland heavily guarded. Inside the wastefulness and abundance of buffets; outside poverty and famine. Someone, coming back home, wants to reproduce this condition once again. This idea of district can conflict with the same idea of city: already in Middle ages we defined “the city air makes you free” (doubtlessly it can be difficult to think about a great European city, those of we love to visit or in which we would like to live, as a sum of districts surrounded by walls).
The air of the closed district confuses freedom with safety. Only to discover that if not us, our children, will going to find freedom in the cities preferring the largest and the most open ones: on holiday at first, as definitive destination later. It does not surprise that many administrators recognize the closed community as an advantage: it is cheaper than promising safety, even though it should be an institutional duty; it charges its costs upon private citizens; and in the end, it guarantees your vote. But is incorrect the means since the scale of values and priorities is not correct. Not only because it makes private was a territory that once was collective, but also because it even privatizes the sight. It edges away from the main function of the city: to foster the encounter and the reshuffling meetings (also of ideas) – which are its strength and fortune. The risks is a society of gradual divisions: residential for the income bracket, but also the young citadel, the elders citadels, the citadel of entertainment or of sport. This is also the model of the shopping mall: it is controlled and we know exactly what we find – but it can be intolerable if we think about it as our fate. The trivialisation of the ghetto and its perversion in voluntary closing responds to certain types of to neo-tribalisation more common than we think (rich people with rich, gays with gays, religious community divided, etc..). On the other hand, safety perceived by inmates of any kind is a double-edged sword: it works when you are inside but if you get used to doubles the fear when you are outside, in a world you do not perceive yours if you used to think that the world is done by equals – a paradox in a time of increased differences. However, we should consider this issue from the pragmatic point of view. There is a market demand impossible to be ignored, but it can be managed. Districts can do at least three things: a) fostering paths of socialization and crossing, educating about the beauty of intersection, making pleasant the city life (and so unpleasant this districts); b) identifying guidelines and making people respect municipal regulations (for instance, enclosures cannot exceed the established height and cannot be occlusive); c) discouraging these constructive models, even through a differential and disadvantageous taxation. But, if there are people who want to close themselves – inside their districts, their homes, their life – we cannot prevent it. We are expecting that other people continue to be many more.