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à une passante

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What began as a shocking development, as unsettling as it was enlivening –

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.

Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,

Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse

Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.

Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,

Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,

La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair… puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté

Dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,

Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d’ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!

Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,

Ô toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais! (translations)

– becomes the fix that we missed, what we’ll move mountains and monuments to have again. We’ll pay handsomely for it, this love at last sight. We will, we say, plan contingency into our plans.

Diventity: Identity, Density and Diversity

I propose one simple caveat urban design should strive to implement:

“Good urban space optimises Diventity” *.

Diventity is a concept that links diversity, density, and identity, and I define it as such:

Diventity allows identity to recursively emerge from the density of diversity, when that density reaches a critical mass.

A city is much more than its stones, a city is memories and relationships and friendships and fears and ambitions; it is stories and histories interacting in the society-space-time continuum.

We form these subjectivities only if the city provides us the right opportunities, because a city is first and foremost our memory-forming medium. We remember our first kiss through who we kissed and when and where we were when we kissed.


A place with enough differentiated identities (spatial, social, etc), distributed in the right proximity (or density) to allow them to interact without obliterating one another, might create enough such moments to allow for identity-shaping memories to emerge. We can say that such a place has Diventity.

It is worth remembering that Les fleurs du mal was published during the early years of Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. An anti-“diventity” plan if there ever was one…

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 15, 2006 at 12:04 am

One Response

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  1. Yeah, as Baudelaire also said,
    Le vieux Paris n’est plus (la forme d’une ville
    Change plus vite, hélas! que le coeur d’un mortel)

    — and it’s important to recall that, for all the lyric cri, “Le Cygne” was basically an occasional poem, written a couple weeks before Haussmann’s new city expanded outward to engulf the outer districts (1/1/1860) and take its modern borders. When the residents are displaced from modernity itself, there is nowhere for them to go but into allegory…


    June 15, 2006 at 11:13 am

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