Naschrift/Postscript

This is not what you think! I am not using this postscript to have the last word. Quite the contrary, to prevent the discussion about the future from shrivelling in the bud, I feel it would be wise to reclarify my position in the light of the above reactions by placing these in a different perspective.

For years now I have opted for a position of ‘in-betweenness’, as Peter Eisenman once put it: a position between modernism and post-modernism, a position that takes account of both without tending towards a golden mean. And that is no simple or easily understood operation. Two years ago I was criticized by Tilman and Rodermond because of a supposed contradiction in my argument. On the one hand my reflection ‘rendered every attempt to develop urban design plans superfluous because it took account of the relativity of every stance’, on the other hand I was ‘trying to develop an all-embracing theoretical system with the intention of re-establishing the foundations of urban planning’ (Zover het oog reikt, Delft 1995). This, of course, is impossible. Urban planning would be crazy to adopt such a schizophrenic position.
Now, once again, I appear to stand accused of a similar contradiction. For Lucas Verweij I am not sufficiently post-modern, for Wouter de Jong I am too post-modern. Verweij’s position on this point is crystal clear. For him there is only modernism and post-modernism with nothing in-between. As such Verweij regards any plea for sound futurology as being in the same camp as the purveyor of comprehensive prognostications, as the search for an all-embracing plan, as rationality and reason: the camp of modernism, in other words. And this, in his view, is totally wrong. Verweij opts for something that stands outside this, for visual art, mysticism and mythology. He wants to take us back eighteen years, to Fran├žois Lyotard’s La condition postmoderne (Paris 1979), where the power of the creative leap and the modest discourse was pitted against all-embracing reason. However, Verweij overlooks the fact that it became clear during the 1980s that this position offers an alternative for architecture but not for urbanism and planning (nor, therefore, for the writer of spatial planning scenarios). Urbanism and planning simply cannot afford the luxury of surrendering themselves exclusively to the creative power of mysticism and mythology because they also have to take account of the single-minded market and the normative statements of politicians. I regard Ashok Bhalotra as above all an architect, albeit of a very high calibre, not an urbanist, planner or futurologist. In the same vein, we should also beware of allowing Robert Jan Heijn and Jomanda to dictate our spatial future (although I value their dramaturgical interventions as input for futurology).
A comparable reproach, but in this case the reverse, is levelled at me by Wouter de Jong. ‘Anyone who is not explicitly with me, is against me’ is the tenor of his reaction. He complains that there is no consistency to be discovered in the article, not understanding that my constant position-changing is part of the strategy of ‘in-betweenness’. I no longer recognize the existence of unequivocal truths or positions and that goes for the assertion that the Nederland 2030 project should be consigned to the wastepaper basket. Indeed, in the article I was at pains to show that parts of the project – be it still heavily veiled and undiscovered – offer the prospect of an innovative role for futurology. I also regard a combination of projective and prospective approaches as feasible, provided some solid answers are given to the respective problems associated with these approaches, the supposed knowability and makability of the future. It is precisely for their failure to do this that I reproach the RPD; especially because it has far-reaching consequences. For what this country does not need are long-range forecasts that ‘transcend the level of the debate about large-scale projects’ (De Jong). This after all presupposes the need for an over-arching survey or all-embracing plan and here I share Verweij’s criticism. But instead of his escape into a creative mental pirouette, I advocate long-range forecasts as part of or as an adjunct to those large projects; forecasts that may individually contradict one another but which recognize the current need for focus and direction.
Dirk Frieling, at any rate, has understood this very well. I agree entirely with his plea to make both future visions and future projects the subject of decision making. But what I tried to make clear in my article is that this dual activity is simply not happening at present. The discussions about the ICES money, the second national airport, the second Maasvlakte, the European Structural Funds and so on, are not related to any solid vision of the future. Nor do I see for the moment how the Metropolitan Debate will bring this situation any closer. I have also noted that, despite the superabundance of future thinking, the future is increasingly leaving us behind. This is the paradox I described in the article. This is what I would like to see change. But whether this requires promoting ‘consistency of short-and long-term decisions at the individual level of the citizen’ (Frieling), I have my doubts. It is more likely that we will have to readjust our exploration of the future; as I have said before, less exalted and comprehensive but by the same token more penetrating, thorough, pragmatic and project-oriented. If people want to call this the ‘Shell approach’, so be it. That said, I do want to combine this with forging links with the existing different mental maps of this world and with the various concepts of space and time associated with them: telematic, cinematic and archetypical – three times and three spaces, genuinely multi-dimensional in other words. Come, let us finally get down to work along these lines.

Ontsnappen aan de rede / Eluding reason

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