“In the little towns on the terraced hillsides the new buildings played piggyback with one another, while in their midst the owners of the old houses added another story and craned their necks to see out. The town where Quinto lived had once been surrounded by shaded gardens of eucalyptus trees and magnolias, where retired English colonels and elderly spinsters leaned over the hedges and exchanged Tauchnitz editions and watering cans. Now the bulldozers were churning up the soil with its rotting leaves and its gravel from the garden paths, picks were demolishing the two-story residences, the ax was at the broad-leaved palm trees, which fell with a papery scrunch from the sky so soon to be filled by the desirable, three-room, all-convenience, sunny homes of tomorrow.“
– Italo Calvino, “A Plunge Into Real Estate”
Every inch of the earth’s land mass now seems subject to some form of financial speculation. The forces of real estate divide us according to our historical, current, and even our future means: our ability to borrow, and our ability to repay. Conversely, our judgments, when it comes to real estate—whether they are optimistic or pessimistic, pragmatic or nostalgic, projective or critical—are most often understood as “personal” sentiments, assessments performed on a case-by-case basis; they are seen as individual and biographical, rather than ideological. In this way, real estate plays off and affects dreams and desires, bringing us into being as subjects capable of owning, borrowing, coveting, and profiting from real estate.
Under a planning and development regime emphasizing “private” property ownership and its protective discourses (e.g., amenity), public debate on urban development has become centered around medially constructed, opinionated “communities” of both NIMBYs and YIMBYs. In the shadow of this Potemkin village of open democracy, actual decisions on the allocations of spatial resources appear to become increasingly complex and opaque.
At a time when the common good is figured by the total sum of individual satisfactions, our legal and bureaucratic systems seem unable to counter to the great variety of vested interests they encounter; they are thus exposed to constant attack by factions demanding the cutting of red tape.
The business of real estate is the prototypical capitalist undertaking, evidencing as it does continuous economic development, the inevitable progression of society, and the unrelenting commodification of life. In the current moment of late neoliberal capitalism, realtors are expanding their conventional domain of influence deeper and deeper into the building industry and into architectural design, orchestrating the material and immaterial production of architecture in ways that align more and more with their marketing strategies. At the same time, the building project in itself has become the ultimate turn-around venture in which the entrepreneurs, the doers, the independents, the hopefuls, and the hard working are incarnated as building contractors, business partners, or capitalists. Commercial opportunities are not to be missed. The skeptics, on the other hand, are the ones who are too slow, too passive or simply too appalled to do anything; they are the figures slowly forced into becoming sellers or unwilling minor players in the game of property trade.
The second issue of LO-RES takes as its starting point Italo Calvino’s novella, A Plunge Into Real Estate. First published in 1957, the story unfolds through the eyes of a young intellectual, who returns home to his place of birth in the Italian Riviera. In the heady climate of the late 1950s, the protagonist’s disengagement from the place is quickly supplanted by an increasing frustration as he is confronted with the rapid exploitation of land. The transformations through real estate development are not only physical but also mental, encompassing the alteration of attitudes towards history, class, valorization, and success. In such a climate, even the most hardboiled opponent of change could be lured into supporting the very mechanism of change via the lure of being a part of a given “economic moment.”
Taking inspiration from this neorealist tale, the second issue of LO-RES addresses the material and immaterial forces of real estate. We are seeking submissions from theorists, researchers, writers, and practitioners that address the architectural, theoretical, historical and political significance of the material and immaterial forces of real estate.
Deadline for full submissions: 31st October 2015
For submissions, please contact the editors with a proposal, at firstname.lastname@example.org.