Wiel Arets
Actar, March 2019

Paperback | 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 278 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150654 | $34.95

Publisher's Description:
No one demands that people move to cities; people tend to do so, on their own. People choose to move to cities for opportunity. Such choices are often made unconsciously, as they are based on rules, traditions, and local communities–or a combination of all three. Un-Conscious-City explores and unravels Dutch architect Wiel Arets’ kaleidoscopic viewpoints on the ways the collective, unconscious decisions taken by the world’s citizens throughout time–a process that remains invisible to the naked eye–are now working to transform and shift the physical, sensory, and emotional experiences of human beings, as they navigate and live in today’s metropolises as well as the countryside. People tend to only belong to one religion, one society, or one club–which completely defines their existence. One day most human beings will live in a global­nomadic-urban-condition; this will soon be amplified to unknown heights. Un-Conscious-City raises questions, predicaments, and ideals regarding the future of our cities, while recognizing their limitations. Wiel Arets–renowned architect, writer, and thinker–identifies this condition as the Un-Conscious-City.
dDAB Commentary:
When I think of the academic career of Wiel Arets, rather than his career as a practicing architect, two positions immediately come to mind: as Dean of the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands from 1995 to 2002, and most recently as Dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago from 2012 to 2017. In between, as I learned in this latest book from Arets, he was Professor of Building Planning and Design at Berlin University of the Arts, from 2004 to 2012. Lectures given and interviews conducted during his Berlin tenure were the basis for Un-Conscious-City, which is structured as a conversation between the "Prompter" and "The Architect," the latter obviously Arets but the former a hodgepodge of fellow faculty and students. This conversation is broadly about cities and the informality of their evolution, with the term unconscious appearing to stand in in for informal. Though not exactly the same, I'm guessing Arets uses the word of the book's title to overcome any baggage that comes with the more common term and focus on parts of cities that might be planned but are still shaped by so-called unconscious interactions. Whatever the case, the back-and-forth between the Prompter and The Architect is meandering — focused meandering that ultimately exhibits Arets' takes on cities but also directs many questions to the reader, as if they are part of the conversation.

Although I wouldn't go so far as calling Un-Conscious-City experimental, the book's content and format are fairly unconventional. First, all the pages are lightweight, single-sided, and folded (there must be a name for this layout/binding technique, but I can't find it), which helps the book lay flat and gives it a unique feel, due to the folds at the fore edge. Second, in lieu of pagination is a clock or stopwatch, visible in the spreads below, that starts at 00:00:00 and ends at 08:24:00. In a more conventional vein, the conversation is punctuated by excerpts from books and articles; presented in large text, these words are always related to themes in the interview, though sometimes they actually function as The Architect's answers to the Promper's questions. Lastly, between the interview's seven sections are photographs taken by Arets on numerous trips to Japan this decade. They show people working, eating, and moving about the city, as well as construction sites and other vignettes that are focused on the unconscious. Like other books by Arets with editor John Bezold (e.g., Stills, Autobiographical References, and Wiel Arets-Bas Princen), Un-Conscious-City is a beautiful object full of thought-provoking ideas.

Author Bio:
Wiel Arets was born in Heerlen, the Netherlands, in 1955. His father was a printer and his mother was a fashion designer, and from them he learned both the love of books and reading, as well as a deep respect for craft, materials and making.
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