__side of the Ring

One street in Kanazawa, Japan.

A city famous for its indigo-dyed denim that made 19th-century merchants rich.

A picturesque old town is surrounded by postwar development; a tunnel and a hilltop cemetery form a no-man’s land between the two.

This liminal space is the Ring, the boundary between urban spaces that are “desirable”, and urban spaces that are “necessary”. One is where a global citizen wants to be seen and (be) photograph(ed); one is where a local grew up and prefers to spend an evening.

In Ancient Rome, the pomerium was a sacred boundary delimiting the city. Over time, as population growth caused the city of Rome to expand, the pomerium no longer corresponded to the city limits. The pomerium thus underwent a symbolic evolution from being the boundary of the city, to being a manifestation of class distinctions, one that separated venerable posh downtown neighbourhoods from upstart working-class developments.

The evolving connotation of the pomerium is a good illustration of how wealth distinctions can become intertwined with moral ideology. We see the same phenomenon today. In Berlin, the world city for millenials, expat Facebook groups contain myriad memes about international thirty-somethings desperate for any partner, any apartment … except one outside the Ring, of course! Hotels, too, should always be located in the old town.

The gentrification and commodification of cities limits our ability to appreciate them.

An aspect is not a totality.

What’s picturesque is not all of what’s lived.

What do we mean when we say that a space is desirable? Perhaps what’s desirable is synonymous with what’s comfortable, what’s quaint, what’s nonthreatening.

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