The topic of this article derives from the current and growing pressure of the many migrants who, from troubled homelands or simply in search of livelihood opportunities lead us, as architectural and urban design professionals, to raise mobility solutions and territorial accommodation proposals through drastic changes in the existing land organization.
From a perception based on the current political structures, this proposal will seem a blatant attack on the sovereignty of European nations, as we know them today.
Before proceeding, it is important to remember that many of these same nations exercised as invaders and colonizers of distant lands, inhabited by folks considered inferiors —according to European descriptions by then—. However, using the principles of international justice emanating from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), we can now say that the sovereignty of all these territories was clearly violated by the invaders, even though it was not recognized as such in its moment nor value judgments issued by then were supported by the ordinances that would emerge later.
The current notions of rights are closely linked to the principle of citizenship or nationality. One has rights within the limits of a political context in the extent that one has a charter of nationality.
1. In the Middle Ages society was enclosed within strong protective walls. Within them, families were grouped to make the city worthy, and being a citizen meant to belong to the upper classes by birth, a privilege granted by the accident of fate. The rest of the population, accommodated in the vicinity of the wall within the forest, had no access to the privileges of feudal lords, the citizens.
2. During the Enlightenment, differences for nobility reasons were openly fought to overthrow the birth status by accident, which led to modern principles of universal equality, but always within national borders. It was then that political boundaries of nations went on to become the modern feudal walls and, despite the inevitable class differences indoor, constitutional statements became guarantees to grant rights and duties available to all its inhabitants. In Europe this became evident particularly through the armed conflicts in the first half of the twentieth century, where national boundaries were indisputable.
3. However, with the subsequent integration of the European Union, insurmountable barriers have been moved to the perimeter of this large area, coming to mark the division between the European Community and foreign residents, foreign and unrelated to the privileges reserved for the old continent, which in recent years has intensified to create what is known as the lock policy. The current situation therefore is not very different to that experienced in the Middle Ages. Privileges conferred to a knighthood by then are equivalent to privileges granted now by a passport or a charter of nationality.
The rising tide of protests, conflicts and changes in the Arab countries, that have recently deposed three ancient rulers and have mobilized thousands of people from their territories trying to find security and future for their families, has accelerated what in recent years had become a dripping, but steady, migration to continental Europe. Different situations but similar results are observed in other parts of the world that cause the mobility of its residents. In Spain, albeit with more or less intense moments, politics facing the arrival of illegal immigrants is permanent and with an intense level of activity throughout the year. And yet, under today’s circumstances, indeed they are not being attended with formal diplomacy. It is a matter of uprooted human beings in search of land, looking for a corner in the planet to establish, where everyone has the right, those born within or outside the developed world. It is not an issue of ideology, historical debts or revenges, of donations or contracts. Its a matter of commitment to the Fundamental Rights of Man to ensure a better global future.
It is seen that the trend towards integration of immigrants in the current structure of the modern Western city has resulted, in general, a failure. The incompatibility, as seen so far, is a fact. The result is an obvious stigma of immigrants, and any dispute arising out of this is fuel for the critical positions that seek to denigrate their presence in urban society. The failure to adapt to local traditions and language difficulties and/or accommodation in the labor market has pushed them into seclusion in rooming houses or in overcrowded urban slums. It is clear that for the average citizen, as well as for the same immigrant fellow, his/her presence in the western city life is annoying and, despite being tolerated by both parties, is no less uncomfortable.
As one of the feasible actions to be taken by Europe could be the definition of extra-urban specific areas in several countries where to locate immigrants coming from places of conflict and/or underdevelopment. The European Union, as trustee of the potential of the nations it represents, would serve as financial agency for the establishment of places destined for so on those countries. In the case of Spain, these settlements, while remaining as Spanish territory, would act as European Community space under a free loan scheme. Political concepts like the wall, lock, door closed and others would be forgotten, giving rise to new patterns of politic distribution and freedom of transnational movements, where would prevail the person of migrants over their nationality.
The possible schemes of town establishment would meet both the convenience of the recipient country and the capabilities and benefits of immigrants, within a new legal framework regarding land use.
1. One of the phenomena caused by the Industrial Revolution was the movement of the population of numerous rural areas to cities. That move has been slow but steady, exceeding in 2007 the urban population to rural worldwide. In the cities of Spain now live almost 70 of its total population.
2. This has caused that many Spanish towns have been greatly reduced in population and many others are completely abandoned. The latter went through a process of gestation, growth, maturity, and not a few enjoyed the strength and charm of some others that are now flourishing urban centers. Some of these abandoned towns even keep time stone remains of the Roman Empire.
3. Immigrants from areas of conflict or insufficient supply of subsistence have relatively little experience living in developed cities. They are people more akin to suburban and rural environments. For that reason, and as an option of a bilateral agreement, they could be entrusted to repopulate some of these sites as they could be called Districts of Reception and Settlement for Immigrants (DAAI for its Spanish acronym), with the intention of reviving them and, by their new inhabitants, sustain themselves and develop as a cultural community protected within the Spanish territory.
4. In the north area of the Guadalajara province, near its border with the Soria province, there are three villages located. These are Querencia, Tobes and Torrecilla del Ducado. They are located northern of Sigüenza, southern of Almazan and western of Medinaceli. Due to its geographical location and existing communications, I propose them as the first settlements to meet the principles in this project under the status of Districts of Reception and Settlement for Immigrants.
From the outlined above, this article seeks to establish the groundwork for the establishment of DAAI’s and open possibilities to outline some principles of physical and operational definition for the recovery of each of the above towns, as an example of what could become a comprehensive program of recovery of abandoned villages and, simultaneously, the political reorganization of national borders to benefit immigration, acceptance and development of people born in state of neglect.
It is necessary to argue that physical approaches should contain poetic and cultural values nherent to the citizens/users of these sites, and that these solutions will be architectural contributions with a deeply dialogism underlying, able to organize its contemporary time.
(*) Distritos de Acogida y Asentamiento para Inmigrantes