European cities are sick!

Observing the vibrant growth in Buenos Aires, Ross senses decline in Europe.

The city of Buenos Aires is surrounded by a bleak and desolate landscape, but the city is incredibly wealthy, beautiful, and, most important for Ross, planning for current and future growth. “The city wants to grow, the city too wants to escape its confines. And this is why entire rows of buildings have been torn down in the city center to make room for the Plaza and the Avenida de Mayo. That’s why further rows of streets will fall—it has already started—until the whole inner city is a network of broad diagonals that bring air, light, and space”.

This leads Ross to a reflection on European cities. And he draws on a language of organic life cycles clearly taken from Friedrich Ratzel’s organic model of the state:

“Cities are living beings that grow, bloom, and die. On the other side of the loamy water of the La Plata and of the blue water of the Atlantic lie cities through whose neglected streets a human stream circulates like heavy, black blood through sick arteries, whose buildings’ façades bear the traces of the survived horror of fever or the signs of its imminent return. Nowhere does one so strongly sense the how sick Europe is—how sick and doomed!—as one does here in this young—so inexpressibly young!—city.”

It is significant that this latter passage was removed from post-1933 editions of the book, likely because it would have been frowned upon to represent Germany through metaphors of death and decay.

Kristin Kopp

Colin Ross. Die Stadt am La Plata. In: Südamerika, die aufsteigende Welt. 1.  Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1922; 35-39.

Topic: Volk ohne Raum
Case: Geopolitics

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