Surely Will Alsop (AJ 27.3.03) is missing the crucial point of his own quotation?
We might, not unreasonably, believe the quest for wisdom and an open mind is to be found through solitude and privation.
It is not just the physical privation of being away from people, but of being away from the distractions caused by our fellows.
This does not require separateness or privilege.
This point about the Renaissance image of the ideal city is that it shows exactly that: the ideal and contemplative perspective view. Its emptiness is not sterile, simply empty, allowing the individual a space in which to think about the future.
Switzerland does not suffer from such an affliction of sterility, I believe, but is rather careful about displays of extraneous activity in urban planning, relying rather on simple refinement. Of course, this might not be to Alsop's taste I can think of nothing better than to find a place of solitude.
This can and should be in the city. I prefer art exhibitions myself and recommend the Blinky Palermo exhibition currently at the Serpentine. I have been there a lot recently to discover things about myself, and I like to think there are many others doing the same.
Kurosawa knew this when he filmed the silken space.
RIB from the office.
Robert Barnes Architects, London W1