The world is defined by diversity: different ideas, people and things. Borders between countries that have become sites of contention during the last two decades – such as the border between Mexico and the USA, between Spain and Morocco, between China and North Korea, between Iran and Pakistan, between India and Burma, between Kuwait and Iraq – intend to eliminate diversity by blocking free movement. And there are many proposals for new borders – between Morocco and Algeria, between Hungary and Serbia, between Hungary and Croatia, between Turkey and Syria, between Turkey and Iran, between Brazil and Argentina, between Russia and Ukraine, between Malaysia and Indonesia and between the United Kingdom and Europe.
These macro-borders block free movement but cannot create homogeneous societies. A diversity of ideas, people and things exists at a molecular scale in every city. In response, urban spaces, their streets as well as their built forms, are increasingly defined by borders: red routes, turnstiles, swing gates, bollards, metal-detector gates, swivel gates, retractable belt barriers, crowd-control barriers, and so on. These make the experience of inhabiting the city tedious. It takes ever more time to traverse the streets, office buildings, subway stations, airport terminals and museums. Mobility can be fluid, congested or non-existent depending on where you are.
But the very presence of these borders is a space of hope too. There is, underlying all these borders, the acceptance that the city is a multiplicity. Its diversity of ideas, people and things cannot be erased. It may need to be controlled, but cannot be homogenised. For a brief time, as we are channelled through red routes or turnstiles, we become united as urban subjects, leaving our differences – of religion, ethnicity or political belief – aside, to subscribe to the city as a space for all.