The Mediterranean has always been a place of exchange, of people, goods and ideas. Its port cities have been important centres in the history of mankind and for European civilisation. The Library of Alexandria was a centre of science, Athens the cradle of democracy and Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. City states such as Venice were not only born in the Mediterranean, they also dominated global economic networks and enjoyed breathtaking cultural wealth. The Mediterranean was also a spiritual centre and intellectual bridge between the Orient and Occident: Rome and Constantinople (Istanbul) as the home of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Cairo and Damascus as the centres of Islamic teachings.
The history of the Mediterranean is at the same time a history of constant conflicts around the religious and political shifts of power. The freedom of thought and movement was the key to the development and rise of the Mediterranean cities. The independence from the mainland and the lively trade and exchange between them created a climate in which something new could take place in art, culture and science and in which economy and industry could develop. The cities were real havens and new homelands for people of various social, ethnic or religious origins. So far, the mediterranean cities seem to have more in common with each other than with their respective nations. The multi-faceted maritime network of cooperation and interdependence created an invisible inseparable bond beyond the pure economy.
The Mediterranean region has also always provided scope for great utopias. The greatest idea dates back to the 1920s: Atlantropa, the monumental dam project in the Strait of Gibraltar around architect Herman Sörgel. The name of the project also stands for the visionary goal of the project, to form a continuous continent from today‘s Europe and Africa, connected by a Mediterranean Sea lowered to 200 meters. Atlantropa should solve several problems at the same time. It should gain valuable new ground for the growing cities, create living space and jobs and supply electrical energy for the whole of Europe. Many renowned architects and industrialists were part of the Atlantropa movement, which ended with the death of Sörgel in 1952.
How could all the satellite cities in new territory in front of the historic cities looked like and how would the offshore Mediterranean coast have developed? Isn‘t the Mediterranean region with all its sprawling metropolises already grown to a single megalopolis?
The access to the sea was not only the greatest privilege for the historic city states. It‘s still an ongoing battle between the private and public and the ocean view construction boom continues unabated - are the monumentally all-inclusive resorts financed with borrowed capital the new private city states?
Are the gigantic cruise ships the new mobile cities of the Mediterranean? Are the large crowds of tourists the new conquistadores of the Mediterranean cities? Against the dam, climate change guarantees a rise in the sea level - what does this mean for current migration routes and geopolitically in the long term?
This time, my exploration of the urban periphery will be shifted to the sea – fascinated by the supposed contrasts and possible similarities of the Mediterranean port cities and guided by the search for the maritime cosmopolitan ideal.