Inside cities, where countless ongoing exchanges and clashes take place, we experience daily incidents together with our own private struggles some that can be identified as forms of war, and others that are forms of interaction and negotiation. Such phenomena can be described as plasm, which refers to the primal state of living that has long been ignored and misintepreted in architecture and city planning.

The multinucleate mega-cities manifest this dispersed situation of permutations and complexities. The hidden underside beneath the visible forms in fact occupies the bulk of the public realm, which is bewildered by irrational fluctuations of emotions and actions. In entering the public domain, in-situ interactions function as art that goes beyond set rules and modes of negotiation. The unstable and chaotic flow of encounters and engagements exemplifies the bursting energy in the city which can be equated to the fourth state of material in plasma that excites human behavior and building activity.

The fear of increasing density is contingent on the mounting pressures of ever-scarcer resources and insecurity regarding the exploitative nature of society. Density as a quantitative problem may be resolved by distribution and disposition. However, there are unavoidable congestions that arouse a sense of uncertainty. Congestion is more critical and often more a psychic issue than a pragmatic problem. The levels of personal tolerance and modes of interactive strategy are in fact various and conditioned by socio-cultural background. In China and India, where the number of people at a busy street corner could easily reach ten times more than in Europe, people have developed certain ways to emit signals during movement and made their way out as the consequence of a proto-warfare.

Our instant encounters now have even more fluctuations with the universal use of mobile telecommunications. Following rapid market demands and the immediate-response of capital investments, cable lines, antennae and halfway stations, often without integrated planning or permits, are installed above or below the city's existing buildings. These attached transmitting accessories do not usually follow the conventional infrastructure but spread in the direction of the transmitter's broadcast patterns. As nodal links to individuals and other coexisting worlds, they change the cityscape and divert activities in the city from within and afar.

Technological progress, however, does not necessarily ameliorate life's many confusions. Neither do growing levels of transit mobility and speed capacity provide any more freedom and safety. An individual is easily overwhelmed by consumerist techno-fever. Floating signs, information billboards and digital media have built a new dimension that stupefies our consciousness and forms of dominance. For those living in the cities, the need to be mobile simply means the possibility of deviated circulation, the adaptation to countless restrictions, an ability to shield and the chance to escape surveillance.


The plasmodium, or slime mould, is a primitive life form commonly found in forest ecosystems. When unfavourable conditions occur, the plasmodium changes from an animal-like multi-nucleate protoplasm to a single-nucleus fungus, thus adapting to its surroundings via migration and a renewable life cycle. The plasmodium reflects the content of our clammy urban living. People survive by utilising simple technology and the resources at hand, and by maintaining interdependent and intramural proto-organic relationships.

Architecture and city planning were once surgical exercises that were little suited to treating urban internal micro-scale problems, while building activities are assumed to be regulated and controlled by pragmatic operations. The formalistic urban structure of a sanitary building project excludes the latent tumorigenic factor from its formula. Meanwhile, the neoplasm-like illegal constructions and settlements are vital and spread quickly across cities, evidence of how the residue is transformed into inseparable parts of the larger city.

In many ways similar to plasmodia, people tend to migrate into new territories to begin a new life. When the given living conditions are bad, or when the conditions get worse, people manage to recycle their limited possessions and reinvent their cocoons. The convertibility and self-help nature of the ghetto community has become a forgotten factor inside a preconceived ready-made society; worse, it has been gradually discarded as the remnants of an anarchic criminality.

The study of slum areas in Mumbai shows that occupants manage their everyday life through a greater sense of sharing and collaboration. The unavoidable intimacy in a group may intrude upon individual privacy, but none-the-less is of necessity and comfort for sustaining more active momentums. The infrastructure of main water pipelines in the Dharavi area, allegedly the largest slum area in Asia, is above the ground and being incorporated into passageways, bridges, public baths, shelters, playgrounds, and work places. Multiple stacks of living quarters and connections inside and outside of the agglomeration mix with raised highways and major railroads to produce another landscape that offers wonder and excitement.

The notorious nomads of the city, the homeless, might not be without homes. Rather they are taking a pathway leading to the reconstitution of their lives, resembling a drifting spore of plasmodia waiting to reproduce itself. Wandering peddlers move around the streets with simple personal artifacts, committed to their carts and their routes. Beneath the facade of fragility and poverty, this can in fact be read as a form of eco-wise human behaviour, used to survive in a harsh environment, and possibly to transcend it spiritually, as practiced by followers of Buddhism.

Abandoned industrial sites, private and public vacant buildings and the urban peripheries are the empty areas of a city, places that provide refuges and alternatives for people who need room to breathe and roam. These areas of urban emptiness signify the darker side of master-planning and grand-scale development, yet somehow, even within these environments, there is room for beginning anew. Worse yet would be to fill these voids using single-minded planning methods that merely cage the potential urban vitality.