A round the world, progressive, critical - ly minded architects, landscape archi - tects and urban designers are engaged in place-making projects that propose to create a more “open city” – one that can be accessed by all inhabitants rather than being reserved for ruling-class elites and the wealthy. While such initiatives are generally steered by state institutions, as well as by real estate developers and corporate patrons, they have often emerged in response to local struggles against the forms of privatization, gentrification, displacement and sociospatial exclusion that have been unleashed under post-Keynesian, neoliberalizing capitalism. In the context of an ongoing global financial crisis, in which market fundamentalism remains the dominant political ideology of most national and local governments, pro - posals to counteract the deep social and spatial divisions of early 21st-century cities are surely to be welcomed by all those com - mitted to promoting more just, egalitarian and democratic forms of urban life. But how can relatively small-scale design interventions, such as those catalogued in this issue of Topos, confront the monstrously difficult task – as Richard Sennett poses the question – of “heal[ing] society’s divisions of race, class, and ethnicity”? Even the most radical designers are seriously constrained by the politico-institutional contexts in 44 45 which they work, and today these are generally defined by the naturalized imperatives of growth-first, market-oriented urban economic policy and by approaches to urban governance in which corporate and property-development interests maintain hegemonic control over local land-use regimes. In practice, moreover, the interventions of designers concerned with “opening up” the city via project-based initiatives have often intensified the very forms of spatial injustice which, at least in rhetorical terms, they aspire to contravene. This is because the conditions associated with “urbanism” – the effervescence of dense zones of centrality, interaction, exchange and spontaneous encounters – also frequently generate major economic payoffs, in the form of privately appropriated profits, for those who own the properties surrounding the project site. While many places have provisionally experimented with instruments of community reinvestment, local land trusts and profit-sharing mechanisms in relation to such newly created arenas of urbanism, the predominant global trend is for growthmachine interests – often linked to speculative, predatory investments in global financial markets – to reap the major financial rewards derived from them. Consequently, early 21st-century initiatives to construct an “urban commons” through site-based public design interventions all-too-frequently yield the opposite: a city in which the ruling classes reinforce tight control over the produ
Get Free Quote!
434 Experts Online