miércoles, 19 de septiembre de 2012

Adaptive strategies: the emerging bottom-up DIY approach as a tactical way to activate urban assets

The European Urban Research Association Conference 2012 is starting tomorrow in Vienna.  The topic this time is Urban Europe – Challenges to Meet the Urban Future addressing "the governance of cities who have to deal with contradictory challenges between economic competitiveness and social cohesion, technological aspects of energy management (‘smart cities’) and settlement growth, shrinking cities, increasing segregation and environment protection. There is a need for new forms of governance to integrate the increasingly different interests of heterogeneous urban societies and to come up with growth coalitions that combine competitiveness and responsibilities for balanced developments".

Some months ago I submitted an abstract that was finally selected for the Adaptive strategies to activate resilience session. Due to last minute problems I am not attending the conference and stopped the writing process of an article (I will do in some weeks, I will share it here) that tries to comprise my findings on adaptive urbanism. In the meantime, this is the abstract:

The process of territorial expansion we have experienced in the last two decades and particularly in the years before the economic crisis is one of the elements that best contextualizes not only the causes of this crisis but also the significant impact it has. The way in which local policy has been understood and the role of urban development projects have lead to a complex map of underutilized infrastructure, public facilities without financial support, failed housing developments, not finished industrial developments, urban vacant lots, etc. Getting out of this crisis from a local policy perspective means finding new ways to activate and transform these passive infrastructures into public assets.

The crisis will involve changing this perspective and the era of huge development projects and iconic interventions is over. In this sense, the crisis will precipitate (it is already doing, in fact) the emergence of new types of local projects and activation of urban capabilities that had little chances in local public policies so far. These kind of projects had, in many cases, little echo or were considered as outsiders when huge development projects gained more attention. However, under conditions of weak institutional support, groups and organizations were able to check the social value of tactical interventions (and other forms of creative and adaptive actions) as driving forces of urban life using public spaces, empty shops, underused building and failed public facilities as living labs for a new way to activate creative and social projects. Now, when the crisis prevents the development of large-scale top-down interventions, adaptive urbanism projects have turned more visible and appear to be the best catalog to continue reviving city life using a logic of good, nice and cheap , as these actions are capable of generating major impacts on key social dynamic to a very low cost and highly significant.

Taking this context into account, this paper will propose a strategic framework for policymakers and other urban actors to understand the benefits of a new agenda for bottom-up projects and link them to the creation of economic opportunities, the activation of social life and the expansion of cultural projects. Economic constraints in public budgets have made large scale projects unaffordable for local authorities, but decision makers still need to have an urban agenda to keep working, even more in times of growing vulnerability for their communities. This new agenda can include now new types of urban interventions and expand the adaptive capabilities of communities to cope with economic crisis. This paper will draw a guideline framework for public institutions on how to integrate tactical interventions, micro-scale projects in public space and creative ways to add value to urban assets (empty shops, underused transport infrastructures, urban voids,…) and turn them into new expanding abilities for local communities.

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