miércoles, 23 de abril de 2014

Make_Shift City. Renegotiating the urban commons (book)

Francesca Ferguson has compiled a great collection of stories, essays and interviews in this new book, Make_Shift City, which represents the latest addition to a growing literature on the new conditions of urban development. This implies a mix of uncertainty, austerity, insecurity and temporality as the landscape for re-imagining the city. These conditions are present, to greater or lesser extent, in Western cities as newcomers after the financial crisis and its subsequent impact on urban development. As institutions try to understand how to face these new conditions, a wide experience of practices and appropriation projects, developed sometimes as outsiders in the previous economic stage, appear as an adequate response to give social value to neglected plots and facilities.

This is the panorama adaptive urbanism tries to illustrate and promote as a more than a meanwhile time, in which transition becomes a structural feature of the way cities will be built today and in the near future under a new set of tools and approaches that deal with this uncertainty with creativity, appropriation, empowerment, adhocism and a rediscovery of the ability of citizens to shape their everyday life spaces. Rigid planning and formal regulations give narrow chances to face this unexpected situation of stalled developments and “failed” urban spaces”. They were not designed to cope with the circumstances we are witnessing. They were thought out in a business as usual scenario in which usual meant the big party of iconic buildings, large developments, and massive public resources without economic and social bottom lines. As such, this book comprises a great compilation of actors that have been working and reinventing the rules of city making by challenging some basic urban planning mindsets (“if there is something planned here in some years, there is no need to give access to others to make something here”, “wait until the market gives an exit”, etc.). The work and approach by Bruit du Frigo, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Exyzt, raumlaborberlin, Basurama or Assemble, among others, appear in the book as a background knowledge collected in the last years and exemplify the changing roles of urban planning disciplines towards alternative planning policies. The spontaneous city, The temporary city, Second hand spaces or Urban catalyst also cover this issue and with Make_Shift city we gain a new resource/catalogue to understand that these practices long ago succeeded in bringing new life to abandoned spaces and tested what Indy Johar addresses in the book as "the architecture of the civic economy".

The book´s structure helps understand the reasoning and motivation of these actors (most of them under working on a collective basis), linking case descriptions with short interviews and essays (by Dan Hill or Fran Tonkiss, among others). In this sense, it is great to find in the book some of the projects I usually draw upon when explaining these ideas (and probably missing some projects from Spain), such as Cineroleum and Folly for a Flyover (London), Vendor Power! (NYC), NDSM Wharf (Amsterdam), Superkilen (Copenhagen), Tempelhofer Feld and Prinzessinnengärten(Berlin), Southwark Lido and The ReUnion (London), etc. Some of them are, in fact, depicted in the latest issue of Uncube with Francesca Ferguson as guest-editor, serving as an introductory reading before you get the book. 

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