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The debate will be structured in four connected sessions:

I- The informal city and its discontents: critical analyses on informal urban practices and the design and planning responses given to it

The debate on urbanization and housing being currently conducted by many architects and urban designers in European schools seems to rely on one main assumption: as many governments seem unable or unwilling to promote access to adequate housing, citizens must thus take the problem in their own hands. The result is the praise of informality as a way of urbanization and housing provision. This is not a new position. The writings of John F.C. Turner (1963, 1968 etc.) are characterized by his focus on individual liberty and autonomy of informal settlers. The perceived entrepreneurship of deprived citizens who populate the megacities of the South is glorified and home ownership through informal urbanization is seen as a ladder to economic prosperity, leading to the formulation of policies. The IMF and the World Bank – where Turner worked as a consultant – adopted the self-help methodologies as one of their official strategies in the past. This session seeks to elaborate a critique of this position and discuss the role of planners and designers in housing and urban development in the Global South today.

 II- The city of the rich (and the city of the poor): political organization of space and spatial segregation

As Edward J. Soja writes: “The political organization of space is a particular powerful source of spatial inequality”. In the last years new forms of spatial segregation (exclusionary zoning, residential segregation, creation of new enclaves for specific populations and social groups) have redefined in European and non European cities new geographies of spatial inequalities and new languages of distinction and privilege, through exclusive residential projects, gated communities, etc..
The session is aimed at the exploration of the theoretical and empirical conditions of these new forms of segregation and self-segregation, and at the analysis of the spatial and social consequences of these processes in terms of political citizenship.
Particular attention will be devoted to the narratives, rhetoric and languages that promote and shape spatial (self) segregation in the new “city of the riches”.

III- Utopian images of spatial justice: are architects and planners designers of the just city?

Architects, designers, urbanists and landscapers have traditionally arrogated themselves great powers in promoting social change. Modernism had a plight to change the world and create the spaces in which a new kind of man would emerge. Post-war housing projects around the world promoted the idea that healthy, airy, green environments would create new kinds of sociability in face of the ruins of two world wars. Architecture and urbanism have been fuelled by utopian images of progress. But the reality of poverty and increasing inequality has exposed such ambitions as fallacies. The collapse of modernism as a social transformative movement exposed the boastings of architects as cockiness. Designers must seek a much more realistic role for themselves in contributing for change. This session will explore images of justice and redistribution through the work of architects and designers who have achieved or inspired change.

 

IV- Multiplicitous Representations of the Thirdspace
Visual thinking the spatial justice between the real and the ideal city

The modern proliferation of multiple tales of the city is increasingly being played through the pervasive language of images. Images and visual artifacts through which the different forms of power narrate themselves, creating seductive representations, building, literally, fictional realities where Lefebvre’s spatial triad (Representations of Space, Spatial Practices and Spaces of Representation) is intentionally blended. If, quoting Foucault, ‘Space is fundamental in any exercise of power’, how can we re-discuss the role and functions of visual languages in the description of how spatial justice is played out in today’s cities? What binds the growing demand for stakeholder inclusion, information and participation to ‘drawing of the city’, in its role of ‘experiential knowledge’? This session aims to discuss the concept of Thirdspace (Soja) as a catalyst for images of the ‘real city’. In Thirdspace, issues of spatial justice require innovative ways to be represented. On the other hand, Thirdspace requires/uses visions of imaginary and imaginable cities, images of ideal cities and utopias that are linked to a long Western cultural history. These images may be a virtual ground for experimentation and change.

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