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After the riots: what makes a city?

Is city life now just a matter of avoiding social decay, or is there anything to be rescued in the idea of radical metropolitan transformation? In short, what makes a city, and how should we go about building them?


After the August riots came the inquest, the exhaustive and exhausting bout of national soul-searching dedicated to uncovering the cause of, and the solution to, the implosion of urban communities. From denouncements of a ‘sick society’ and ‘mindless criminality’ to blaming the closure of youth centres and establishment corruption, commentators have found very different targets, but few deny that the willingness of inner-city youth to destroy their own neighbourhoods indicates the 21st century city somehow fails to nurture communal life.

For some, a ‘me first’ consumerist culture has taken root in the very fabric of our troubled cities, creating a pernicious ‘neoliberal’ urbanism. Excessive gentrification and infrastructural failings have led to the creation of French-style ‘banlieues’ in the outer suburbs and detached estates where the worst of the violence occurred. The most ambitious building project of recent years – Renzo Piano’s Shard – has been decried as the symbol of a shattered society, glorifying the power of the financial sector while the rest is left to decay. While few go as far as Victorian reformer Ebenezer Howard’s description of cities as ‘ulcers on the very face of our beautiful island’, many might share his vision of Garden Cities as a solution of civil unrest. Recent thinking in terms of creating ‘healthy’, ‘inclusive’ or ‘eco’ cities has often seen more enlightened urban design as the solution to the modern malaise.

Community responses to the riots, from Birmingham’s Sikhs risking their lives to protect their local temples to Peckham’s ‘peace wall’ , have offered hope for some that all is not yet lost. But how far can urban planning go in fixing the problems of society? Should architects and planners work more closely with communities and citizens to produce ‘liveable’ cities, or will this only frustrate the vision of those seeking to create large-scale urban projects for the future? Is city life now just a matter of avoiding social decay, or is there anything to be rescued in the idea of radical metropolitan transformation? In short, what makes a city, and how should we go about building them?


Speaker(s):

Alastair Donald | talks
Mr Michael Owens | talks
Tony Pierce | talks

 

Date and Time:

19 October 2011 at 6:30 pm

Duration:

1 hour 30 minutes

 

Venue:

Mind in Croydon
10 Altyre Road,
East Croydon,
London
CRO 5LA


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Organised by:

Institute of Ideas
See other talks organised by Institute of Ideas...

 

Tickets:

Free

Available from:

Additional Information:

For More Details visit: www.battleofideas.org.uk/index.php/2011/session_detail/6046/

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