SOC30160 Cities in a Global Context – Essay topic 4
Why is the image of the citya central point of contestation in property development processes?
‘What is the city but the people?’(
Coriolanus)Cities are not just hollow capsules of streets, roads and buildings. They are sociallyconstructed and as such they represent a variety of lives and multiple identities. Every city isdiverse in its inhabitants, from the wealthy, influential ones to the poor and marginalized.However, all these people with their subjective memories and ideas have their respectiveattachments to their city whether their realize it or not. The images of the city each of these people may have in their minds will not be identical. City is art, a theatre of humanity(Mumford, 1938); it evokes emotions and stimulates social action.In my essay I will discuss how the city image can become the focal point of contestation in planning processes. I will draw a number of analogies and comparisons fromtwo very different cities and disconnected examples. First example is the long-lastingdisputed over planning permission to development the Bank Junction area in Central London.Second example is the public response to the winning design for the new Czech NationalLibrary in Prague. The two cities, London and Prague, seemingly have very few commoncharacteristics; however there are distinctive connections and similarities in the underlyingreasons, which have driven both arguments. National character, issues of identity, and thesymbolic strength of the city’s image are at the heart of both contestations. I will discusswhat the city image represents and why is often becomes such a contagious issue in planning processes and redevelopment proposals.
Faces and forces shaping the city image:
The city image is not an accidental or random creation. It is a physical representation of thecity’s content; its inhabitants and their ideas, thoughts and beliefs. The spires of Gothiccathedrals pointing towards the sky in austere piety were the images of their times.Baroque monumentality with its ornate and sumptuous style was regarded as theexpression of the state consolidation of power. The arrogance of its ornate and voluptuousforms, resplendent in their physical might was its distinguishing mark.
SOC30160 – Cities in Global Context Petra Skyvova 07763379