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The Academy Congress Provocation Overview

The Academy Congress Provocation Overview

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Published by: The Academy of Urbanism on Jan 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Provocation workshop themes:OverviewPrepared by A+DS
Ed Glaeser recently asserted that cities are growth engines. He vividlyportrays his view o both the benets o the city, and the disbenets onot supporting their economies in his new book. This was described in‘Prospect’ magazine as a ‘love letter to cities’. Making cities work matters.I cities are engines o the new economic uture, then neighbourhoods andcommunities are key parts. How we see them matters.Someone once said that ‘what is most general is most particular’. What thismeans is that the things which mean most to one person, probably meansomething to someone else. This isn’t about preerences. This is aboutthe qualities that aect us as humans. It is about lives. Starting with thismatters.In discussing neighbourhoods, cities and communities it is important tobe clear about what matters. For some, the design o the place matters,how it looks, how it works. I we locate a two year old in the centre o thisquestion we might unpack the answer starting in terms o some o thebasic elements o our lives: a house, health, a job, learning. Looking intoeach o these elements in turn, we inevitably start to look at relationships,between the elements, between spaces, between people, between serviceproviders, investors, designers, users. Instead o moving rom the generalto the particular, we might start with the particular. Start with something thatmatters and move out to the bigger picture; sometimes we get dierentanswers, and new ways o seeing things. This matters.It has been argued that one key source o health inequality is the lack oopportunity to get a job. Proessor Michael Parkinson, in presenting work on competitiveness and social cohesion notes that ’the key social ace ocities and regions is the emergence o social exclusion which is growingin rich as well as poor areas, in growing as well as declining areas. Thegrowth in social exclusion is intimately connected to, and partly caused by,the search or economic competitiveness. But at the same time the growthin social exclusion is limiting the economic competitiveness o our citiesand regions’. This is the key dilemma o the uture o places, a real andconcerted eort to build opportunity or all and tackle the wicked problemsthat have dogged communities or generations.
“The cities everyone wants to live in would be clean and  sae, possess efcient public services, support a dynamiceconomy, provide cultural stimulation, and help heal  society’s divisions o race, class, and ethnicity. These are not the cities we live in. This is so in part because the city  is not its own master; cities can ail on all these countsdue to national government policy or to social ills and economic orces beyond local control. Still, something has gone wrong, radically wrong, in our conception o what a city itsel should be.
Richard Sennet, Quant
Provocation workshop themes: Overview
 This challenge isn’t about some theoretical set o ideas. It’s about engaging with people in place in our times, the nature o contemporary places. This is about enabling people to engage with place and make, andremake purpose and meaning. In a real sense, this is about participation. This doesn’t mean just a step in a ormal planning process. It meansprocess o active engagement with our environment. This inevitably leadsto collaboration, the coming together o people to do things, to shareresources and make things happen. This sense o doing things together is oten driven by pragmatism over some sense o romanticism. In anincreasingly diverse world, collaboration and the ability to connect to othersis an essential part o making things happen.How people see place enables opportunity. I we were to see the city asa landscape or learning, where every aspect o the environment and theactivities within it are learning opportunities, we might re-think how weuse what we already have better. We might start to look at the institutionalarrangements o place which enable or inhibit people using space andservices in creative ways. We might start to look at the ‘sotware’ elemento places dierently. We might start to think about how communitiescould appropriate space or dierent purposes. This matters becausethe outcome o a creative use o resources is not just cost savings. It isthe building o stronger social capital, the building o the oundations or aculture o innovation in all aspects o how a place works. I innovation is acentral element o the new uture o the economy, o social organisationand places, then growing the conditions or innovation is important. In thiscontext, Proessor Ann Markusen noted in the review o cultural industriespresented at Glasgow School o Art that ‘ the creation o networks andsupport may be as important as the mere provision o space’. The discussion o networks brings in a set o important ideas about thenature o place and how we respond to the challenges o housing andhealth, learning and jobs. Communities can orm in space, and throughother networks, such as the web. They are fuid, and can orm or reasonso mutual benet. Neighbourhoods are xed in space and provide a settingor some communities to participate some o the time. It is akin to a closedsystem. The idea o a community is like that o an open system, wheremeaning and purpose are created and re-created over and over again. There is no xed end point, just a process o continuous learning. Thisbuilds capacity, in the ormal and inormal structures o communities andplaces. This capacity in turn enables places to be more or less responsiveto change, to shape the direction o change, to be changemakers. I this istrue, then how we build these networks, enable this capacity and promotethis culture o continuous learning is important. This impacts on the way wesee neighbourhoods, communities, cities.Every community needs space, and connections. The community o work needs dierent types o space, or dierent reasons in dierent parts othe city. The nature o work is changing. So too are the spaces o work.Service provision to our communities and in our neighbourhoods ischanging or a variety o reasons. It is essential that in all this change that
Provocation workshop themes: Overview
The outcome ofa creative use ofresources is not costsavings...it is thebuilding of strongersocial capital, thebuidling of a cultureof innovation inall aspects of howplace works”

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