Intercultural  Placemaking  

An  American  Academic  Perspec4ve  
Dean  Sai8a,  Department  of  Anthropology,   University  of  Denver,  USA  

Presented  at  the  Seminar  on  Intercultural   Urban  Planning  and  Place-­‐Making,  Universitá   IUAV,  Venice,  21-­‐22  June  2012    

Seminar  Goals  
We  shape  our  ci4es  and  our  ci4es  shape  us.    Europe’s  towns  and  ci4es  are  now  more   diverse  in  terms  of  ethnicity,  language  and  religion  than  they  have  ever  been,  and  the   trend  is  upwards.  The  Intercultural  Ci4es  project  is  predicated  on  the  belief  that  this   presents  not  a  threat  but  an  opportunity,  but  that  ci4es  must  be  smart  and  strategic  if   they  are  to  realise  this  diversity  advantage.  Our  streets,  squares,  parks,  markets  and   public  buildings  will  be  the  places  where  strangers  are  most  likely  to  encounter  one   another,  so  the  people  who  plan,  design,  build  and  manage  them  have  an  important   responsibility.  An  ill-­‐considered  public  space  can  discourage  conviviality  or  even   exacerbate  tension.  However,  there  are  now  many  examples  of  urban  spaces  that  are   welcoming,  reassuring  and  s4mula4ng,  which  enhance  our  natural  curiosity  and   sociability  and  help  to  build  a  sense  of  intercultural  familiarity  and  ci4zenship.       The  seminar  will  be  a  mee4ng  of  leading  academics  and  prac44oners  from  ci4es  within   the  Intercultural  Ci4es  network.  The  aim  of  this  unprecedented  event  is  to  highlight  and   share  some  best  prac4ce  principles  and  prac4ces  which  will  lead  to  posi4ve  innova4ons   in  our  European  urban  spaces  

Forma4ve  Influences  

“The  utopian  impulse  at  the  heart   of  so  many  experiments  in  city-­‐ building  has  always  proved   disappoin;ng,  if  not  downright   disastrous,  in  the  actual  flesh  and   stone…But  the  utopian  impulse   is,  and  will  hopefully  remain,  an   irrepressible  part  of  the  human   spirit…  I  am  dreaming   cosmopolis,  my  utopia,  a   construc7on  site  of  the  mind,  a   city/region  in  which  there  is   genuine  acceptance  of,   connec7on  with,  and  respect  for   the  cultural  Other,  and  the   possibility  of  working  together  on   maAers  of  common  des;ny,  the   possibility  of  a  togetherness  in   difference.”      

I  propose  a  simple  contrast  between  diversity   and  difference  in  order  to  highlight  two   fundamentally  dis4nc4ve  ways  of  dealing  with,   and  iden4fying,  cultural  varia4on….  there  is   considerable  support  for  diversity  in  the  public   sphere,  while  difference  is  increasingly  seen  as  a   main  cause  of  social  problems  associated  with   immigrants  and  their  descendants.       …Diversity  should  be  taken  to  mean  largely   aesthe:c,  poli:cally  and  morally  neutral   expressions  of  cultural  difference.  Difference,  by   contrast,  refers  to  morally  objec:onable  or  at   least  ques:onable  no:ons  and  prac:ces  in  a   minority  group  or  category…     Interes4ngly,  poli4cians  and  other  public  figures   o[en  praise  the  immigrants  for  ‘enriching’  the   na4onal  culture.  At  the  same  4me,  they  may   worry  about…  impediments  to  na4onal  cohesion.   This  seeming  contradic4on  indicates  that  cultural   difference  is  not  just  one  thing.  Broadly  speaking,   we  may  state  that  diversity  is  seen  as  a  good   thing,  while  difference  is  not.    

Key  Seminar  Ques4ons  
  1.  To  what  extent  should  buildings  and  urban  spaces  be  designed  to   be  generic,  or  specific  to  par4cular  users  and  their  cultural   predilec4ons?   2.  How  should  new  public,  commercial  and  residen4al  buildings   and  public  spaces  take  account  of  different  lifestyles  and  cultural   prac4ces?   3.  To  what  extent  can/should  urban  design  a8empt  to  influence   intercultural  engagement?   4.  How  can  we  prepare  aspiring  urban  designers  and  other  place-­‐ making  professionals  to  func4on  in  an  intercultural  world?      

1.  To  what  extent  should  buildings  and  urban  spaces  be  designed  to   be  generic,  or  specific  to  par:cular  users  and  their  cultural   predilec:ons?  
[Rem]  Koolhaas  believes   the  generic  city  is  also   the  freest.  Liberated   from  the  codes  and  rules   of  the  old  city  center,  it’s   a  free  zone,  a  safe  haven   for  the  migrant  workers   who  make  up  (in   Amsterdam’s  case)  40   percent  of  the  city’s   popula4on.  Generic  plug-­‐ in  [developments]  are   the  product  of  a  simple   equa4on  between   developers  and  city   governments.  

Andres  Duany,     Co-­‐Founder  of  American     “New  Urbanism”  

“Codes  are  necessary… Designers  should  not  resist  this.   They  should  prefer  to  work   within  known  rules  and  for  the   common  good  rather  than  be   subject  to  the  whimsy  of   individual  boards,  poli;cians,   naysayers,  and  bureaucrats… Codes  can  assure  a  minimum   level  of  competence,  even  if  in   so  doing  they  must  constrain   certain  possibili;es…Unguided   towns  and  ci;es  tend  not  to   vitality  but  to  socioeconomic   monocultures…Codes  can   secure  diversity  without  which   good  urbanism  withers  and   dies.”  

“Par;cipatory  processes  must  be  [Inter-­‐]  culturally  competent:   processes  must  engage  groups  in  ways  [loca4on,  venue,   format,  etc.]    that  groups  themselves  find  useful  and   appropriate,  consistent  with  their  own  cultural  background   and  expecta;ons  [and  iden44es].”  

2.    How  should  new  public,  commercial  and  residen:al  buildings   and  public  spaces  take  account  of  different  lifestyles  and   cultural  prac:ces?   “Brand  X  Urbanisms”  

The  architect  Teddy  Cruz  models  a  bit  of  what  an  intercultural   approach  to  design  might  look  like.    The  italicized  material  that   follows  is  from  Nicolai  Ouroussoff’s  February  19,  2008  New  York   Times  ar4cle    “Learning  from  Tijuana:  Hudson,  NY,  Considers   Different  Housing  Model.”     Teddy  Cruz  has  spent  the  beAer  part  of  a  decade  strolling  through   Mexico’s  bustling  border  towns  in  search  of  inspira;on.  Where   others  saw  poverty  and  decay,  he  saw  the  seeds  of  a  vibrant  social   and  architectural  model,  one  that  could  be  harnessed  to  invigorate   numbingly  uniform  suburban  communi;es  just  across  the  border.  

In  one  development  a  day  care  and  elderly  center  topped  by  stacked  apartments   would  be  housed  in  a  series  of  garage-­‐like  spaces  along  a  small  public  playground.   The  apartments  are  reminiscent  of  the  stucco  bungalows  in  Tijuana  that  are   some;mes  raised  on  steel  braces  to  make  room  for  new  shops  underneath.  Small,   shared  terraces  connect  the  affordable  units  to  ins;ll  a  sense  of  community.  Higher   up  a  series  of  market-­‐rate  apartments  have  private  terraces,  as  if  to  assert  their   independence.  

Community  Garden  and     “Incubator  Spaces”    for  job-­‐training  programs  

For  iconoclasts  Mr.  Cruz’s  design  may  not  push  enough  buAons  in  formal  architectural   terms.  But  his  great  achievement  here  has  less  to  do  with  aesthe;c  experimenta;on   than  with  crea;ng  a  bold  an;dote  to  the  depressing  model  of  ersatz  small-­‐town   America  embraced  by  so  many  suburban  developers  in  recent  years.  In  its  place  he   proposes  a  complex  interweaving  of  rich  and  poor,  old  and  new,  public  and  private,  a   fabric  in  which  each  strand  proclaims  a  dis;nct  iden;ty.    

Setha  Low’s  Advice  for  making   Intercultural    Urban  Parks  

1.  Mark  mul4ple  histories   2.  Facilitate  economic  access   3.  Provide  sufficient  space  for   ac4vi4es   4.  Signal  inclusivity  (cf.  design   integrity)   5.  Provide  adequate  events  and   facili4es   6.  Allow  symbolic  inscrip4on   (tarps,  circles)  

David  Adjaye’s  Idea  Store  

Idea  Store,  Whitechapel  
•  Form  (style,  materials)  references  local  urban   context  (mul4cultural;  working  class).   •  Entryway  is  extension  of  Street–  produc4ve  of   “Espai  Public.”   •  Mul;ple  entrances.   •  Intervisibility  of  Building  and  Street.   •  Mul;func;onal.   •  An  Everyday  des4na4on.  


Learning  from  Africa:  What  are  the     Lessons  of  Indigenous  Culture?  

3.  To  what  extent  can/should  urban  design  aRempt  

to  influence  intercultural  engagement?  

“Urban  Renewal”  did  its  best  to  discourage  intercultural  engagement   (Escape  from,  or  Containment  of.  “The  Other”)  

Urban  Branding  
Bilbao  to  Beijing  


Urban  Placemaking  

“Successful  examples  of  urban   design,  such  as  17th  century   Amsterdam,  Georgian  Edinburgh   and  London,  and  19th  century  Paris   are  characterized  by  the  quality  of   streets  and  squares—and  canals— and  the  orderly  beauty  of  everyday   buildings.  The  real  challenge  for   ci;es  today  is  not  to  create  more   icons,  but  rather  to  create  more  such   seAngs.    The  current  economic   recession  may  aid  in  this,  since   funding    for  large  projects  has  dried   up  and  economic  condi;ons  favor   modest  ini;a;ves–  repairing,   rehabilita;ng,  and  reusing  buildings   rather  than  tearing  them  down  and   star;ng  over.”  

4.    How  to  prepare  aspiring  urban  designers  and  other  place-­‐ making  professionals  to  func:on  in  an  intercultural  world?  

[What’s  required]…is  a  beJer  understanding  of  how  urban  policies  can  and  should   address  cultural  difference.  This  includes  issues  of  design,  loca;on  and  process.  For   example,  if  different  cultures  use  public  and  recrea;onal  space  differently,  then  new   kinds  of  public  spaces  may  have  to  be  designed,  or  old  ones  re-­‐designed,  to   accommodate  this  difference...  Space  also  needs  to  be  made  available  for  the  different   worshipping  prac;ces  of  immigrant  cultures:  the  building  of  mosques  and  temples,  for   example,  has  become  a  source  of  conflict  in  many  ci;es.  When  cultural  conflicts  arise   over  different  uses  of  land  and  buildings,  of  private  as  well  as  public  spaces,  planners   need  to  find  more  communica;ve,  less  adversarial  ways  of  resolving  these  conflicts,   through  par;cipatory  mechanisms  which  give  a  voice  to  all  those  with  a  stake  in  the   outcome.  This  in  turn  requires  new  skills  for  planners,  urban  designers,  and   architects  in  cross-­‐cultural  communica7on.  

The  Congress  for  the  New  Urbanism  views   disinvestment  in  central  ci4es,  the  spread  of   placeless  sprawl,  increasing  separa4on  by  race   and  income,  environmental  deteriora4on,  loss   of  agricultural  lands  and  wilderness,  and  the   erosion  of  society’s  built  heritage  as  one   interrelated  community-­‐building  challenge.  

New  Urbanist     Anthropology  

ANDRES  DUANY:  “There  are  two   ways  of  being…a  kind  of  Northern   European  way  in  which  discipline   allows  the  accumula;on  of  wealth.   I  suppose  this  has  to  do  with  the   harves;ng  of  wheat  for  the  winter.     But  in  the  South,  where  there’s   always  a  mango  available-­‐-­‐at  close   reach-­‐-­‐the  ideal  is  to  accumulate   leisure.”  

DAN  SOLOMON:  “If  New  Urbanists  care   about  sustainability,  the  sustainability  of   urban  culture  should  be  our  first  order  of   business.  The  way  they  cook  stews  and   make  music  in  New  Orleans,  the  way  they   dance  in  Havana,  the  way  they  dress  in   Milano,  the  way  they  use  language  in   London,  the  way  they  look  cool  in  Tokyo,   the  way  they  wisecrack  in  New  York.  Those   are  things  for  us  to  care  about.”  

“The  21st  century  mul;cultural  project  is,  I  would  argue,   precisely  that:  a  century-­‐long  project,  a  long-­‐term   process  of  building  new  communi;es  and  of  ac;vely   construc;ng  new  ways  of  living  together,  new  forms  of   social  and  spa7al  belonging,  during  which  fears  and   anxie;es  cannot  be  dismissed  but  need  to  be  worked   through.”  

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