urban renewal and the socio-political

Dissertation – Urban Zero Points
Indeterminate public space in urban renewal and the emergence of the political subject

Over the past three decades globalizing post-industrial economy and powerful financial markets have left their mark on our built environment. Architecture and urban planning have been influential factors in a strive for uniqueness with major urban renewal projects not only spatializing economic transformations and market-driven politics but also accelerating urban fragmentation and demographic change. Prioritizing the needs of private capital enforced social exclusion and the disaffection with political practice which has been widely described as post-politics.

Today, ever-densifying and –diversifying urban agglomerations challenge the concept of community and demand an arena for negotiation and political mobilization. Re-politicization, therefore, presents itself as a necessity not an option. It needs to be assessed whether the urban environment can provide spaces where the post-political can be overcome and the political subject, as conceptualized by Jacques Rancière, can emerge. The dissertation argues that indefinite vacant areas, open to various ways of appropriation, constitute potential spaces of re-politicization by assisting political subjectification.

To what extent does the amount and design of indeterminate vacant spaces in urban renewal projects encourage or prohibit the production of social space and the emergence of the political subject?

The hypothesis of indeterminacy is further investigated with the help of case studies – three major renewal projects originating in the 1980s and 1990s. The projects and their specific parameters are analyzed and compared to each other with the main focus being the implementation and use of public space. An essential graphic tool is the use of figure-ground diagrams as a venture point to examine the dichotomy of building and space. Physical changes enforced by urban planning are revealed and their immediate sociopolitical consequences are investigated in order to trace the correlation between built and lived space. The theory of correlations will be supported and extended by literature research, planning documentation and empirical studies (expert interviews with relevant actors during planning and construction, inhabitants, and neighborhood associations).

Bearbeitung: Uta Gelbke, B.A. BArch(Hons)
Betreuung: Roger Riewe, Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Architekt