The Participatory Turn in Urbanism
The Participatory Turn in Urbanism
In the last decade, a participatory culture has evolved and expanded beyond its original limitations, propagating participation as a radical form of direct democracy and demanding its implementation outside the traditional territory of politics. While fuelled by innovations in the field of Information Technology such as Web2.0 or social networks, within the fine arts, this emergent movement has brought about what is termed a participatory turn. The new aesthetics related to this turn have been enthusiastically theorized as relational (Nicholas Bourriaud), dialogical (Grant Kester), collaborative (Maria Lind), or simply social (Lars Bang Larsen). Yet the participatory turn has been subjected also to a critical examination: Claire Bishop, in particular, showed that the promise of equality between the author and the audience is problematized by the reality of outsourcing authenticity from the author to the audience.
The participatory turn can be identified also in urban planning, urban design, and architecture. In these fields, as in others, the turn is necessarily also a return of sorts to the ideas and ideologies of the 1960s, an era in which participatory demands were backed by influential radical political movements. The origins of participatory planning can be thus traced back to concepts of advocacy (Paul Davidoff), equity (Norman Krumholz), and transactive (John Friedmann) planning. In a various ways, the idea of public participation is at the core of ideas as diverse as Reyner Banham et al’s Non-Plan, Giancarlo di Carlo’s work, or Jane Jacobs’ diverse city.
Whereas participatory planning remained important in certain non-Western contexts such as Brazil, in Western Europe it was integrated in diluted forms into planning policies. Many of the Community Design Centres established in US cities in the late 1960s and early 70s ended up as low-profile and limited-impact neighbourhood organizations by the late 1980s. The central role of Non-Plan in the development of urban enterprise zones such as the London Docklands has been acknowledged by Paul Barker, one of the authors of the original proposal; the lessons learnt at Urbino have been mostly forgotten, overwhelmed by individualist-consumerist forms of participation such as the process carried out by the WIMBY project in Hoogvliet; and the ‘diverse city’ has fostered gentrification and mutated into the ‘creative city’.
What started as a cause for equality has often resulted in a systematic ignorance of inequalities. Does the ‘participatory turn’ leave these inequalities intact? Does it exacerbate them? The objective of this issue of Footprint is to critically examine the recent participatory turn in urban planning and urban design. While the ‘right to the city’ has an important strategic value in fighting social and urban exclusion, it is less capable of responding to contradictions resulting from urban policies of inclusion. What does the advocacy of popular participation by planning authorities, urban policy strategists, and international urban consultants mean? Why is participation encouraged, and who is doing the encouragement? What do different social actors understand by participation? Can the notion be opened up by asking: participation by whom, where, and to do what? And how to respond to a frustrating understanding that the promises of equality implicit in every participatory act are recurrently compromised by inequality between those who stage the participatory process and those who are invited to participate?
Footprint seeks full papers (6000-8000 words) that examine these and similar questions. The papers should focus on the urban scale of the problem rather than the singular architectural objects. The authors are welcome to analyse ideologies, discourses, practices, and material forms related to the participatory turn. In the main section of the issue, we are seeking theoretical studies and critical evaluations of the social, political, and economic aspects of the participatory turn; while case studies can be invoked, they will not form the core of the argument. These articles will be subjected to a blind peer-review process. Shorter papers (‘review articles’ of 2000-4000 words) focused on case studies can be submitted for a pre-review selection by the editors – the authors of review articles should contact the editors with a short summary of their proposals in advance of the official deadline for complete papers. Please communicate with editors via the emails maros.krivy[at]artun.ee and tahl.kaminer[at]ed.ac.uk, and cc editors[at]footprintjournal.org.
Deadline for complete papers: 1 March 2013
Maros Krivy, Tahl Kaminer
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