The Exclusivity of Urban Regeneration
Writing for Metropolis, Susan S. Szenasy raises a familiar question: can plans to “regenerate” city centers be successful if they are built upon a premise of exclusion, failing to include the interests and needs of lower economic classes? The query is a familiar one in planning, surfacing in talks of gentrification and equitable design.
“I read this Egyptian tale after returning to my own world city, New York, a place well known for its ability to snag global wealth. The memory of my Mediterranean vacation warms my thoughts as I flash back to sunny days in Valencia, Spain, a walking city where tourists mingle with locals on the wide sidewalks in the newer districts as well as in the commodious plazas, with their bubbling fountains and dignified statues from another time. Here is a city where avant-garde design thrives in close proximity to remnants of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the 19th century—all built by and for the wealthy. Yet, perhaps because those societies needed the tradesmen’s skills, cities were built to accommodate the working people, albeit in very modest and often impoverished neighborhoods. Now, we build for exclusion.”
Are these supposedly regenerative plans truly exclusive, and if so, will they ultimately destroy the urban fabric of cities rather than restoring it? Perhaps more importantly: if a strong urban fabric relies on inequality, how can we address its related social ills without losing the diversity that makes cities special?
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Image courtesy of Foster + Partners