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Peripheries. Searching the informal modernity of urban peripheries. Section edited by M. Cremaschi

Comments and issues
through the Section's cases

by Marco Cremaschi

Neighborhoods are not only, and not always, "gentrified", by gentrification meaning the forced eradication of the poors. In most cities, the social mosaic is being rarified, and the real estate market is promoting a process of specialization. Neighborhoods are progressively subjected to a process of distinction. Entrepreneurs, fashion, cultural labeling often spontaneously interconnet producing new urban niches. Not anymore local communities, they become urban niches, in a very varied process. 

Moscow | Helsinki

Over the last decade, many countries experienced the proliferation of large urban projects. Around the nineties, the conventional wisdom was summarised in the formula of the 'urban renaissance': flagship projects; international events; waterfronts; iconic buildings… Definitions of urban projects, however, are far from consolidated. Besides dimension, they are characterized by internal complexity, and framing effects. Moreover, they are supposed to directly affect strategies pursued by cities in search of economic growth and competitiveness.


Disasters sometimes happen, more often are socially constructed. Governments and national agencies are often inadequate: environmental or social risks are easily neglected, even when anticipated by the inhabitants or the technicians; public works are rarely robust and efficient. In the meanwhile, the impact of natural disasters divide beneficiaries according to a cruel social ranking. Even when disasters happen suddenly, they are the result of long-term processes, where technical rationality and political cinicism have mingled repeatedly.


Cities are the collective memory of a nation, that celebrates itself through buildings and avenues, stories and rites. Sometimes these narratives project a miserable story, sometimes a glamorous present. Mobilizing its past, nations slowly elaborate upon their identity, changing the meaning of places as well as the places themselves. Such collective memory is the result of a conflictual process, which excavates the traces of future in the incoherent array of avalaible "materials". Places, neighborhoods, and cultural meanings are all part of this depository of continously modified traces.

Tel Aviv  Buenos Aires

20th century social housing nurtured ambitions which contrast severely with the present state of decay. Not only the material fabric of these neighborhoods is delapidated, but the social density and homogenous culture of old blue collar communities; the political awareness of tenants organisations; the dense network of social ties around community centres, have all faded away. Marginal areas are today defined more by exclusion, rather than oppression: a major difference being the lack of political solidarity among the different sectors of the excluded. The cultural condition of the immigrants epitomizes such brutal change. Poor immigrants, and weak social groups, concentrate in these areas, and ironically manifest themselves as the city of size, density, and turned upside down.heterogeneity


How do cities contribute to face the crises? And what local responses to crisis have been enacted by different cities during the last decades? Such questions necessarily imply a critical reflection on which local policies have better dealt with the crisis taking into consideration its design, implementation, and impacts. Urban strategies are deployed by an elite to capture the consensus around a vision and a spatial "concept". Such concepts are all but technical description. In part, the competition and survival of such spatial concepts is decided in the political arena. Moreover, the substance of a spatial image lay upon a broad and agreed acknowledgment of the ties among social identities and places.

 | Antwerp

A new imaginery for a changing urban environment: this seems the precondition for policies dealing with a changing urban environment. Most of the urban policies implemented in Europe since the 19th century were supposed to face the issue of overcrowded and dense urban areas. The planning of the urban markets was introduced among the reform policies of the modern state, to mediate between the reactionary politics of governments and the liberal stances of social movements. In a way, planning has been a technique of citizenship, more than a plain technique of cities. The emerging city of the 21st century poses new challenges to democracy and liberalism. Such new policies are then experimenting more advanced compromises between market requests and social concerns.

Baia Mar Urban streets