Planning the dispossession of centrality: design, community, representation

A Seminar with Alvaro Sevilla Buitrago, Associate Professor in the Department of Town and Regional Planning at the School of Architecture, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
Organized by the City/Architecture PhD Programme at the Architectural Association.
Wednesday, March 1, at 6.30 pm. 33 Bedford Square, First Floor, Front Room.

Between the late 1800s and the 1930s architecture, planning and other design and welfare agencies became involved in struggles to reshape urban centrality and the social space of the poor. In this endeavor, design techniques were captured by a broader governmental apparatus, aimed at mobilizing both material and representational productions of space to the advantage of nascent configurations of organized capitalism. The process secured a place for architecture and planning in the emerging state-form, but it ultimately marred their political project in a lasting fashion. In fact, many of the current social challenges in our cities and the very position of designers in contemporary ideologies surrounding urbanization and the built environment are better understood by tracing the aspirations, contradictions and failures of this period, particularly as regards the re-imagination of working-class communities. The talk will frame this episode in a longer genealogy of spatial strategies of dispossession, and explore the articulation of design to visual, regulatory and discursive practices of topocide through a number of historical vignettes including social housing, collective facilities, urban renewal, and city marketing experiences from Germany and the US.

Suggested readings:

Berman, M. (1982) All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, New York: Simon and Schuster.
De Angelis, M. (2007) The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital, London: Pluto.
Hardt, M. (2010) The common in communism. In C. Douzinas and S. Žižek (eds) The Idea of Communism, New York: Verso, pp. 131–144.
Jeffrey A., McFarlane C. and Vasudevan A. (2012) Rethinking enclosure: Space, subjectivity, and the commons, Antipode 44, 1247–1267.
Lefebvre, H. (2003) The Urban Revolution, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 115-134.
Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 26-39.
Sevilla-Buitrago, A. (2017) Gramsci and Foucault in Central Park: Environmental hegemonies, pedagogical spaces and integral state formations, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35, pp. 165-183.
Sevilla-Buitrago, A. (2015) Capitalist formations of enclosure: space and the extinction of the commons, Antipode 47, pp. 999–1020.
Sevilla-Buitrago, A. (2014) Central Park against the streets: the enclosure of public space cultures in mid-nineteenth century New York, Social & Cultural Geography 15, pp. 151-171.
Sevilla-Buitrago, A. (2012) Territory and the governmentalisation of social reproduction: parliamentary enclosure and spatial rationalities in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, Journal of Historical Geography 38, pp. 209–219.
Tafuri, M. (1987) Sozialpolitik and the City in Weimar Germany. In The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant-gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 197-233.