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The division of power in contemporary cities facilitates diverse mechanisms for the transformation of urban space. It is important to study these transformation mechanisms in order to redefine the pertinent relations. This is insofar as a re-consideration of the interpretation as well as the ideological fervor on which these power relations are based is permissible.
It is imperative to note that for over four decades, the spotlight on the urban question has changed from the subject of social movements to the subject of social control as well as violence. It is in this background, that the city is more and more altered into a network city, disjointed space, which is held together by the technology of mobility as well as flexible structures of power. The evolution to societies of control from disciplinary society is decisive.
It is more and more evident that post-politics, founded on technology of control, is in fact, not a peaceful societal order and brings forth new structures of violence. The paper posits to investigate the intricacies of the contemporary city with a focus to establish whether the contemporary city is a space of control or freedom.
The contemporary city can be perceived as a place of engaging in recreation as well as a place in which there is recognition of individual activities that overwhelm community interests. It is also evident that, the contemporary city is in actuality possessed by all people, but it is not owned by any individual.
The contemporary city could be depicted as a place of distinctive forces. The society that comprises the city is fundamentally a group that is heterogeneous. It is atomized by the accomplishment of its aspirations as well as mobility that is ever rising. Conversely, there exists a need of axis, which joins the universal.
Presently it this is accomplished in internal activities, housed in gigantic objects that create artificial unsteady communities. The society can be said to be static. It would be noteworthy to assert that living in a contemporary city is like living in a loop whereby there is always necessity for strengthening of assimilation, growth of security, practicing individuality, and consequently, disintegration.1
The persistent speed and magnitude of urbanization in contemporary times has brought about a situation whereby architects simply respond to challenges and changes in retrospect, as well as in a piece-meal approach. Development of the contemporary city cannot be measured flatly.
A large amount of the components of urban living cannot be designed. This is primarily because a contemporary city does not construct an object fashioned for the market but on the contrary, an environment that is defined by the interaction of numerous actions. The identity of space in a contemporary city is entirely symbolic as a result of globalization (ibid).2
The concept of the city is solidly concerned with the evolving phenomenon of the contemporary city. Thus, the contemporary city can be seen as an explicit site of modern innovative architectural expertise. This architectural expertise may be said to be coalesced with the conjectural possibilities of architectural experimentation that leads to a noteworthy invention of innovative ideas for the contemporary city.
It is imperative to note that the type of urbanization in up-and-coming cities, or the continual development of existing cities, especially, the Middle East, Asia as well as Latin America has departed creatively from the conventional Western form of centralized planning and organization. The development of urbanization stimulated by market economy can be said to marginalize the architect’s disciplinary knowhow.3
In contemporary cities, social groups constitute sharp splintering class societies that appear as negotiating specific time-geographies. These time-geographies appear as meandering individual paths along a stringent breadth of localized and/or detached landscapes. They every so often give rise to an apprehensive, habitually anomic as well as estranged urban fabric.
In reality these architectural as well as political economic outlines give rise to profound queries in regard to the contemporary city as an entity of scrutiny. In addition these contours give rise to queries regarding the imminent expression of citizenship, urban politics, and spatial justice.
The contemporary city has increasingly come to be appreciated metaphorically. This is primarily in terms of structures and schemas of other spheres of human experience. These are structures and schemas that are projected on the more indefinite concept of the city.
The conceptions that relate to the contemporary city are obvious signals of a compilation of metaphors that are subjective to history, technology, and human experience in regard to place and time. Modern urbanism came into being in the USA in the midst of growing concern over environmental impact and supposedly utilitarian nature of uptown sprawl as well as edge cities.4
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This is in relation to commuting, traffic congestion, time-geographies, commercialization of communal space as well as the lack of a societal spirit. Modern urbanism planners and architects claim to offset this, reasserting a neo-conventional sense of place as well as community.
This is by means of the building of modern small towns and urban villages. There are two schools of thought in regard to planning, which can be incorporated carefully into such neo-conventional developments. These two schools are namely urban aesthetics, and the nineteenth century social utopianism. The advocates of urban aesthetics perceive certain urban structures to ease social life more enthusiastically than others.
While on the other hand, the social utopianism protagonists endeavored to create utopias that befitted the industrial era. It is important to note that, some of modern urbanism’s leading enthusiasts, are keen to depict neo-conventional developments as a haven from the alienation of sub-urban living. They also perceive these neo-conventional advancements as utopias designed for the post-industrial era. Modern urbanism may be seen as offering a significant utopian edge.5
Bringing into play the impression of a ‘village’, brings forth a community sense of belonging as well as a sensation of security. In addition, shielded from the uncontrollable users of the contemporary city, residents turn out to be active accomplices in the civilizing of sub-urban as well as urban space.
The modern urban movement seems to be deficient in reflexive scrutiny of its own postulation in regard to gender, class, as well as race. This is as it seems to run contrary to much modern thinking in regard to urban planning which promotes a nurturing of liberal forbearance through social fusion. In its realistic materialization, it would appear to be founded on the oratory of place-based community arrogance of an elite-class while discarding the rest to of the populace to their under-class destiny.6
Freedom and Control
Proper relationships between every element in the game of diverse forces that create the contemporary city require a steering code that describes the functionality mode. The accomplishment depends on the manner in which the code shapes basic economic relationships. In the case of individual dealings the state of utmost freedom appears to be attractive. In realization of communal targets it is imperative to note that there appears to be a necessity to find a concession between what is out of control and what is under control.
These two parameters are dependent upon several level of the function of creating the contemporary city. Regulation of the formation of arrangement generates clear structure of references that would be utilized in identifying urban space of geometric precision and information of utility. Essential fundamentals of representation establish the distinctiveness of society and identification of the arrangement externally.7
In the contemporary city, diversity is not preserved by struggling and protecting to develop the rights of the disadvantaged populace, but by pushing the underprivileged out, making it understandable that, they do not have any rights to the city. A prominent thread running throughout modern urban studies is the argument that the diverse attempts to engineer urban utopias are creating a flip side.8
It may be suggested that the contemporary city may take up an increasingly disjointed geography that is characterized by a collage of spaces. This collage of spaces is physically nearby but in reality institutionally alienated. It would certainly appear to be an almost dominant depiction in several critical urban studies.
However the character of this splintering collage and crumbling urban society instantly gives rise to fundamental questions: how can the contemporary city be effectively described, mapped and theorized? On the contrary, the up-and-coming urban-regional setting is marked with lush green fields, edge cities, gated estates, convectional suburbs, revived down-towns and enclaves that are gentrified. This creates an increasingly intricate urban geometry.9
Indeed, in a diversity of spatial scales, this disintegrating urbanism brings about an institutional fortification of boundaries between the suburbs and the city, affluent and underprivileged, south and north, all escorted by new structures of intolerance and elitism. It is evident that numerous gated estates developments generate an individualistic world that does not shares much with its neighbors.
There is also the propensity to elide citizenship with meticulous territorial structures, most remarkably a nation-state. In regard to parameters of residency in contemporary cities the criteria for involvement in politics may be local habitation instead of national citizenship.
It must be noted that this generates more apprehension as to whether the contemporary city is a space of control or freedom.10 A more locally inclusive form of political identity would offer better prospects to the immigrant populace to become actively engaged in progressively restructuring their day-to day lives. A fundamental approach that may be applied in contemporary cities in order to ensure inclusivity would be to decouple nationality from any specific territoriality.
One promising way of achieving an opportunity for urban planning by multiple citizenship would be founded on the regional, local, as well as transnational linkages that cumulate in the contemporary urban experience. Creating contemporary cities is an intricate venture and requires simultaneous collaboration of all stakeholders.
Potential of advancement means incorporating all tasks in one very important target that would characterize the society of collaboration. The way of collaboration is embodied in the organization of a society, as well as its economics and most importantly, its space.
Alexander, Christopher, A City Is Not a Tree, In John Thakara, Design after Modernism: Beyond the Object. GB: Thames & Hudson, 1988.
Aurigi, Alessandro, Making the Digital City: The Early Shaping Of the Urban Internet Space. UK: Ashgate, 2005.
Colomina, Beatriz (Ed), Sexuality & Space. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
Gronberg, Tag, Designs on Modernity: Exhibiting the City in 1920s Paris. Manchester University Press, 1998.
Harvey, David, Lefaievre, Liane, Tzonis and Alexander, The Condition of Post Modernity, Critical Regionalism: Architecture & Identity in a Globalised World. Prestel, 2003.
Lupton, Ellen, Graphic Designing the Urban Landscape, In Joan Rothschild (Ed), Design & Feminism: Revisioning Spaces, Places & Everyday Things. University Press, USA, 1999.
Reeh, Henrik, Ornaments of Metropolis: Siegfried Kracauer & Modern Urban Culture. MIT Press, Mass, 2004.
Robins, Kevin, The City in the Field of Vision. In Into the Image: Culture & Politics in the Field of Vision. London: Routledge, 1996.
Savage, Mike, Bagnall, and Longhurst, Globalization & Belonging. London: Sage, 2005.
1 Alexander Christopher, A City Is Not A Tree, In John Thakara, Design after Modernism: Beyond the Object, (GB: Thames & Hudson, 1988):15.
2 Ibid., 25.
3 Colomina Beatriz, Sexuality & Space, (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), 210.
4 Gronberg Tag, Designs on Modernity: Exhibiting the City in 1920s Paris, (Manchester University Press, 1998), 85.
5 Aurigi Alessandro, Making the Digital City: The Early Shaping of the Urban Internet Space, (UK: Ashgate, 2005), 64.
6 Savage, Mike, Bagnall, and Longhurst, Globalizations & Belonging, (London: Sage, 2005), 60.
7 Harvey, David, Lefaievre, Liane, Tzonis, and Alexander, The Condition of Post Modernity, Critical Regionalism: Architecture & Identity in a Globalised World, (Prestel, 2003), 120.
8 Lupton, Ellen. Graphic Designing the Urban Landscape, In Joan Rothschild (Ed), Design & Feminism: Revisioning Spaces, Places & Everyday Things, (USA: Rutgers University Press, 1999), 25.
9 Robins, Kevin, The City in the Field of Vision. In Into the Image: Culture and Politics in the Field of Vision. (London: Routledge, 1996), 12.
10 Reeh, Henrik, Ornaments of the Metropolis: Siegfried Kracauer & Modern Urban Culture. (MIT Press, Mass, 2004), 65.