is gentrification the new urban blight?

Thanks to Archinect for this Psychology Today article on the importance of diversity in cities. Today, the conventional wisdom points to the unpredictability and creativity that one finds in cities as essential for network culture. Outsourcing may work, but not for work demanding innovation.

Alas, as I’ve been suggesting for quite some time now, we have a new kind of urban blight emerging in places like New York, San Francisco and Boston. In “The Embers of Gentrification” at New York Magazine  Adam Sternberg suggests that the fires of gentrification may be self-perpetuating, but they may also be self-extinguishing.

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missing in new york

I ran across this story on artist and agitator Peter Missing this morning. Missing was a key player in the anti-gentrification movement in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1980s, arguably a last stand against the eventual turning of the island into a giant stock broker dormitory-cum-shopping mall. I was living in the city in those days and in many ways it was a far more interesting and certainly more provocative place than it is today.

Where are the Peter Missings of network culture? Where is today’s Lower East Side? People don’t seem to have an answer to these questions which, in itself, is disturbing…

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amsterdam is code

I've previously argued on this blog that architecture is code. Today I ran across an insightful piece "On Dog Shit and Open Source Urbanism" by Merijn Oudenampsen at metamute.org. Merijn explores how the neoliberal remaking, of the city, in this instance Amsterdam, recodes individual behaviors in specific ways. Two other articles by Merijn:"Extreme Makeover " and "Back to the Future of the Creative City" form a series on the topic.

Hmm… this makes me think that an essay on architecture as code is coming sooner rather than later. It seems increasingly urgent to understand that an entire generation of urban "heroes" from Jane Jacobs to Guy Debord to Reyner Banham to Gordon Matta-Clark were either directly involved or have been refigured as the intellectual justification for a neoliberal urbanism that purports to turn the city into a pseudo-cultural theme park in which the everyday is remade in the image of Williams-Sonoma. Since so much of this came as backwash to the U. S. from the Netherlands (think of the Right-wing "post-critical" young Dutch urbanism of the late 90s), it would be great to imagine that American urbanists would listen to this criticism too. Nor is Merijn's article merely critical, it advocates an open source urbanism, still vaguely defined, but I suspect we will hear more soon. Worth reading now.

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