Alternative Urbanism in the Historic City Centre: A Transnational Perspective on Theory and Practice

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Historic city centres are characterised by the tension between the local, represented by authentic spaces of everyday life, and the global, responding to the needs of tourism industry and capital flows. Under the neoliberal paradigm, state-led urban regeneration projects often benefit developers and private investors with little regard to the socio-economic dynamics of existing communities. Recently, this approach has been challenged by alternative practices of placemaking that represent a transition from top-down imposition of urban change to the co-production of space. Such practices are characterised by a more temporary, flexible and tactical approach to the design of space. They represent a collective desire that involves several actors, from local residents and business owners, to civil society organisations and design professionals in the role no longer of the exclusive author but as facilitators and mediators of change. Observing the development of such practice in the western world, and the corresponding theorisation attempts developed mostly by western scholars, this paper looks further to its applications in the global South, with evidence drawn from empirical research in London, UK and Cairo, Egypt. The paper suggests that alternative urbanism may be indicative of a longer-term transition towards a more equitable urban planning practice.
alternative urbanism, place-making, co-production, community