Whose scarcity? Whose abundance? Issues in motivating (re-)making the city

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
This essay, a reworking of the presentation made at the Third European Urban Summer School in September, 2012, addresses the policy and planning pitfalls associated with imposing externally-derived standards of scarcity (in the case of this example, scarcity of space). Whatever the recorded conditions of ‘objective’ scarcity existent in Bromley-upon-Bow or any other neighbourhood, it is necessary to address the issues associated with applying society-wide standards on a neighbourhood or community. The problems in such attribution of nominally objective standards arise on several levels, including: The ‘need’to address scarcity in meeting minimum physical standards for well-being, possibly most importantly with respect to conditions contributing to health conditions. The dangers in terms of exploitation of ‘scarce’ urban land of imposing external standards to define blight and thus provide entry for nonlocal investors to gentrify an area and displace its residents. (Another US case is illustrative here: the ‘scarcity’ – actually absence - of closet space in an Italian-American neighbourhood in Boston once created the legal basis for razing the homes, though the residents were all using large wardrobes, many imported by their families, for their clothing, rather than the closets required under more modern building codes.) The economic imperatives associated with the minimum qualifications requirements for some employment outside the neighbourhood and the implications the scarcity of such qualifications for local economic well-being. The barriers to cooperation and collaboration with community residents in making a more supportive neighbourhood that are raised by outsiders’ articulation of standards of scarcity that they do not share. (A highly likely scenario in Bromley-upon-Bow given Bangladeshis’ view of their needs for space and the UK standards for overcrowded housing.)
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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