Do-It-Yourself Urban Design in the Help-Yourself City
As the geographer and urbanist Edward Soja wrote in 2000, “Something extraordinary happened to cities in the late 20th century.” This is one of the simpler statements ever penned by the usually verbose theorist, yet it still says a mouthful. The city of today—especially the “Western” city, the city of the global north, the city of advanced capitalism, the American city—is unique in history for its diversity, its size, its complexity, its interconnectivity, its unevenness, and its unwieldiness. But in other ways, the city appears to be turning toward (or rediscovering) a way of making and remaking itself that is on some counts rather instinctive, quaint, and even traditional. People are doing it themselves, informally and spontaneously—whether as needed or simply as inspiration strikes. People are installing fanciful and functional infrastructure which is intended to improve everyday life, firms are developing projects in underutilized spaces to make contributions even when there is no client, and community groups are taking neighborhood planning into their own hands.
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