space for changing identities .. more than just ..

… symbolic capital of /sub/cultural economies.

Thanks to some prize winning (2006 AESOP prize) the selected article by Kate Shaw, as the best paper in the planning field, published in a European Journal during 2005, has gone online for free. Reading the paper titled ‘The Place of Alternative Culture and the Politics of its Protection in Berlin, Amsterdam and Melbourne‘ I especially enjoyed the general thoughts on (alternative) cultural politics – or better the part on an understanding of a necessary ‘let-be’ space and attitude as an nourishing impetus. It is definitly an article worth going through, even though – as much as I understand the need to take graspable examples – I am not too sure happy with the selection of the ‘Tacheles’ for Berlin. (Sorrily I have no measurement concenring the selections made for Amsterdam’s or Melbourne’s example).
So here come some excerpts from this text, which is a nice reminder to re-think space and methods to occupy it – and naturally the evolving results concerning cultural/social practices.

Alternative cultures have a curious relationship with place. Their activities are evolving and elusive, but unless they exist solely in the cyber-world, they need space. They find it in the interstices of the urban form: in the disinvested inner city; in the derelict buildings, deindustrialized sites, under-used docks and railway yards of advanced capitalist economies; in unregulated, unpoliced ‘no-man’s lands’. Underground clubs have low overheads; empty sheds and warehouses often come at low or no rent; bars and pubs in run-downinner city areas do not charge at the door and the drinks are cheap. The low costs create the social space for interaction and formation, and economic space for experimentation and flexibility.
The incentives to explore strategies to protect its place are growing with the increasing symbolic value of cultural diversity. Cities trying to compete in the new world economy are seeking the character that will give them an ‘edge’, and a coincidence of interests is emerging between cities with strong alternative cultures and the alternative scenes themselves. Berlin, Amsterdam and Melbourne, as ‘second order’ global cities with alternative cultures that are recognized internationally, are making much of these scenes in their image-making and marketing. The motives are obvious: local politicians are only too well aware of the significance of cultural diversity and ‘vibrancy’ for economic growth as well as local employment and cultural expression.
The argument for uncertainty, particularly in creative fields, is powerful. It makes a case for the necessity to shake out encroaching complacency, for the stimulus of reinvention and the redemptive power of regeneration. It contains a rejection of “the notion of a static and frozen identity in search of a safe place” (Sandercock, 1998, p. 120). There is a suggestion that the very act of ‘fixing’ in time and space will lead to a ‘setting’ of ideas, an atrophying of the creative process. Sandercock (1998), Iris Young (1990), bell hooks (1990) and others talk of new ways of being, of interstitial, unplanned, unregulated spaces; in urban design theory too there is an exploration of these spaces as essential to diversity and the freedom to be different (Dovey, 2002).
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