Beyond Zuccotti Park Review: Food for Thought

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Sam Halvorsen, PhD Candidate at University College London, wrote a very insightful review of Beyond Zuccotti Park in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Area, volume 45, issue 4. Halvorsen briefly introduces BZP, calling it:

a fantastic resource that combines empirical research, political interventions and interviews, broadly focused on exploring the role that public space can have in enhancing democracy in light of the Occupations that spread from downtown Manhattan to hundreds of cities worldwide.

He goes on to emphasize and outline the contributing authors’ intelligent discussion of the significance of physical spaces to the Occupy movement as he claims:

What makes this book stand out is the effort throughout to appreciate ‘the political power of physical places’, as Michael Kimmelman (p. xiii) puts it…The importance of a physical, public space (these terms are often conflated) for enhancing democracy is given numerous explanations by the different contributors: it provides visibility for movements and allows for discussion (Franck and Huang); it inspires and helps build mutual aid and solidarity (Shepard); it opens up a space of negotiation for greater rights (Smithsimon); it gives an ‘office space for everyday people’ (Golan); it presents a critique of spatial exclusion (Wiley); it creates places for new political subjectivities (Rios); and it encourages an embodied sense of community (Rose). This multiplicity of possibilities of physical space leads to a discussion on how best to produce urban space in order to foster these ideals. A key strength of this book is its inclusion of numerous urban practitioners, from artists to architects and planners to policymakers. By sharing their experiences with us, this book presents a hopeful intervention on the potentials of urban space post-Occupy, and allows us to re-imagine the agency of diverse actors in creating different kinds of democracies.

Halvorsen consistently provides perceptive commentary, and, as he brings the review to an end, he states:

In conclusion, I welcome this well-written and well-researched book, which provides significant food for thought for both academics and activists in the post-camp phase of the global Occupy movement.

BZP Review: “Find yourself swept away in the moment.”

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Adele Oltman, visiting assistant professor at Seton Hall University, wrote a very thoughtful review of Beyond Zuccotti Park in Missouri State University’s eJournal of Public Affairs, volume 2, issue 2. Here is an excerpt:

Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space serves as a document of the first iteration of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in downtown Manhattan before it spread to other cities across the country. A project of Architects/Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), the volume brings together professionals in the field as well as activists, scholars, an ACLU attorney, and even an official from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, to explore the relationship between public space and democratic action. In this volume you will find a breathless quality to the thick descriptions of the encampment from participant-observers, along with appreciative nods from the other contributors as they place the movement in some larger political and historical context. Photos depict the various phases of the occupation, including police barricades around the park, occupiers scrubbing the ground of the park, the first march across Brooklyn Bridge, the Sustainability Desk that organized environmental endeavors, and energy bikes that occupiers rode after the fire department confiscated the movement’s gas generators (that were used for cooking and charging electronic equipment). Most evocative are photographs of demonstrators, including one of a middle-aged white man wearing a hard hat and carrying a sign that reads: “Occupy Wall Street! Do It for Your Kids.” This is a highly partisan document, but its partisanship does not undermine its significance. Pick it up and you, too, will find yourself swept away in the moment. You might also, as I did, begin to raise questions about the form of this protest and its relationship to meaningful social and political change.

Please read the full review.

Where If Not Us? Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches

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Over the past weeks, the rolling wave of street protests in Turkey, Brazil and now Egypt have increasingly highlighted the need for a socially engaged urban infrastructure that cultivates public involvement and empowerment through participatory planning practices.

At the core of these protests lies a simple message: the public has an inalienable “right to the city”. Whether environmental protests against a government-backed development plan in Gezi Park (Turkey) or calls for fair access to civic transportation (Brazil), all urban inhabitants should be able to enjoy the many economic, political, and social benefits of being in a city. 

This week, the Graham Foundation in Chicago touched on the importance of community participation in an exhibition entitled Where If Not Us? Participatory Design and Its Radical Approaches. A five-year research project by architect Mathias Heyden and artist Ines Schaber, the exhibition assesses the work of seven U.S.-based community design architects/planners, including New Village Press authors Ron Shiffman, Michael Rios, and Jeffery Hou. It is also slated to feature Beyond Zuccotti Park, What We See, and Service-Learning in Design and Planning.

“The exhibition reexamines the development of the participatory design movement and provides an alternative visual strategy for better understanding the social impact of architecture and the role that it plays in building communities.”

The participatory design movement kicked off in the 1960s with the main goal of democratizing planning through community involvement. In the past five decades, thousands of projects have been under way throughout the U.S. and the world by community design centers and professionals, who advocated for the active involvement of all stakeholders in the development process.

Read more about the event here:

Beyond Resilience: Actions for a Just Metropolis

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Beyond Zuccotti Park’s publisher, New Village Press and its parent organization, ADPSR are among the sponsors and co-sponsors of progressive, practice-based planning conference, Beyond Resilience: Actions for a Just Metropolis. Held at New York’s Hunter College and Pratt Institute on June 6-8; planners, architects, designers, activists, and neighborhood advocates will gather to exchange ideas and perspectives to promote alternative, more sustainable, and just ways of preserving and developing the metropolis.

Contributing authors of Beyond Zuccotti Park count among the list of prestigious speakers:

  • Peter Marcuse leads a session about strategies and problems for the organization and promotion of Community Land Trusts in New York City and similar urban areas.
  • Marcuse will also be on a PN and Progressive Planning Magazinesponsored panel about how neoliberal approaches to housing, land development and urban planning sustain, reproduce and widen inequalities.
  • Jeffery Hou will join a panel that examines how cities and urban places can support cross-cultural interactions and learning, and how cross-cultural understanding can be engendered through social and spatial practices in the contemporary urban environment.
  • Raphael Sperry, President of ADPSR, will discuss how planning and architecture professions can engage with criminal justice and reform as part of a border movement for social justice.

Ticket and registration information can be found here.

Architect Michael Pyatok Presents Beyond Zuccotti Park

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Francesco Fiondella

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Francesco Fiondella

On May 21 in San Francisco, architect Michael Pyatok will present New Village Press publication, Beyond Zuccotti Park in an unusual outdoor program hosted by SPUR and New Village Press about the use, role, and importance of public space in a democracy. Don’t miss this public forum in the street (Annie Alley) adjacent to SPUR.

Michael Pyatok is designer of Oakland’s Civic Center and recipient of the 2013 AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture.

A conversation with Saskia Sassen

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Vibok Works recently featured a fragment of the conversation between Saskia Sassen and Paula Álvarez, included in the chapter ‘The Wishes’ of the book Collective Architectures published by Vibok Works in 2010. The conversation falls into the subject headings, “Contingency”, “Micro-Social Struggles”, “Polarity”, “Infrastructure” and “Planifcation/Freedom”. After a hefty discussion on these different subjects, Sassen ends the conversation by saying,

“…a city is a complex system made up of many different ecologies —the infrastructure promoted by Cirugeda is also an ecology— and thus the totality is charged with dynamism and tensions. In other words, it’s a living organism that can’t be completely controlled or centrally planned. Furthermore, the challenges this infrastructure faces will always change. Therefore, it’s crucial that it have the capacity to respond, and on a more complex level, the capacity to change assemblage, or the organisational logic which makes your “city” run, because deep down it’s your city. This is something that will vary from city to city and from era to era…”

View the whole article here.

Saskia Sassen at TED2013

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Beyond Zuccotti Park contributor Saskia Sassen spoke at TED2013 recently. Sassen’s talk revolved around technology and cities, her main point being that “while technologies become increasingly obsolescent, our cities endure for centuries.”

Sassen’s theories about urban areas and their relationship with technology is based upon the idea that cities can speak, that cities can show us their change. The danger, however, is that with an increase in technology, urban areas no longer have a voice of their own and are being spoken for by surveillance and other means of technology. In this is the danger of completed cities. Sassen believes that cities need to remain unfinished in order to survive the onslaught of technology and to save themselves from becoming obsolete too quickly.

See the full article on Sassen’s talk here.

BZP is named a book of the month!

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A Daily Dose of Architecture has named Beyond Zuccotti Park one of its “28 & 28” books of the month! The blog is focused around architecture and architectural musings from New York City. BZP was chosen as one of the books for this month and featured with a review.

[The contributors’] takes on public space and assembly could be read as recipes for making urban open spaces amenable for exercising democratic rights. It’s certainly a goal that goes well beyond design; or more accurately, the context that design works within is much more charged and contested than in other realms of building and landscape. Consensus won’t be found in the varied collection, but like OWS itself, there is a shared dissatisfaction with things, in this case how the public fits into public space.

Read the full review here.

Saskia Sassen on the merits of an unfinished city

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Beyond Zuccotti Park contributor Saskia Sassen was recently featured in AsiaOne News, a press portal based out of Singapore. Her article addresses unfinished cities, specifically Singapore. Sassen writes about spaces that allow global intersections and how Singapore is a global city that produces and encourages these global intersections. Sassen describes global cities as

 one [city] which allows the world’s capitalists – bankers, brokers or businessmen – to tap the wealth of a country for profits which they can then use to further their ambitions globally.

However, these kinds of cities face the challenge to resist the urge to continue planning its city too comprehensively. Issues such as shifts in politics, immigration, and other urban problems have to been addressed as the city expands and grows at a rate that reflects that growth. Sassen then goes on to lay out some key rules for keeping a city resilient and global. Read the full article here.