JEFFREY HOU, Landscape Architect, University of Washington, Seattle
ALEXANDER VASUDEVAN, Geographer, University of Nottingham
Karin Bradley, Urban Planner, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
Maple Razsa, Anthropologist, Colby College, Waterville

 
 

 

JEFFREY HOU University of Washington, Seattle

Abstract

In cities around the world, instances of pop-up spaces, appropriated sites, temporary events, and guerrilla actions now constitute new expressions to the notions of public realm and public space. No longer confined to the conventional categories of neighborhood parks, public plazas, and civic spaces, these ‘insurgent public spaces’ challenge both the conventional notion of public as well as the making of space. Rather than isolated events, these instances of ‘urban insurgency’ can be found in a variety of contexts from Europe to Asia, from post-industrial sites to suburban landscapes, from community gathering to citizen actions. This presentation will explore how such acts of public space insurgency may reinvigorate both making of the public and remaking of the contemporary city.

Biography

Jeffrey Hou is Associate Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a scholar and activist whose work focuses on community design, design activism, and engagement of marginalized communities in the making of place. Jeff Hou is the author and editor of Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities (2010) and a co-author of Growing Cities, Greening Community: Learning from Seattle’s Urban Community Gardens (with Julie Johnson and Laura Lawson, 2009) that received the 2010 Great Places Award. He is also a contributor to Companion to Urban Design (2011), Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism (2008), and a forthcoming book titled Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and Occupation of Public Space (2012).

ALEXANDER VASUDEVAN University of Nottingham

Abstract

In this paper, I set out to re-examine the geographical literature on urban squatting and informal settlement through the lens of recent scholarship on the ‘right to the city’. The paper offers a critical review of urban ‘occupation’ as a broad repertoire of spatial practices that speak to both basic rights claims and demands (housing and shelter) and a desire for other ways of thinking about and inhabiting the city (autonomy and insurgency). To do so, I examine the squatting of urban land and housing as a complicated global history (and geography) of occupation, settlement and eviction. This is, I realize, an ambitious project and one of my main aims here is to extract an alternative spatial grammar that seeks to engage with and disrupt the longstanding relationship between capitalist accumulation and urbanization. The paper thus seeks to recast the ‘right to the city’ as a right that is operative across multiple sites and territories and that is characterized by a constituent desire to participate in the production of urban space. The paper introduces and develops, in this context, three interrelated frames of reference that seek to re-conceptualize squatting as a critical urbanism: as a precarious form of urban dwelling; as an informal set of spatial practices and tactics; and as an autonomous approach to re-thinking the urban.

Biography

Dr. Alex Vasudevan is a Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on radical politics in Germany and the wider geographies of neo-liberal globalisation. He has published widely in Antipode, Cultural Geographies, Environment Planning A and D, Geoforum and Social and Cultural Geography. Alex is currently working on a book project that explores the historical and political geographies of the squatter movement in Berlin.