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Session Overview
RN37_05a_H: Using Public Spaces & Building the City I
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Lígia Ferro, University of Porto / ISCTE-IUL
Location: HB.2.16
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 2.

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Public gaze and uses of the city: the (in)visibility of territories in parkour and slacklining.

Fabio Bertoni

Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy

A multitude of different subjects and groups experiences urban spaces, that make them continuously open and in realignment (Amin, 2008). Planned activities coexist with more unexpected and unpredictable practices. Different kind of uses, aims, ideas of space are linked to practices: they modify the city, both materially and symbolically, becoming a contended terrain. The urban is broken into territories, constituted and defined by social thresholds, physical boundaries, and norms to be considered as “in place” (Cresswell, 1996). Every territory is maintained by some practices and challenged by other, in a daily struggle between order and resistances, in a continuous process of (un)making the city and public space in definitions, aesthetics, temporalities.

I will present the preliminary result of a multi-sited and visual ethnography, developed starting from Padua, in the Northern Italy and following practitioners’ networks and their movements in other cities and regions. The aim of the paper is to deepen the understanding the strategies to legitimate ephemeral uses of the urban space, starting from the modalities utilised by practitioners of two urban sports, slacklining and parkour.

More specifically, I will focus on the role of public gazes: considering visibility as an ambivalent concept, within “spectacle”, recognition, and control (Brighenti, 2010), what is shown and what is hidden of the practice is a key element of tactics of re-appropriation of spaces (Karrsholm, 2007). Taking place and making spots, liners and traceurs create an interstitial territory (Eisenman, 1998) managing (in)visibility in their practices, through the choice of spots, timing, type of performance, and trying in this way to legitimate their use of space as in-between through other activities.

Redefining public spaces as an answer to urban crises in Medellin.

Anna Bednarczyk

Jagiellonian University, Poland

Medellin is the second biggest cities on Colombia and for years was rated as one of the most dangerous places in the world, based on the homicide rate. The city faced the industrial crises, the period of massive population growth caused by civil war and internal displacement, the domination of drug cartels and urban gangs and finally social and spatial disintegration. The answer for those multilayered crises was a self-organization on the level of local communities and building the movement that demand civil rights. In 2004 the independent candidate Sergio Fajardo was elected for the mayor and started introducing demands of the civil movement. One of the priorities of the urban movement and local government in that time was to create new public spaces, especially in marginalized districts inhabited mostly by internally displaced people. In my presentation I will show how the understating of public spaces has changed in the case of urban transformation of Medellin and what role the space itself plays in urban policies. Based on my research conducted in Medellin in 2013 I will elaborate on meanigs and functions that public spaces have in the context of post-conflict city and how it relates to the problems of modern European cities. The theoretical framework of the research derives from the critical urban theory and idea of the Right to the City, developed by Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey. The presentation will also correspond with the methodological aspect of my research – the usage of visual methods and maps as a tool to describe relation between spatial and social dimensions of the public spaces.

The Child in the City revisited: Children's urban encounters in two European cities

Christos Varvantakis, Sevasti-Melissa Nolas, Vinarassan Aruldoss

University of Sussex, United Kingdom (All authors)

The term ‘child friendly cities’ is an adult term. This paradox prescribes the complex set of exclusions that children experience with regards to urban life. Children are largely excluded from public spaces as well as from the policies that inform their design - but, they are also excluded from the theorization of urban life and indeed Urban Sociology has only marginally been interested in children’s views of city life. This omission has both epistemological as well as political implications given that children are in a constant critical process of making and unmaking the urban environments that they inhabit. Children, in their everyday, have to make sense both of the complex urban realities that they inhabit, as well as the restrictions they encounter therein. For this presentation, we draw on data from Athens and London from the ERC-funded Connectors Study, a longitudinal comparative ethnography, which investigates the relationship between childhood and public life, in order to explore precisely these meaning-making processes in urban childhoods cross-culturally. We have implemented a range of creative methods in order to closely explore children’s everyday realities and understandings of being in the city. The close, multimodal and reflective study of children’s lived experiences in urban realities reveals elements of transgression, imagination and critical projections of desires, which we will be discussing in our presentation, and which prescribe a constructive set of critical (un)makings of the city. However, our analysis of children’s perceptions and critical and creative views of cities, is not only aimed at informing child-oriented policies. Instead we are also interested in widening, enriching and informing urban theory through the inclusion of urban encounters and experiences across the life course.

Public baths and the right to water: past, present and perspectives from the Parisian case.

Claire LEVY-VROELANT1,3, Lucie BONY2, Sophie FESDJIAN3

1Université Paris VIII Saint-Denis, France; 2UMR Passages 5319 CNRS; 3UMR Lavue CRH 7218

The research aims to creatively approach the evolution of cities and social policies, from welfare and regulated capitalism to the “enabling state”, reframing the place, powers and capacities of local authorities. The research started from the study of the 16 still in function Municipal Baths in Paris. The expectations regarding Public baths in terms of social integration vary significantly through time and space. In the current context of the welfare state’s transformation, increasing poverty and blossoming of pooling of resources initiatives, they appear to be a potential laboratory for technical and social innovation.

The research aims to increase knowledge about uses and the users of public baths starting from France (several cities are included in the Project). The idea is to extend the research to Western Europe, specifically Italy (Torino), Belgium (Brussels), England (London; Birmingham) and Scotland (Glasgow), in order to identify the various functions – and destiny - of these institutions.

The project is multidisciplinary, from sociology and anthropology, to history, geography, and architecture. It mobilizes various methods: archive, observation, interview, and questionnaire. In the ESA conference, the paper will present a focus on the French case, developing the first results of a representative Survey on users of the Parisian establishments (1000 questionnaires) in collaboration with INED (Paris). We also propose to discuss the relevance of the research vis-à-vis current sociopolitical events (migration crisis, access/right to water, new solidarities; energy transition).

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