Can urban design contribute to foster global urban justice?

Urban design has traditionally been a tool for the spatial distribution of privilege. Its practice shapes the spatial fix for financial capital and the commodification of urban spaces. Increasingly, though, scholars, activists and practitioners across the globe are advocating for recalibrating the basics of the discipline, exploring different ways to foster more emancipatory spatial critical practices. Changing the ways in which we frame and intervene in the environment requires a critical engagement with the political nature of the production of space and with the multiplicity of spatial agencies (Awan, Scheneider, and Till, 2011) to trigger collective action. What is at stake is the capacity to dismantle inequalities and the uneven process of inclusion and exclusion, and to shape a more negotiated co-production of space.

If urban design has contributed to deepening uneven urban development so is the opportunity to rethink its role in fostering spatial justice at many scales. Since space is both relational and territorial (McCann and Ward, 2011) the proposed workshop will explore how urban design can foster global urban justice based questions of how to:

  • contribute to make visible different forms of knowledge, globally, while shaping more emancipatory practices locally?
  • share lessons between cities to foster global understandings of difference?
  • enact trans-local communities of progressive praxis?
  • weave new scales of solidarity among emerging collectives?

Using the ideas of the exquisite corpse, a collective creative method devised by the surrealist movement, this two-hour workshop will produce a manifesto as a platform for a more interconnected and politically relevant urban design practice. The participants will develop an illustrated document of urban design practices guided by the above questions, and will contribute in a group discussion and the assembly of texts and images to create a collective statement.

Catalina Ortiz, University College London

Natalia Villamizar-Duarte, University of Illinois at Chicago