Verso Books release a collection of essays to commemorate the 50th year of Henri Lefebvre's Right to the City. The collection is available for downloaded (free as of the present) at https://www.versobooks.com/books/2674-the-right-to-the-city
Included in this collection are essays of Neil Brenner on open city, and Bradley L. Garrett on public spaces.
Brenner challenged designers on their role as city shapers—a role that largely affects not only the physical make-up of the city but the way the inhabitants interact and use these spaces. An open city, he said accommodates not only the physical needs of its citizens for interaction but it is also one that empowers them to influence how these urban spaces are transformed; it is one that provides its citizens with the institutional capacity to produce and create or recreate these spaces regardless of one’s background, class, color and distinction. It is therefore a must for designers to use their expertise to challenge the traditional methods and tools in urban governance, through, among others, activating grassroots participation, and ensure that this openness – the right to the city -- is realized.
In the same manner, Garrett talked about reshaping of the city through the blurring of boundaries between public and private spaces. Just as London’s private spaces are being continuously transformed into what appears to be public but in fact is governed by rules of engagement that its private owners are free to impose to anyone who enters the property. Iloilo City is by no means alien to similar transformation. Privately owned public spaces (POPS) have been popping in all of the city’s buildable areas, and these are mostly brought by large, powerful developers like the Megaworld (Iloilo Business Park) and Ayala Corporation (Atria- Iloilo). These POPS have been redefining the Iloilo City's landscape, turning it into mini copies of Metro Manila's famous and trendy planned unit developments. They have also began supporting open-air exhibits of so-called public art and mural, blurring further the boundaries between public and private spaces. Here, the "public" in the public art appears problematic considering that in reality, these private entities can anytime make these art inaccessible to the public, because again, they are within POPs. Garret said that when the citizens are unable to distinguish between the two – private and public – they do not only lose the ability to enjoy the things around them, they also lose their right to the city.
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Photos by Eric Barbosa