Back to the blog

It has been almost six months since the last post on this blog  —  I had not realized that it had reached over 1,000 followers during this period, thank you all for reading! Besides the typically frantic teaching and management schedules here in Madrid, this absence is due to additional tasks related to my appointment as general research coordinator in the School of Architecture and, especially, the time dedicated to the parenting of my three-year-old, which is of course the most fascinating investigation and source of discovery on a daily basis. Needless to say there are immediate, affective reasons to embrace a ‘radical care’ praxis at this stage, but our current arrangements at home are also an opportunity to put to work many things learned through a long theoretical engagement with the political implications of autonomous, non-commodified forms of (social) reproduction. It is a real joy, but this means that for now all the remaining available time is devoted to deal with various writing projects, hence the silence on this site.

I keep working on a book that explores the historical development of spatial planning as a mechanism of dispossession and destruction of the commons, prolonging and expanding previous contributions on this subject. I spent a good part of 2017 writing a chapter on the Weimar Republic, and during this year I am focusing on Italy during the 1970s and 1980s, trying to read the development of post-crisis urban-regional models as a response to forms of spatial appropriation of Autonomia groups in Bologna, Milano, Torino and Roma in the preceding years. Although my ultimate target is planning, I have spent the last couple months reading fascinating accounts of struggle in primary sources such as Lotta Continua, Primo Maggio, Quaderni Piacentini, Rosso, or I Volsci, amongst others. These are rich and captivating archival resources, many of them available online, which I recommend to those interested in modern forms of urban communism and anarchism. Besides a relatively large general historical literature on the period, there are also some extremely useful brief syntheses of Autonomia from a spatial perspective, for instance by Alexander Vasudevan in a chapter of his The Autonomous City and by Neil Gray in a recent article in Antipode, or, from a design perspective, by Pier Vittorio Aureli in his The Project of Autonomy. My aim at this point is to develop a more detailed spatial examination, focusing on specific episodes of struggle in different neighborhoods and places in major cities.

For a while now this larger project has coexisted with commissioned pieces for various books and journals. The first to appear will probably be a chapter about the spatial production of community under Fascism for the book Powers of the City: New Approaches to Governance and Rule in Urban Europe since 1500, edited by Simon Gunn and Tom Hulme for the Routledge series Advances in Urban History (the first volume, Cities and Creativity from the Renaissance to the Present, is already available). Also to be published this year, I prepared a very speculative piece for an upcoming issue of the Harvard GSD journal New Geographies — edited by Urban Theory Lab’s members Michael Chieffalo and Julia Smachylo — using a planning historical perspective to reflect on the articulation of space, time and value through the concept of fallowness. In a more orthodox design history approach, I revisited the work of German planner Martin Wagner and its relation with community and productive landscape designs by Leberecht Migge, Ludwig Hilberseimer and Hans Bernhard Reichow in another book chapter for a volume edited by Jeanne Haffner under the working title The Environment Built: Dwelling as Landscape in Twentieth-Century Urbanism, forthcoming in 2019. I also wrote two pieces in Spanish about the role of Henri Lefebvre and Manuel Castells in Madrid’s 1985 City Plan, a sort of landmark for Spanish progressive planners which will finally receive deserved scholarly attention through a massive book coordinated by Carlos Sambricio and Paloma Ramos. Finally, I am currently preparing a short intervention for a review symposium in European Urban and Regional Studies, discussing Costis Hadjimichalis’ fundamental Crisis Spaces: Structures, Struggles and Solidarity in Southern Europe (Routledge, 2018). Besides these academic writing tasks, I recently contributed an expert report to an interesting discussion about the future of Pamplona’s ‘Monument to the Fallen’, a controversial monument to the Fascist victims of the Spanish Civil War, built between the 1940s and 1950 — the second largest of its kind according to some sources — and currently in the spotlight of progressive parties in the city and associations of so-called ‘historical memory’, i.e. demanding reparations and restorative justice related to the Spanish dictatorial regime.

So overall it has been a busy period, and the trend is likely to continue in the near future, but I will try to write here — or at least share these and other materials — more often.

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Posted in Commons, Comunes, Crisis, Dictatorships and Urbanism, Diseño urbano, Dispossession, Espacio y política, Historia del urbanismo, Landscape architecture, Landscape theory, Martin Wagner, Mis publicaciones, My research, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Planning history, Political economy, Politics, Politics and space, Social History of Planning, Teoría urbana, Urban design, Urban Theory Lab | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Martin Wagner in America’ | Out in Planning Perspectives

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The final version of my article ‘Martin Wagner in America: planning and the political economy of capitalist urbanization’ has been published in Planning Perspectives (this alternative link provides temporary free access to the full paper). This is part of the research I did last year with Wagner’s personal archive at Harvard Frances Loeb Library, which was only partially known until now. For those who are not familiar with his career, Wagner coordinated Berlin’s planning office in the second half of the Weimar Republic, at a time when German municipalities and particularly the capital were creating a nascent form of social state which gave designers a new role in the imagination of urban order. During the 1920s more generally he developed an intense cooperation with trade unions, became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and shaped cooperatives and public interest building companies that remain some of the largest real estate operators in Germany today. So goes the myth—but there was a dark side to all this, which is easier to understand once Wagner leaves the country after Nazi takeover.

Research on Wagner’s activity in exile was fragmentary and focused mainly on his building prototypes, which were actually anecdotal in comparison to his work in the field of planning theory. As I mentioned in a previous post, what I found in Cambridge was not only shocking —painfully shocking, I should say— but also extremely illuminating on both the real nature of social policy in Weimar Berlin and postwar urban renewal and suburban sprawl in the US. I hope this article will contribute to a better appreciation of the shades and shadows of ‘progressive’ (Fordist, social democratic) urbanism and the marriage of avant-garde design and welfare policy.

Posted in Architectural design, Architecture, Martin Wagner, Planning history, Political economy, Political urbanism, Politics, Space and politics, Urban design, Urban politics, Urban studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jean-Pierre Garnier en Madrid y Valladolid

El sociólogo Jean-Pierre Garnier nos visita una vez más para hablar sobre urbanismo, conflicto social y lucha de clases.

El jueves estará en en la sede de FUHEM en Madrid, en un debate titulado ‘Gentrificación: un concepto inadecuado’ (invitación aquí, habrá retransmisión en streaming), con motivo de la publicación del último número de la revista Papeles, que incluye un artículo de Garnier con ese título. Un grupo de amigos aprovecharemos además su visita para hacer un intercambio con estudiantes y activistas.

El viernes estará en Valladolid en el marco del ciclo organizado por el Instituto Universitario de Urbanística, presentando Jean-Pierre Garnier, un sociólogo urbano a contracorriente, el libro sobre su trayectoria que Rosa Tello preparó para la colección Espacios Críticos. Como pueden ver en el póster abajo, el título de la sesión describe bien el carácter de Garnier.

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Para ir calentando motores les dejo el enlace a un vídeo ya algo añejo (¡hace 17 años!) de una ponencia suya en la Universidad de Lyon con un título, de nuevo, claro y directo: ‘Urbanizar para despolitizar’ (en francés).

Posted in Conflicto urbano, Convocatorias, Crisis, Derecho a la ciudad, Jean-Pierre Garnier, Justicia espacial, Marxism, Marxismo, Sin categoría | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Áreas urbanas y escasez de recursos

El grupo Re-Hab celebra mañana 7 de junio un nuevo encuentro para presentar y discutir los resultados de su investigación, en torno al tema ‘Áreas urbanas y escasez de recursos’. Les dejo el programa del evento.

ProgramaSeminarioRecursos

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Imperialism: Is it a Relevant Concept?

David Harvey, Duncan Foley, Nancy Fraser and Prabhat Patnaik discussed the contemporary relevance of the concept of ‘Imperialism’ in an event held at the The New School’s Center for Public Scholarship a couple of weeks ago:

In the age of financial globalization of the last few decades, we have seen elites in many countries of the South which were erstwhile colonies join the elites of Europe, North America… and it would seem, therefore, that now there is just the domination of global elites over the global working poor. Moreover the populations of many countries of the North are also suffering from chronic unemployment and inequality is acutely present in these countries as well. Does this mean that the very concept of imperialism is now an irrelevant category of analysis?

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Martin Wagner: arquitectura, territorio y capitalismo

La revista Scripta Nova acaba de publicar el artículo ‘Aporías de una ideología urbanística: arquitectura, territorio y capitalismo en el trabajo de Martin Wagner’ (acceso libre); se trata de uno de los trabajos derivados de la investigación de su archivo personal en Harvard, desarrollado el año pasado durante una estancia en el GSD (más información sobre el proyecto general aquí).

Fue revelador —casi doloroso— descubrir en el Wagner americano una figura totalmente alejada del retrato heroico que la historiografía ha construido habitualmente: el técnico comprometido políticamente con la socialdemocracia y los sindicatos de la República de Weimar, con los programas de vivienda social y los servicios públicos, etc. Lejos de ese perfil, el Wagner que encontré en Cambridge prefigura las dimensiones más oscuras del urbanismo de la segunda mitad del siglo XX, planteando dudas sobre el alcance y posibilidades de nuestra práctica en el contexto de una producción capitalista del espacio. Como él mismo concluyó:

“Creo que nuestros programas de vivienda han sido hasta ahora un fracaso absoluto. Se trataba de políticas impotentes y dubitativas que trataban de ignorar la base capitalista de nuestra economía y de introducir algún tipo de socialismo en su engranaje. ¡No funcionaban! … Creo de veras que no es posible un compromiso entre capitalismo y socialismo en este momento, especialmente no en EE.UU. Por tanto tendremos que comprometernos para mejorar drásticamente el sistema capitalista … por el momento no hay otra solución al problema de la vivienda en este país.”

En otro trabajo que aparecerá en breve en Planning Perspectives me centro más en los detalles de su etapa en EE.UU. El artículo publicado en Scripta Nova proporciona una visión más amplia de la trayectoria de Wagner, utilizando la experiencia norteamericana para releer críticamente su contribución como jefe de los servicios de urbanismo de Berlín en la segunda mitad de la década de 1920, su colaboración con los sindicatos, su militancia en el SPD.

Wagner_alvaro_sevilla_buitrago

Martin Wagner, hacia 1950

A pesar de las sombras que mi investigación arroja sobre él, la figura de Wagner sigue pareciéndome de una estatura gigantesca, crucial para comprender los modos en que la arquitectura y el urbanismo del siglo XX intentaron convertirse en una herramienta útil y realista de cambio social — pensemos, por ejemplo, que hablamos del primer técnico que sugiere en Alemania la creación de un impuesto sobre las rentas inmobiliarias para financiar programas de vivienda social. Pero, más allá de su interés histórico, Wagner me parece además totalmente actual para comprender las contradicciones de la arquitectura y el urbanismo “progresistas”, a dos niveles: por un lado, los estrechos márgenes de maniobra y las conflictivas vías de escape para un programa local de corte socialdemócrata en un contexto de austeridad en las agendas supramunicipales; por otro, los campos ciegos y límites de la ideología arquitectónica dominante, su problemática combinación con la propia condición de clase del técnico, y el modo en que ambas inhiben resultados realmente emancipadores y democráticos que trabajen para la consecución de una mayor justicia socioespacial. La primera contradicción puede leerse hoy en la gestión cotidiana de los llamados “ayuntamientos del cambio”. La segunda, por desgracia, sigue totalmente vigente en nuestras escuelas de arquitectura, como explico en el apartado de conclusiones del artículo, bastante beligerante.

Ahí va el resumen:

La arquitectura y el urbanismo del Movimiento Moderno se presentaron inicialmente como artífices de una transformación socioespacial emancipadora, pero parte de su legado resultó tremendamente lesivo para las ciudades y sus habitantes más humildes. Este artículo explora esa paradoja mediante un análisis del trabajo de Martin Wagner —figura tradicionalmente destacada por su compromiso político— con especial atención a una etapa apenas conocida de su carrera: su actividad docente e investigadora en la Universidad de Harvard. Wagner desarrolló en EE.UU. intuiciones previas sobre una ‘rehabilitación’ general del modelo urbano y regional, siguiendo un principio intelectual explícito de asimilar en el proceso de diseño la lógica del capital y el desarrollo espacial desigual con el fin de asegurar la viabilidad de sus propuestas. Aunque su autor las presentó como un nuevo patrón de asentamiento ideado “para el pueblo y por el pueblo”, esta visión prefigura algunos de los episodios más sombríos del urbanismo de las décadas posteriores. En su particular crudeza el Wagner americano permite comprender mejor no sólo su contribución durante la República de Weimar, sino también el alcance del ‘déficit’ político, contradicciones y aporías de un sector dominante de la ideología arquitectónica y urbanística en el siglo XX.
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A new issue and a video abstract – “Shared Social License: Mining and Conservation in the Peruvian Andes”

AntipodeFoundation.org

It seems everything is happening early here in the UK, with the PM calling a general election while the rest of us enjoy a remarkably summer-y spring, so at Antipode HQ we decided to publish volume 49, number 3 – June’s issue – in late April. Why wait, when the papers are this good…?

Landscape and Gentrification: The Picturesque and Pastoral in 1980s New York Cinema – Johan Andersson

Towards an Energy Politics In-Against-and-Beyond the State: Berlin’s Struggle for Energy Democracy – James Angel

Sovereign Power, Biopower, and the Reach of the West in an Age of Diaspora-Centred Development – Mark Boyle and Elaine Ho

Alternative Food Economies and Transformative Politics in Times of Crisis: Insights from the Basque Country and Greece – Rita Calvário and Giorgos Kallis

Hope in Hebron: The Political Affects of Activism in a Strangled City – Mark Griffiths

Feminism from the Margin: Challenging the Paris/Banlieues Divide – Claire Hancock

Multi-Scalar…

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