Austerity Urbanism: A Walk Through the Fictional City

As part of a series of projects for Transmission Gallery, The Strickland Distribution is hosting a public walk on Saturday 15th September to investigate contemporary forms of cultural (de)generation. Led by writer & researcher Neil Gray, with contributions from housing & community groups; activists & artists, the walk will take a circular route beginning and ending at the Speirs Wharf canalside ‘cultural quarter’, via the post-industrial and brown-field landscapes of North-West Glasgow.

The writer, Iain Sinclair once said of regeneration that “any puddle will do”, referring to the frequency of waterside regeneration in the UK – no matter how bitter the climate or inauspicious the view.

The canalside Masterplan for the cultural quarter is a neoliberal mixture of soft policy options borrowing from Charles Landry’s ‘creative city’, Richard Florida’s ‘creative class’, Andres Duany’s ‘new urbanism’, and so-called ‘smart growth’ principles. The masterplan is specifically framed in the language of austerity, admitting the partial, fragmentary nature of the regeneration approach in a time of economic crisis.

While apparently less bullish than other large-scale gentrification projects in Glasgow, ultimately ‘smart growth’ is about the extraction of value from land and property, and the increase of a socio-spatial tax base, making the ‘new urbanism’ a strategy for the few at the expense of the many despite its green pretensions and community participation rhetoric.

The new urbanism is a separate, privileged spatial project with limited boundaries. This walk will cross those boundaries exploring the wider spatial relations of the area, revealing the planning blight and social contradictions that are a direct result of an underlying ideology of growth which the new urbanism not only leaves unchallenged but actively supports.

The walk will critically illuminate the ‘arts-led property strategy’; the rent-gap and blight; the continuing crisis in housing, and the commodification of social spaces. Rather than present gentrification as an inevitable process, the walk will explore the possibility that capitalism is increasingly unable to reproduce the most basic conditions of everyday life for a majority of the population, deferring a crisis of productivity to a crisis of urbanism. This walk in the fictional city will examine urban reality against the urban myths of city boosters.

The walk is proposed as an investigative history from below: a critical exploration of gentrification in the context of austerity urbanism. City boosters and planners promote top-down solutions to urban crisis, yet radical social change can only ever come from broad-based pressure from below. This walk aims to provide the means for collaborative exchange, instigating & sustaining wider solidarity & activity between anti-gentrification researchers, activists, community groups & artists. We welcome all those with such an interest.

Saturday, 15th September, (1-5pm): Meet outside Cowcaddens subway entrance at 1pm. Please bring appropriate footwear and clothing. The ground will occasionally be rough.

http://strickdistro.org/                                                                     http://www.transmissiongallery.org/

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