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Title: Urban improvisation: reconstructions of the interplay of private and public initiatives in spatial transformation processes.
Authors: DEVISCH, Oswald 
Rommens, Oscar
Van Reusel, Joris
Issue Date: 2012
Source: AESOP 2012 (26th Annual Congress), Ankara, Turkey, 11-15 July 2012
Abstract: Flanders is spatially fragmented; a dispersed city (De Geyter, 2002). Fragments of age-old farmland border with generic villa allotments, with oversized industrial areas, with shopping centres surrounded by parking, with factories reconverted as garden centres, etc. The Spatial Structure Plan for Flanders (1997) considers spatial fragementation as a negative process leading to a/o of undefined leftover spaces, pressure on non-built areas and an increase in traffic. The Plan therefore comes with concepts to stop and invert this process. Rather than inverting, De Meulder et al. (1999) propose to work with fragmentation. Through meticulous reconstructions of spatial transformation processes, they try to reveal spatial patterns and relations within the dispersed landscape. These patterns and relations are then taken as the starting point to structure this dispersion (Dehaene & Boon, 2006). What the reconstructions also reveal is that fragmentation processes are the result of numerous iterations of public and private initiatives which are hardly ever coordinated, let alone planned. Until the implementation of the Structure Plan, for instance, most decisions concerning land-use were made at the level of the municipality, often without any planners being involved (Renard & Liefrink, 1995). In this paper we argue that one can not only find patterns and relations within the dispersed landscape but also in the interaction processes between public and private initiatives generating this landscape. We refer to this patterns and relations as urban improvisations. In Jazz-music, an improvisation starts with one player setting an unpredictable play of action-reaction, at some moments vey clear while at others totally fragmented. In this paper we will translate the concept of jazz interpretation to the concept of spatial transformations by applying it to a number of cases: the construction of a neighbourhood, the transformation of a historic street and the development of a park, all situated within the city of Antwerp, Belgium. For each case, we will reconstruct the public-private interaction process and assess a series of spatial and social features by comparing it to locations where the public initiative prevailed and no improvisation took place. We will argue that urban improvisation can be considered as mode of planning in its own right and illustrate that it can lead to social and spatial quality, in spite of it resulting in fragmentation.
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Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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