Friday, September 9, 2011

Naked City, Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, 2010

As 1960's sociologist Jane Jacobs, Sharon Zukin walks the streets of the contemporary changing city and tells us an updated story about gentrifications, revidalisation, immagration,...  illustrated by very specific stories in New York City. From IKEA up to Harlem, the street vendors in Red Hook to community gardens, to the farmer's market she investigates what drives the city's social diversity and makes it offending a character. An updated learning story of Death and Life about how to deal with the city's soul starting from the city's authentic neighborhoods without sliding into nostalgias.

According to Zukin, the contemporary city is losing its soul, one neighborhood after another had lost its small and local identity. The diversity of neighborhoods is gone and rebuilding of public spaces since 1980’s shows signs of the same homogenizing process of redevelopment. After 2001 the preoccupations of cities’ life are shopping and security.

Authenticity can be primal, historically first or in a traditional vision together with being unique, historically new and a creative process. To save the city’s soul it should take count of preserving historical building, small-scale boutiques (not the chain stores), caf├ęs (not starbucks), distinctive cultural identities.

The urban space has been reshaped in recent years by consumer culture:
SOHO: art galleries and performance spaces in the 70’s and 80’s, retail chain stores in 90’s
WILLIAMSBURG: Indie music bars and ethnic restaurants, 90’s
EAST VILLAGE: terrific Farmer’s market and restaurants
HARLEM: new boutiques and chain stores, starbucks and H&M

Two chapters in this book are specific about Brooklyn neighborhoods: Williamsburg and Red Hook.

Watch an interview with Sharon Zukin.

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