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Parallel Cities

Part 2 Project 2012
Charles Critchell
University of Brighton UK

“Pockets of our Society are not just broken but frankly sick”
PM David Cameron speaking after the August riots.

Taking the August riots as a starting point, the project firstly aims to question the effectiveness of the current combined responsive model for dealing with incidents in the city. The project speculates on how an alternative design led urban strategy could be used to challenge this currently ineffectual system in the specific context of Elephant and Castle, and more broadly, central London.

At present the responsive ‘biomedical model’ manifests itself in the city through the rigorous medicalisation of the urban realm; bus priority seats, clinics, surgeries and repeat ambulance callouts are all evidence of this. It became evident that a recurring number of these callouts were located at five key infrastructural sites across the city, including Waterloo Station and Elephant and Castle itself. More interestingly the nature of these incidents presented as being predominantly social, dealt with however, by the current combined responsive forces of medicine [ambulance] and politics [police].

Direct intervention at three of these five sites suggested that rather than making people better through intense medicalisation, it is actually the city, its tired infrastructure, along with its disengaged institutions and professions, which is making people sick.

The unregulated presence of the medical and political institutions for addressing social incident in the city brings in to question the role of their respective professionals, alongside that of the architect in relation to the two. Rather than the current combined approach, it seems logical that a social incident should necessitate a social response, which could come in the form of a viable design based alternative.

The development of a layered civic infrastructure, consisting of a series of new and reconfigured public spaces and built interfaces across four key sites, expands the realm of the social within existing institutional types. In addition to making the city healthier and more streamlined with the opening up of new public spaces, the infrastructure facilitates a new social discourse between public and professional, in turn encouraging both greater public responsibility and professional accountability.

Charles Critchell


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