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Insurgent Urbanism - Questioning conventional values about how our cities are remade

Part 1 Project 2014
Christopher Scarffe
Leeds Beckett University, UK
Declining industrial areas are not unfamiliar to the contemporary British city. Many of these declining inner city areas such as the Eastgate area of Leeds are being transformed by a wave of regional shopping centres as a new kind of urbanism: one that is hostile to traditional public space and erases any trace of urban texture in the name of quasi-civic order. Driven by policies of privatisation and commodification of public space, this mode of development has led to gentrified zones within our cities. This project aims to question conventional values about how our cities are remade by questioning and redefining the fundamental agenda of urban regeneration.

Formed out of an abstracted analysis of the site, the design approach celebrates decay and destruction as a method of revealing something new and unexpected from the existing. It purposefully rejects the pursuit of sterility of tabula-rasa approach to urbanism. Through the transformation of this observation into a technique for creation, an attitude to the site was developed in the same way that an archaeologist digs to reveal desired objects or the way a sculptor sculpts to reveal an envisioned form. This technique creates simultaneously as it excavates to ‘reveal’ a new complimentary public realm. Insurgent spaces of sunken infrastructure, of follies and open platforms have been formed with the excavated earth, each with different capacities and programmes that sensitively re-stitch Eastgate back into the surrounding urban fabric. Sprawling across the entire site the alternative master plan undermines the official one and acts as a ‘continuation of the city’, blurring the perimeter of the site, making subterranean reconnections under existing buildings and offering completely unrestricted access.

The project does not neglect the prevalent reality of retail led development, but rather confronts it head on through a strategy of modification of the proposed development to allow it to be readjusted with the existing urban fabric through a series of raised structures. This new 'insurgent' strategy and agenda of complimentary urban regeneration enables an enriched and multivalent transformation of our cities, remaking those urban spaces which were once cherished with renewed vitality and meaning.

Christopher Scarffe


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