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dis-placed in the city

Part 2 Dissertation 2007
Cherry Summar Harris
University of Bath | UK
Seeing a city with fresh eyes can be addictive, unlocking a new layer of meaning to the spaces we occupy. Ignore the obvious and begin to look in all the wrong places; the forgotten corners, overgrown sidings and unfamiliar debris as if unravelling a mystery.

Society dislikes, fears and shuns the homeless displaced for many reasons; their very existence mocks our acceptance-driven lifestyles and the utopian image of the city we seek. Are we collective victims of a well-honed media stereotype, or perhaps on some level we envy them? We are singularly embarrassed but collectively dismissive of this poverty amid our culture of immediate gratification. Yet the ways in which the displaced construct and re-construct place, their tactics and techniques of placemaking and how they impose their identities upon the spaces they occupy, can teach us.

Whilst in its physicality the city exemplifies an occupied terrain at its most inhospitable and unnatural, it hosts displaced inhabitation at its most intense. This phenomenon provides a valuable insight into a primitive occupation of space that is relevant to the landscape we have created for ourselves. This presents an opportunity to learn new things about the city and the ways in which it is appropriated and developed. Through this analytical approach to archaic placemaking, we question the very nature of 'home' and encounter broader problems of a systematic sanitization and loss of surprise and delight within the public realm; the role of chaos and the un-planned within the city.

This alternate journey through the streets of London demonstrates recurring trends observed, ranging from the micro-topography of the city’s surfaces through to the large-scale cardboard cities that have existed. The dissertation outlines how these ‘public homes’ are experienced and inhabited, and what these places mean both physically and symbolically to the people they shelter.

Cherry Summar Harris

This is an intriguing and enjoyable piece of writing which emerged from a committed (and at times brave) period of research amongst the dis-placed communities of both London and Cambridge.

The structure of the text and the argument that it supports is beautifully paced and balanced. It is characterised by a style of writing that skilfully combines intellectual insight with page turning readability.

The dissertation has been admired by many who have read it, as an original piece of research, elegantly expressed.

As a student Cherry has been a joy to work alongside and is as powerful in her studio design work as she has been in this dissertation.

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