URBAN PLANNING IS POLITICS

Deslizamientos-Callapa-y-Kupini-II-La-Paz-3

Landslides in La Paz – Bolivia

The word politics comes from the Greek word “polis” meaning “of, for, or in connection with citizens”, is the state or the community as a whole. Politics is the means to create a more organized and peaceful society by providing methods to resolve the conflict that occurs naturally among men, through civil discussion and rational compromise. It is the practice and theory of influencing others.

Urban planning is political because has influence on human behavior. The cities are the material expression of the community, social communities established in structured spaces, urban spaces where human activities take place, so when we understand the city as a human community, what we are saying is that the city has places where social practices are performed. How are conceptualized and displayed these places have to do with the way we view life, how we think about society, about issues such as climate change, immigration, overpopulation, multiculturalism. It is because urban planning deals with life and because it has a great impact on the lives of citizens, urban planners do politics.

But the current practice, the traditional planning is becoming obsolete to address the problems of globalization. Overpopulation in the coming years will have a major impact on all aspects of human development. Urban planning, at all scales, may be the best solution for the future, may be the only way to deal with the explosive growth of population.

If this statement is correct then the question is where to focus our practice?, I think our work should focus on how we renew existing cities, how to make them more livable, rehabilitating buildings, regenerating districts and recovering landscapes. We need more dense and compact cities, more equipment and services. We must understand the renewal as an everyday and permanent practice aimed at finding links of change and rejuvenation. The renewal process is not an end in itself, but it is the development and consolidation of the things that are useful for our culture.

Architects and planners are taking planning decisions that influence patterns of activities that affect the chances of meeting, watch and listen to people, places that acquire a quality in itself and become important as background and starting point for other forms of contact. We must plan urban places than are not peripheral that can become the center of life for the citizens, where new communities are generated.

The formation of the new community in social sense can not only come from the people, because the formation of a new group is all about finding new spatial forms and functional programs commensurate with the political and social development, both in the scale of the city and the neighborhood itself. Offering opportunities to people who are socially and economically discriminated imply that their freedom of choice is bigger, literally and figuratively not only spatially but also socially. The segregation between the city and its region asks policy responses, where daily experience prevails in contrast to the abstract scientific knowledge, where daily life and long-term planning are complementary and the confidence in the immediate environment is essential against the anonymity of modern architecture and urbanism.

Urban structures and their transformations are the expression of social, political and civil processes taking place in the urban fabric, are also the main support that people need to project their own existence in the past and in the future. Cities are diverse worlds where everything that is heterogeneous is integrated, they are supported based on people’s experiences and they have daily life as a base of development.

Urban planning cannot avoid the daily life and experiences, therefore urbanism is social and it is politics.

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