A deeper yearning

Competitions, awards and accolades are proliferating. They act as a way of encouraging the trajectories of urban change. I have been involved in several juries and looked at over 750 proposals from across the world and they all have different criteria. I have noticed some significant trends as jury chair of the European Capital of Innovation, iCapital, and of the New Innovations in the Creative Economy (N.I.C.E.) awards as well as member of the Miami based Knight Cities Challenge, the Berlin based Actors for Urban Change and Eurocities Young Professionals competitions.

You detect strongly how a new world is trying to emerge. It reflects a profound desire that things can and should be different and based on different principles where public, private and community interests achieve a new alignment. The aim is to bend entrepreneurial energies and market forces to bigger picture purposes as a new common sense. The fracturing of older forms of being together and speed of globalization is both loved and feared. So unsurprisingly countless applications focused on: ‘distinctiveness’, ‘maintaining the authentic’, ‘to explore bringing out local cultures’, ‘blending new uses to older buildings’, ‘creating new kinds of work environments’, ‘to be playful in place making’, ‘using the artistic imagination to foster climate consciousness’, ‘to encourage the creative industries’, ‘to speed up sharing economy ideas’, ‘to bring nature back into the city’, ‘to balance top down and bottom up planning’, ‘projects to be co-creative’, to ‘rethink democracy by harnessing the power of social media’ and to use the city as a canvas and a stage for new experiments in urban living.

You feel too how the temper of the times is more one of foreboding, of vulnerability, of uncertainty and insecurity interspersed at the same time with some optimism that perhaps cleaner, agile and responsive technologies will sort things out. Some believe a white knight is galloping over the horizon and others that things are more gloom laden. The latter despair at the slow pace of change. They are worried things are out of control and distressed at how power corrupts and the rich are getting richer and troubled by how the media suggests that it is impossible to think outside of the confines of neo-liberal ideas.

You sense people want to make themselves or the world whole again since wholeness is a feeling of things being in place. The question is: what does ‘being in place’ mean in a world of movement; is it the flow of things sorting themselves out as the ‘right way’. What then is right – and words like life giving as distinct from doom laden come to mind.

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