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Publication Detail
Rethinking urban public space: assemblage thinking and the uses of disorder
This paper aims to connect to recent debates in City (2011) regarding what assemblage thinking can offer to critical urban praxis. It proposes assemblage as a tool to take Sennett’s (1970) ‘uses of disorder’ in city life from theory to practice. The main reason for this is the consideration that Sennett’s early thoughts about providing non-regulated spaces for interaction have not been implemented in urban practice to their full potential. Planners and architects have not been able to counter the overdetermination of functions and the social segregation resulting from modern urban developments. Assemblage can offer tools for urban practitioners to combine definition and indeterminacy when intervening in the public realm. In order to do so, the paper looks at similarities between recent contributions on assemblage thinking and Sennett’s notion of disorder: the influence of sociomaterial associations on how people perceive strangers, the interest in indeterminacy, and public space as an open process. Based on these findings, the paper proposes two sets of concepts as approaches for intervening in public space: ‘assemblage’ and ‘disassembly’. The first group of concepts proposes three tools to design associations introducing certain planned urban elements that give rise to an unplanned use of public space: ‘reassembling’, ‘convergence of diversity’ and ‘complex connections’. The second set of concepts offers two tools that propose to leave unbound points in public space: ‘open systems’ and ‘failure and disconnections’. These concepts address different uses of disorder proposed by Sennett and serve as guidelines to propose interventions in public space.
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