Envisioning atmospheres of spectacle and activism. Utopia and critical urbanism instruments for the reclamation of the fragmented territories of the WALL and the MALL

Author: Manfredo Manfredini


The Journal of Public Space | Volume 4, No. 4 | 2019




Woundedlands are places of crisis of the civic sphere, where architecture contributes to escalate the agency of forces that annihilate associative, differential and commoning processes. They are spaces of exemplary expression of the destructive capacity of contemporary technology to increase control, abstraction and exclusion. The Wall and the Mall are two salient Woundedland types addressed in this research. The Wall—a harsh boundary displacing and negating access to the stranger—epitomizes the increasing instances of unmovable and unforgiving socio-spatial divides. The heavily armed Demilitarized Zone created by the stalled Korean conflict is chosen as an egregious walling example. The Mall—a supreme urban embodiment of digitally enhanced urban de-commoning and homogenizing forces—typifies the post-consumerist spectacular production of implanted and exogenous pseudo-civic centralities. The heterotopic integrated shopping centre Sylvia Park—the main centre of this kind in New Zealand—is selected as a key representative instance of the dissociative enclaves of spectacle. Two major phenomena characterize the spatial production of these two Woundedlands: pervasive translocalization—the diffusing mobilization of territorialization patterns—and multiassociative transduction—the iterative production of combinant and immersive metastable spatialities.
Through an articulated design proposition set, these Woundedlands are reimagined as productive utopias of reappropriated and (re)creational Wonderlands. These Wonderlands are a cultural response to the contemporary mode of production, challenging and transmuting its alienating apparatus. The symbols of geopolitical and mercantile warfare are recast into possible analogue worlds where a rich mix of instrumentalities is designed to empower latent and marginalised counterforces. These Wonderlands have mobilised metastable spatialities that give consistency and affirm the commoning of the digitally augmented social networks, boosting socio-spatial relationality and maximal differentiation.
The proposition set shows how by producing alternative discursive frameworks of coordinated narratives with scenario-based and context-specific sign-value articulations, tightly crafted chains of recoded elements propose a novel cultural understanding of the current spatial paradigm. Leveraging on the productive agency of desire, their allegorical fabulatory proses of (extra)ordinary commoning machines for pluralism, justice and jouissance affirm the value and necessity of utopia.