Contested Spaces is a research initiative from the Spatial Practices programme at Central Saint Martins. It investigates contemporary approaches to the production, experience and understanding of the public space as an unstable articulation of heterogeneous agents and conditions, which often leads to tensions and contradictions. Contested Spaces is presented as a platform for open-ended, critical debates and events intended to promote an exchange of ideas and questions exploring conceptual and disciplinary boundaries and challenging oversimplified assumptions about what constitute the public quality in the built environment.
The first series of events related to Contested Spaces took place during the degree shows of Central Saint Martins in June 2014. During four days, Contested Spaces was articulated through presentations, performances and public debates around the following themes and questions that were intended to explore some intrinsic dialectical tensions at play in current spatial practices, forming a thematic structure:
Participation / Tokenism
An examination of the implications of current approaches to engagement with stakeholders in the production of public space: where are the boundaries between bottom up approaches and top-down assumptions?
Consent / Tension
What are the roles of heterogeneity, simultaneity and, even, dissent in the quality of public spaces?
Pop-up / Networks / Legacy
Temporary interventions are well established as contemporary spatial practices in public spaces; however, where are the opportunities to achieve any real agency and long lasting impact?
Gentrification / Regeneration
Considering the city as an ever-evolving entity, are local resilience and gentrification processes mutually exclusive?
The public discussions were triggered around a series of round tables that included Teddy Cruz, Orsalia Dimitriou, Eleanor Fawcett, Liza Fior, Carl Fraser, Daisy Froud, Giulia Carabelli, Gunter Gassner, Anna Harding, Nicolas Henniger, Tom James, Roger Madelin, Richard Reynolds, The Decorators, Oliver Wainwright, Finn Williams, Jeremy Till, Mel Dodd, Shumi Bose, Oscar Brito. The events were preceded by performances and interventions by AIR Studios, Flock Collective, Rebecca Ross & Chi Nguyen.