Vol. 37, No. 2 (2009)
Publication Date: 2009-03-30
Number of articles: 12
In the popular imagination, 1960s radicalism often appears as a national phenomenon that varied little from region to region. The case of downtown Manhattan during these years, however, challenges this assumption. Student radicals at New York University in Greenwich Village were just as concerned with issues of urban equity and the politics of urban space as they were with more national concerns, such as ending the Vietnam War. NYU students advocated that the university offer open admissions and free tuition to any New Yorker who wished to attend and fought against what they perceived to be the university’s imperialistic management of Bellevue Hospital.
Mid last century, North American civil servants and urban planners and developers proffered inventive solutions to the problem of the declining downtown core. Robert Moses looked to super-block development and Title 1 of the US Housing Act of 1949 to funnel federal dollars into urban renewal projects in New York City. Because it had been successful in the suburbs, Victor Gruen sought retail development in the form of downtown shopping centres. The Montreal-based planner Vincent Ponte focused his attention on the “multi-level city centre.” Similar to the solutions proffered by Gruen and Moses, Ponte’s multi-level centres were large-scale and multi-use. However, unlike his colleagues’ tabula rasa interventions, Ponte’s multi-level centre was incremental. This essay focuses on Ponte’s little-known 1969 multi-level pedestrian-way plan for downtown Dallas. I argue that Ponte’s project for the centre of Dallas is unique in Ponte’s oeuvre because, departing from his own espousal of super-block development, it was not built in one fell swoop within a super-block. The multi-level megastructural pedestrian-way in Dallas was fluid and incremental in its original planning and subsequent evolution. It is best understood according to Ponte’s instrumentalization of systems theory.
In 2006 Melbourne, Australia, played host to an almost monthly lineup of major international sporting and cultural events: the Australian Open Tennis tournament, the Commonwealth Games and associated cultural festival, a Formula One Grand Prix, an International Flower and Garden Show, an arts festival, and what is billed as the third largest comedy festival in the world. Almost all of these events were staged primarily in a revitalized region within a five-kilometre radius of the city centre, and all—bar the Commonwealth Games—are annual events, part of a deliberate economic and tourism strategy that attempts to sell Melbourne as an “events city.” This paper charts the emergence of this events strategy and argues that, rather than being a phenomenon of the 1990s as is often assumed, its origins lie in the early 1980s and was a deliberate response to deindustrialization, urban decay, and “crisis” in the inner Melbourne economy in the 1970s. The paper recognizes the many successes of this economic policy but raises questions about a policy that adds to a growing economic gap between the now prosperous, gentrified inner city and the increasingly marginalized outer zones of the metropolis.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the city centre of Palermo has gone through a long and inexorable process of decline due to its impoverishment and the exile of its population. At the beginning of the 1990s, the centre-left mayor Leoluca Orlando initiated change: the refurbishment of housings and public space is at the heart of this policy of urban improvement. The aim of this process he has wished for is also political: initiating a change in a town influenced by the Sicilian Mafia, a town that is no longer a common purpose and a melting pot for Leoluca Orlando and a part of the local elite.
Hamilton, Ontario, wanted a modernist makeover for its downtown during the 1960s. Politicians and businessmen aggressively sought federal and provincial urban renewal funds to rebuild the city’s core. This research note focuses on Hamilton’s King Street West, between James and Bay, which ran through the centre of the downtown urban renewal area. The photographs show all that was lost, and the original plan helps us to understand why the people of Hamilton initially accepted the destruction. The resulting traffic corridor was a victory for modernist planners who wanted to remove the pedestrian from the street so that the car could dominate.