Taking City Revitalization Beyond Iconic Architecture

Many cities see new iconic buildings as a major element in recreating themselves into distinctive places. But if every city has distinctive buildings, the distinctiveness is diminished. This commentary argues for new revitalization ideas.
October 7, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Banks of glass-fronted residential apartments, shiny new shopping malls, creative industry quarters, art galleries and museums recycled from old industrial buildings, a piece of "iconic" public art: these have become the stock-in-trade features of the revitalized English city in recent years, from Newcastle to Birmingham."

"Throw in a bit of social history and a bit of popular culture - a football stadium fit to grace the Premier League, say, or a state-of-the art concert venue - and there you have it, a shiny, thrusting new municipal identity. Anywhere, it seemed, could buy-in these core elements and get itself an off-the-shelf makeover. Retail, leisure and consumption have been the sparkling face of these ambitious visions."

"The credit crunch and the collapse in the buy-to-let mortgage market, however, have dealt a blow to the idea that yuppy flats, dramatic new architecture and an upmarket retail presence alone could reinvigorate an area and its public image."

"But how do you reinvent, capture and maintain distinctiveness? Not simply through eye-catching new buildings."

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Published on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 in Guardian
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