The intensification of urbanization processes towards global urbanization has been one of the most significant consequences of the progress of globalization over the past few decades. After the post-war suburbanization trend of the 1950s, the ruling affluent new urban classes now aim for central workspaces and living with all the commodities of a 21st century urban life.
In times of neoliberal capitalism cities are no longer cities for people, but for profit, driven by forces and oscillations of the global financial market. After years of recession following the world economic crisis of 2007, economies have started to flourish again. With economic reinforcement global flows of capital transformation and redistribution favor large-scale investors and developers, whilst smaller local businesses, which often hold long local and family traditions, have to fight for their economic survival.
Company mergers and speculation businesses, in combination with the reinvestment of retrieved capital, encourage the transformation towards an increasingly privatized economy, especially in the real estate sector and land markets. Through the progress of gentrification previously municipally-owned property is bought off by private investors. Subsequently existent building stock either gets demolished and rebuilt or redeveloped in a costly manner. After struggling with higher expenses caused by revaluation, economically and socially disadvantaged inhabitants have to face displacement from their home neighborhood, and even worse, from their social roots and networks in the end. Despite its cultural and ethnic diversity and its comparatively high quality of life, the city of Torontos lower-class, often indigenous population, along with other culturally and ethnically marginalized groups is most affected by these gentrification processes.
How can people living in todays urban structures, which are dominated and formed by the consequences of overpowering neoliberal capitalism resulting in increasing economic and social disparities and the death of the middle-class, regain influence on the constitution and transformation of their urban and social environment, and what is and will be the role of architects and their architecture in this process?
With the extinction of traditionally formed city patterns as a result of capitalist economic mechanisms aiming for the redistribution of capital and profit maximization, based on privatization and exploitation, the Lefebvrian axiom of the “right to the city” loses its validity. But a parallel jump of dimensions in the sense of a “right to the urban fabric” would overburden the citizen as the smallest entity of global urbanization.
The return to the original postfordist idea of the importance of art and culture in the context of urban planning processes, along with a new form of post urban political activism based on encounters could lead the way towards a diverse democratic urban society, founded on the principles of tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness, which will actively participate in the conceptualization of their urban and social future. Will architectural interventions be the roots in space for urban encounters and a diverse urban culture of social interaction?