Session 2: Regeneration, communities and myth-making with NEOutopia

This week Latymer Projects invited NEOutopia to talk to the group about their research and recent project NEOgate, which takes a critical look at the rhetoric and ideologies used in the languages and processes of regeneration projects today. NEOutopia also helped facilitate the session with Latymer Projects and Constantine Gras.

We started with an exercise called ‘the operating table’ to get us thinking about the ways in which first of all a map is constructed through a selection and compiling of various individual elements which are then drawn together and compressed. The exercise also facilitated a discussion about how alternative map-making can trace other trajectories and links between sites (departing from the approach to map-making as a tool to survey land or to help us get from A to B).

 Operating Table Exercise

Operating Table Exercise

Taking images of buildings, signs, transport, and shops in the local area we each picked a particular image that we felt a certain connection with or some kind of curiosity and shared with the rest of the group our reasons for selection. Though it was quite difficult to avoid making links between what each image represented for us and in relation to many of the themes we have discussed so far during the project, the exercise encourages a free association of sorts, making both arbitrary and meaningful links between the images.

Following this we discussed the potentials of countermapping using examples such as Bill Rankin’s Place-Name Etymology map (http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?etymomap).

Josie Bowler and Gilbert Richards  from NEOutopia then gave us a short overview of the NEOgate project, discussing the various processes involved and the specific situation and history of the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle. This opened out into a wider discussion about urban planning, regeneration and the various kinds of communities that are eclipsed, displaced, but also artificially  developed and constructed through the process of regeneration. We also discussed those communities that develop and are crystallised in response and resistance to urban development.

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Josie Bowler and Gilbert Richards are members of NEOutopia and recently completed an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths. They recently completed a residency at the Centre for Creative Collaborations and will also be featured in the architecture quarterly City Journal later this Spring.

About NEOutopia

NEOutopia is a multi-faceted archive which reveals the problems of space with particular reference to urban regeneration and notions of utopia. Serendipitously discovered by two university lecturers in the year 2031, it is a fictional archive of collected fragments surrounding a proposed development plan created in 2011. Consisting of a ‘Master Regeneration Plan’, a DVD of found film footage, as well as marketing strategies, illustrative sketches and promotional imagery for NEOgate – a speculative mixed-use development designed to accommodate London’s so-called ‘Creative Class’ – the fragments coalesce to create an intriguing, yet incomplete ‘mapping’ of a fictional ‘neo-utopian’ space that never came to fruition. Inspired by the writings of theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, Doreen Massey and David Harvey, NEOutopia aims to expose the limits of utopian, architectural remedies and the proposed solutions of planners who, as Lefebvre suggests, fail to master the complex contortions and paradoxical properties of (social) space. Discussed through the fictive view point of two erudite academics, the project speaks of ‘real space’, ‘blind fields’ and the problematic relationship between the producers and inhabitants of space

NEOgate image

You can read more on their project at  http://neo-utopianism.blogspot.co.uk/

and here: http://cityboundcollective.com/neoutopia-2/

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