Department of Architecture, University of Moratuwa
Reinventing Cities and Places: Proceedings of the International Urban design Conference on ‘Cities, People and Places’-ICCPP2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 31 October – 2 November 2014 pages:352-369
Reinventing Cities and Places: Proceedings of the International Conference on ‘Cities, People and Places’-ICCPP2014 edition:2 location:Colombo, Sri Lanka date:30 Oct - 2 Nov 2014
This paper contends that re-inventing the city involves a level of ‘social resilience’ that permits to face the challenges presented by urban development at moments of growth as well as in times of adversity and crisis.
It is a conceptual exercise that largely draws on the distinction which the French anthropologist Michel de Certeau between ‘tactics’ and ‘strategies’. He described ‘tactics’ as everyday practices through which large parts of the population respond to power ‘strategies’ imposed on them from above. While tactics and strategies may sometimes clash, synergy between them is crucial to build ‘social resilience’ and make city life more sustainable.
To illustrate this claim, the paper ventures into a comparison between the urban discourses that were circulating in Bangkok in the booming early-1990s and an exploratory observation of similar trends in contemporary Colombo. Whilst two decades and vastly diverging historical backgrounds separate these contexts, the urban development strategies deployed in both situations are marked by strong economic growth and a booming real estate sector. In spite of political turmoil, social resilience in Bangkok has manifested itself in ‘tactical urbanisms’ that range from dissatisfaction and confrontation to consensus-building and cooperation. In view of Sri Lanka’s recent past of armed conflict, the paper cannot offer such clear-cut insights on Colombo. Instead, it advances a series of logical presumptions by way of final reflection and invitation for further research.