As many stakeholders in the redevelopment process recognise the issue of urban redevelopment is fraught. When young Swiss rioted during the Opera House riots the world wondered “how and why brutal contestation was possible in the land of wealth, stability, civic discipline” and almost full employment.
One Genevan philosopher of Polish heritage believed the riots were the result of youth who “didn’t know what to do with unlimited freedom in a world of unlimited opportunities.”
The disturbances broke out when in 1980 the young people of Zurich were unable to organise rock concerts due to an unavailability of money and accommodation at the same time as “large sums of money went to the renovation of the Zurich Opera House.”
Beneath the idealic view of Swiss society it was reported that young people were cheated out of a right to Utopia by a recession, did not have stable families, had overworked fathers, cramped and impersonal living conditions in large blocks of flats and that the nuclear family which had replaced extended relational groups had become too small.
One would have thought that any society which assumes a ‘right to utopia’ is doomed. But I sympathize with the young people in rich and stable societies, because they have fewer challenges and fewer opportunities than people in rapidly changing societies. You can’t lead a revolution in a country which does not want a revolution; you can’t build on dramatic sites (as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis) if a society is cherishing its existing landscape. Its a problem!
I remember that. It was just after we returned from Switzerland. There, I worked in a library with so many new books coming in, that they were stored in the basement for cataloguing later. Not enough staff to keep up with the book budget. Back to South Africa and a weak rand, and the University of Cape Town couldn’t afford to buy more than a handful of books in 6 months. From the sublime to the ridiculous. And which is which??
Both Athens (the Acropolis) and Zurich (the Altstadt) have their origins in defensible cities. The Swiss prehistory is of lakeside settlement. The Athenian prehistory suggests the Acropolis (a flat top rock rising 150m above sea level)was the generating site for settlement.
All young people whether from developed or developing nations perhaps believe in a future which is an improvement on the present. I don’t think it is always necessary for revolutions for societies to change, they can evolve.
Occasionally dramatic sites do become available for development or alternatively designers, as Frank Gehry did in Bilbao, can create dramatic works in response to otherwise unremarkable environments. [ http://cryptome.org/jya/bilbao.htm ]
As a young architect Frank also started out wanting to change the world. “He was concerned with city planning, social justice and a more equitable environment.”
Elephant Eye do you know why they didn’t employ more staff to process the books in Zurich?