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Public places and empty spaces: dislocation, urban renewal and the death of a French plaza

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Abstract

This article examines the dislocations produced when competing understandings of public space come into contact. Focusing on Montpellier, France, where an urban renewal program has seen portions of the city-centre renovated, the article considers the breaking apart of a North African commercial cluster under the guide of French heritage protection. Arguing that such action is tiedto municipal urban politics and wider trajectories that place diverse identities in a separate category, I trace the process through which a plaza encompassed in the urban renewal program has been labelled as “empty” and “dead” space. Suggesting that the relocation of a well-used outdoor food market is an instance of public space being deliberately emptied of its social and civic function, I argue that such sites are better defined as “municipal spaces”, entities that are firmly in the realm of the state, rather than ones within the purview of diverse publics.

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... The construction of a new market or the renewal of an older or former one might strongly influence the everyday life in the relevant area. Nowadays, although there is a great variety of urban retail shops and the shopping habits have changed drastically [12], people still prefer to use local food markets. It is peculiar that most market halls in the historic centre have been physically renewed, but struggle with functional crisis, and at the same time, we can experience the "renaissance" of local markets in the outer districts of Budapest that are also undergoing transformation of their own. ...
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Food markets provide a continuous urban function at the centre of urban quarters, and their structures are an important component of the local identity. Therefore, they could be crucial in the complex renewal process of a mass housing neighbourhood, indeed. The paper focuses on the contemporary markets within Budapest’s three large housing estates, in Újpest Centre, Békásmegyer, and Havanna, opened in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The research is based not only on the study of relevant literature, design documents, publications, fieldwork, but also on a survey conducted with three well-recognized Hungarian architects in order to understand and compare their views on the complex context beyond the urban and architectural solutions. The questions focused on the crucial or determining factors of the design process such as the budget, the main players, references, physical context (built and natural), social context, program, and technology. These public projects of varied scale were used for exemplary contemporary food market case studies from Budapest, in which the people involved took into consideration the existing social and material problems and the potential of the heritage of modern mass housing neighbourhoods.
... The market was considered "the heart of the neighbourhood" and its attraction was "in its ability to draw people, create a surge. . . that included vendors, shoppers, those who stopped to socialise, others who strolled through the market and a diversity of cultural, economic, and social uses" (Tchoukaleyska, 2018;p. 7). ...
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