Crafted imagination

Future-builders and the contemporary logic of experimentalism

Authored by: Federico Savini

The Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138058880
eBook ISBN: 9781315163956
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter looks at how planners attempt to enable imagination in cities. It defines planning as those practices aiming at organizing the tension between the production of new imaginaries of cities and the existent context of institutionalized imaginaries, encapsulated in systems of rules, codes, physical artifacts, and existing meanings of place. The main argument is that the emerging repertoire of imaginative planning practices, broadly categorized under the approach of the “urban living laboratory”, reproduce three problematic logics of imaginary production: the orientation to experimentation, the instrumental design of processes, and the artificial spatial and temporal isolation of imagination from existing institutions. These practices are seen as both the result and source of an emerging market of commodified future-building. This is represented in the profiling of future-building agencies and services, which are primarily concerned with substantiating a future as a product of a process, a substance, or goal. In conclusion, this chapter suggests that these approaches to imagination inevitably frustrate imagination, turning it into a crafted task of addressing problems “here and now”, and that they fail to capture the long-term urgency of radically rethinking urban socio-economic processes.

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