Re-defining Urban Space Through Performance
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This thesis contributes to discourses concerned with urban space and performance practice. It identifies ways in which built environments become performative; how the built environment performs meaning(s) within the urban context and how spatial practices of contemporary performance engage with city-spaces. The programming and order of urban space tends to fix meanings; increasingly regulated and singlepurpose city-spaces seem unable to react to informal or unplanned activities. However, this thesis suggests that urban space entails inherent opportunities for conceiving and practising space otherwise and looks at a spatial spectrum – from leftover spaces to London’s landmarks. It analyses incomplete presences in the built environment and their unexpected (re)uses, which make urban space an arena of ideas, interaction and creativity. It examines how spatial practices of performance, such as site-specific performance, audio-walks and installations, inform our (re)thinking of space, its meaning and its re-appropriation. It argues that through performative concepts and actions, space manifests a changeable and dynamic quality, rather than motionlessness and inertia. The thesis involves an interdisciplinary approach employing geography, urban, architectural and performance studies. It looks at four types of built spaces that have been used for performance purposes; a disused warehouse at 21 Wapping Lane, the converted power station housing the Tate Modern art gallery, the exterior of the National Theatre’s building and the London district of Wapping. All of these sites are awaiting, or are undergoing, major alterations in their design or planning, involving reconstruction and expansion, or total demolition. The uncertain future of these sites and buildings, the inevitable decay of their material, and the temporality of the built environment invite questions of architectural design and urban planning in terms of performance. The examination of these sites at this moment of change and the potential impact of the redevelopment plans on city life make this research timely, since the thesis emphasises the imperative of re-defining concepts of space, planning strategies, and design processes so as to imagine a less determinate, more creative urban space.
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