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A robust square: planning, youth work, and the making of public space in post-unification Berlin

Weszkalnys, Gisa (2008) A robust square: planning, youth work, and the making of public space in post-unification Berlin. City and Society, 20 (2). pp. 251-274. ISSN 0893-0465

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1548-744X.2008.00019.x


Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in post-unification Berlin, this article examines the re-articulation of the problematic of “the social” in city planning. It juxtaposes the contrasting visions of city planners and youth workers for Alexanderplatz, a controversial square in Berlin's eastern centre. I argue that the notion of “robustness” is helpful in understanding an important contemporary shift in thinking about planning and the social. In a sense, both planners and youth workers accused each other of taking insufficient notice of “the social.” While planners spoke of robustness as a technical, economic and aesthetic quality to which public space needs to aspire, the youth workers' vision for Alexanderplatz was a proposal for a kind of “social” robustness where the social is, quite literally, built into the urban design. These ethnographic observations need to be understood in a context where city planning has been one of the most critical domains in which the tensions provoked by German unification are played out. Taking such socio-cultural specificities into account will lead to a more nuanced understanding of forms of neoliberal city planning.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 American Anthropological Association
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2012 12:36
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2023 17:24

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