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An Exploration Of Borders In Urban Spaces

3688 words - 15 pages

The cities we live in today are the aggregate of distinctive spaces where everyday interaction among people is limited between homogenous areas. This paper is a brief research on the ‘in-between’ areas of these bounded distinctive spaces, the concept of urban borders and the idea of edge conditions in contemporary cities. The paper will focus mainly on a traditional border in port cities, the waterfront. In the last part I will examine Thessaloniki’s latest waterfront intervention, ‘Nea Paralia’ as an illustration of a conventional edge condition and argue if the recent redevelopment addressed the issue of the edge by integrating the waterfront into the urban fabric.

Definition of Borders

Borders are multidimensional entities in urban space. In contemporary cities, borders are not only a spatial feature but also a functional, social, economic and political characteristic as well. Borders are phenomena with great complexity, a transition space, performing in different scales, layers and networks.

One of the most challenging aspects of borders in terms of urbanism is their ambiguity as they can function either by separating or by linking urban areas. They create edges in urban space which, as R. Sennett points out, they can be either manifested as borders or boundaries (R. Sennett, 2010). Sennett argues that borders are interactive zones in urban context, permeable and porous and can be seen as living edges which make exchange possible between social and economic groups. On the other hand, he claims that boundaries are limits, static territories in cities, where exchange is diminished, isolation is promoted and which tend to become dead edges (Sennett, 2010).

Even though borders provide structure and identity to the city ‘as a means by which people help orient themselves, help carry a map of the city in their minds, and understand a districts as a place’, at the same time they tend to divide up cities into pieces (J. Jacobs, 1961, p.264). Nowadays, borders are apt to have a negative implication and they can be equally used as barriers linked to social and spatial boundaries and to terms like marginalization and exclusion. Frequent borders, formed by highways, institutions, housing projects, large parks, waterfronts or any other massive uses bisect cities into small parts that lack the liveness and interaction.

Ordinarily we consider borders in terms of defining other space and not as a space category itself, whereas borderlands compose large areas in the contemporary urban landscape. Every city is marked by spatial divisions which mainly have to do with the infrastructure (railways, highways, deindustrialized left over spaces, waterfronts). Jane Jacobs claims that there is a plethora of elements in cities that form conditions of borders. Railroad tracks and waterfronts, big city areas having a single use, such as city campuses, civic centres, all of them lead in the creation of urban vacuums in the instant neighboring areas...

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