BIGNES? Critique of the entrepreneurial city

Lecture and screenings by Jochen Becker and Madeleine Bernstorff (Berlin)
June, 22nd 2001

Bigness, as the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas mockingly remarked, is the pinnacle of architecture. Here, Koolhaas refers to his district-sized rail hub ‘EuraLille’, as only greater size can mobilize a “regime of complexity” as well as the “concentrated intelligence of architecture”.

The starting point for the book was an invitation from the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. The shopping complex there, ‘Neue Mitte Oberhausen’, seems like a blueprint for future urban entertainment centers and can be described in many ways: as an overvalued shopping experience, a foolhardy piece of investor’s treachery, a reconstruction of the Ruhr region or as a not to be underestimated new formation of a region, its administration and socio-cultural life.

But elsewhere, too, a wave of large-scale projects is emerging that are intended to intervene deeply in the urban structure, local politics, culture and image of cities, as well as to visualize “post-industrial structural change.” This is not the retreat of politics, but its new formatting. The entrepreneurial city shows itself here not as a retreat of politics, but as a test case of new governmental techniques.

BIGNES? is not spelled with a double S here and implies criticism. For one question remains: How do I criticize the development of large-scale, entrepreneurial urban development projects? The book resolves this into different perspectives in which the city is composed of conflicts and moments of resistance. In nearly 30 contributions, the authors examine existing urban discourses or else use their activist and artistic backgrounds to produce counter-images.

Jochen Becker (ed.): BIGNES? Size does matter | Image/Politics | Urban Action Critique of the Entrepreneurial City, b_books Verlag, Berlin, 2001. 280 pages, 32 Marks.