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Katherine Shonfield

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Katherine Shonfield

Lest we forget: The 'enhanced urban development' referred to in AJ's summation of the Urban Task Force report last week is not enough.

Ask anyone in history, from Poulson to nato forces bombing Belgrade, and they'll tell you they are enhancing urban development.

Amid the flowering of the bullet points, the report's most pertinent words are in its title: Urban Renaissance.

Renaissance - possibly the sole triumph of Western civilisation, still untarnished by the re-readings of and doubts about the past, so widespread in the past 20 years.

What are the aims of city re-birth? The riba Gold Medal acceptance speech by Pasqual Maragall has got to be the how-to-build-your-own-Renaissance equivalent of a missive from Lorenzo de Medici. He says:

Total war on poverty. Poverty and wealth segregate the city. The private security forces policing wealthy areas are every bit as excluding as no- go areas of deprivation.

Build good fortune a short-cut. This is the purpose of grand projects. Architecture can break spells. Gehry's museum and Foster's underground have transformed Bilbao from a terrorised city to a site of life and construction.

Combine existing symbols with new ones. Otherwise antiquity becomes mere repetition. Find a formula unique to each city for doing this. This means we have to know what is important in each city and celebrate this.

New symbols matter. They don't depend on function; every urban construction, from containing walls to trees, housing to schools, adds to a city's symbolic wealth.

The trampled-on, visible and corporeal city is one of the few, lasting concepts of present and future held in common.

Within 20 years we, like Barcelona, can equate 'city' with 'betterment'.

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