In the last decade we have witnessed how the street has ever more frequently been the location and at the same time the topic of riots and sometimesviolently suppressed protests. From the anti-globalist manifestations in Seattle and the anti austerity protests in Athens, via the Arabic Spring in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli, and the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, the anti FIFA and Olympic Games protests in Rio to the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ in Hong Kong.
These protests had one thing in common: they symbolically but also physically politicized public space. Public space is the arena where a struggle for the way the country or city is governed unfolds. At the same time public space itself has to be conquered from the police and the order troops for it to function as a place of democracy and freedom of speech.Sometimes public space is not only the backdrop but has the leading rolein this struggle for the emancipation of the people. For example: what gave rise to the immense anti Erdogan protests were his building plans for the combination of a giant mosque and shopping mall, in a reconstruction of a long demolished Ottoman Barracks building in one of the largest secular public spaces in the city, Gezi Park. In that sense the protests were themselves a radical form of urbanism, holding great promise for this city.
This ‘Radical Urbanism’ is what the extremely diverse protests all over the world have in common. Everywhere the status of the street and the issue of ‘ownership’ (Who owns the street?The police or the protesters, the shop owners or the mourning parents of youngsters shot by the police?)lies at the centre of the debate. The form of the protests, the ways they are organized, the symbols they deploy to bring their message across, the public spaces they occupy, carry meaning. The protests and also the riots offer temporary images of another story about the city than the official one, and sometimes offer temporary alternative ways to organize, govern or even plan the city. From the circles on Tahrir square back to the barricades of the Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt Riots in 1975, protests and riots are the essence of ‘Radical Urbanism’.
For the2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in Shenzhen Crimson Architectural Historianswill evoke this worldwide history of decennia in a panoramic drawing‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’that is composed of scenes of riots and protests, fused with their spatial environments. It presents an allegorical street scene in which architecture, protesters, instruments of authority, slogans and other paraphernalia tell a story of the street as the place where democracy is viscerally shaped and represented.