Last week, I had a very nice and informative walk around the City of London to “see” the boundaries and spatial control strategies for the ring of steel. I thank Henrietta Williams for kindly accompanying me and for explaining everything she knows about this famous urban territory, created in the 1990s to secure the financial core of London against, at that time, bomb attacks by the IRA.
Jon Coaffee has written many important papers describing the different material and immaterial (technological, political) strategies put in place at the Square Mile (one of the names by which the City is also known) since the 1990s to maintain the ring of steel in place, motivated by ever changing domestic and foreign threats to the security of the powerful businesses situated in this area.
Another interesting work I came across was one by Camilo Amaral on the (re)production of urban enclosures in London – “Urban Enclosure: Contemporary Strategies of Dispossession and Reification in London’s Spatial Production” (2015, unpublished) –, where he analyses various strategies for dispossession and land control in recent urban developments in the English capital. The idea of “tangled control” is particularly useful to understand the material and immaterial forms through which private corporations manage and take control of privatised public areas. It also helps us debate the limits between public and private spaces in the contemporary city. According to Camilo,
“The institution of multiple specific rules, with each place imposing a different set of use norms (such as prohibition of bikes, drinking, or the necessity of leaving a licence on a parking vehicle) transforms the city into an intertwined set of tangled orbits of hierarchy and control.”
I have been revisiting these and other works about securitising urban spaces because of my recent interest in territorial/boundaries control. This has been at the core of my recent work and I am trying to see if there’s any ground for comparison between what is happening in the UK and Brazil with regards to privatised public spaces and the territorial changes triggered by this swap in landownership. So, more to come in this theme soon…