Fallow or Failure? Urbanization in the Age of SpeculationChristopher Marcinkoski
The fallowing of land implies that a process of resource extraction has previously occurred. It suggests a period of intentional recovery and rest for a territory that has recently served an anthropogenically productive purpose. And it also intimates that said productive purpose—or a similar one—will soon be reinitiated on the territory in question as part of an ongoing process of land cultivation and management. In this way, to lie fallow suggests both an active, productive past and—more importantly in the context of design and planning praxis—an equally active and productive future.
Tamensourt, Morocco: the first new town constructed as part of the state’s ambitious 2004 Ville Nouvelle program.
Despite the potential parallels between agricultural and urbanization regimes, this familiar sequence of operations (extract, recover, extract) does not so easily apply to land that has been subjected to contemporary speculative urbanization practices. In these cases, once value has been extracted from a piece of land—either economic value through a series of transactions, or environmental value as a result of stripping and denuding landcover—there is neither the guarantee of recovery or regeneration during the “fallow” period, nor the assurance of future productivity through occupation.
Regardless of the recent academic rhetoric on process and emergence, this reality manifests itself in contemporary urban planning and design practice that is still characterized by the emphasis on outcome—or the image of outcome—above all else. As others have argued, this suggests urbanization is increasingly understood as the manufacture of a saleable product, whether physical or financial, rather than the structuring of an ongoing process capable of accommodating settlement, culture, and commerce.
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