In his science-fiction classic Stand on Zanzibar author John Brunner explores urban themes of decay and renewal that are relevant to people in cities today the tension between higher authority, conformity and controls, the individual, sense of place, and ownership of one's own personal space.
The book offers a clear sense of the impact of gentrification, but also that of de-gentrification.
The protagonist Donald displays many of the fear symptoms (phobias) we might exhibit when confronted with a landscape we are not familiar with, and that we do not feel we have ownership of. However, once Donald understands the context of the place, the way in which the community has adapted it to their needs, and the way their own behaviour has been influenced by previous development and events, he becomes more at ease with his surroundings.
Importantly, he addresses his fears though nostalgia and memory, basing his wayfinding on identifying the familiar and comforting elements of the new landscape.
Some issues are raised here:
1. Does a place have an inherent value and identity (tangible), or is this embodied in the community (intangible)?
2. How is this value realised in a commercial development context?
3. What challenges must be overcome so that it is possible to maintain and build on the value and identity of a place for the future?
4. In order to achieve the above, do we need external control, or can we be self-governing?The role of historic buildings in shaping identity
When considering a commercial redevelopment, it is important to understand the role and value historic places and features have in shaping identity, and generating a commercial interest. Groups who have a long history with a place, understand, and often take for granted at a local level, the role certain buildings, places and services play in their concept of local identity. They may not always use them, but the option to do so is very important.
Translating this sense of heritage to people who are external to the local community, who are migrants or business workers from another country, or even from another part of this country, has always been more difficult.