Reconstructing spatial narratives as a mode of action research and planning – Dialogical community actions of urban regeneration in the neighborhoods of Ka-la̍k-á, Taipei

Why does the planning profession often disregard the stories of the ordinary citizens?

We all love stories. Sometimes a personal story from the next-door family intrigues us more than the urban history. A shared arcade may be cherished by locals as an eventful route embedded in the community identity through narrative. Yet in declining neighborhoods, the stigmatized tagging of their conditions often eclipses the life stories of the underprivileged residents. This propels the displacement effect of urban renewal or, alternatively, the gentrification of urban regeneration. What would be the role of narratives about spaces and places – spatial narratives – in the process of urban regeneration? And how can the narrative methods be incorporated into participatory planning and action research to facilitate dialogue between the professional and the grassroots?

As an academic studio of urban planning and design, my students and I intended to tackle these questions. We employ filming as the experimental medium of engaging in action research and planning, and ushered in a sequence of planning-in-residency programs to reconstruct spatial narratives of the marginalized yet lively neighborhoods of Ka-la̍k-á, Taipei. Under the pressure of impending urban renewal projects, our major goal was to sustain place identity and social inclusion of the community through bottom-up initiatives. This research article explains how we counteracted the top-down implementation of renewal development to foster alternative community benefit. Therefore, as the editor commented: “this paper offers an account of particular value to students of urban planning or more generally those who wish to do university-community partnership work with policy impact.” We hope our work helps with regeneration at a time when people are besieged by gentrification. We also hope this will be a worthwhile read for those who believe in the power of story to influence action.

Blog post written by Min Jay Kang

We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article HERE. Free 30-day access is available for this article beginning 22 November, 2017.

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