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The Shard: Financing Space and Life

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

The Shard: the spectacle of financing space and life

The city landscape has always been marked by networks of buildings, monuments, statues, 'heterotopias', and so forth, through which the possibilities of how the city was to be occupied and used were constantly woven and developed. City life was an on-going engagement and negotiation between place, aspiration, security, governance, threat, and transgression. Whilst this continues to be the case, the contemporary city is also undergoing a restructuring that makes of it a resource for investment and a generator of values, transforming it into a spectacle of monumentality. If so, this monumentality is nevertheless a schizophrenic one, since it ceases to work through the negotiated connections of city-life, but instead presents the built environment as so many isolated signifiers and edifices that are expressive of processes of financialization and valuation (the economic life), and yet which simultaneously stand, on the horizon, as immovable and eternal reminders that 'there is no alternative'. Paradoxically, finance must be produced yet this production must also be inevitable.

A panel of papers, presented prior to the screening of Tom Wolseley's 2017 film Vertical Horizons: Living with the Shard in the City, will engage with these themes, seeking to elucidate the contemporary changes through which the city, and city life, are increasingly subject to the conjunction of finance, design, and planning, and by which the spectacle of capitalism simultaneously presents itself and denies itself, presenting both its inadequacies and the compensation for these inadequacies so as to encourage a new entrepreneurial imaginary, and an ever more individualised fantasy of investment. Ever since Regan's endorsement of 'trickledown', the capitalistic dream that investment in opportunities such as the Shard will help to improve the prosperity of their immediate localities has not only refused to diminish in the face of the evidence to the contrary but has, peculiarly, grown stronger. It seems that, the more capital becomes discredited, the more trenchant the communal belief in it becomes.

Vertical Horizons is a powerful meditation upon the Shard as a physical structure on the city skyline that also traces the 'immaterial' aspects of its financing and use, and combines these with a consideration of the personal impact of the building on the director's experience and memory of London. Vertical Horizons will be proceeded by a screening of Max Colson's short 2017 film, Construction Lines, and followed by a Q&A with the director.

This event is free to attend, however booking is required here


Lucy Finchett-Maddock (Sussex): 'Vertical Possession'

Harley Ronan (Birkbeck): 'The Derivative City'

Anne Bottomley (Kent): 'Two Films: Two architectures of city'

Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou (UCL): 'TBA'

Contact Nathan Moore for further details

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