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On the Under-Bridge

Holguin-Veras, S; (2007) On the Under-Bridge. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This study will focus on the reading and interpretation of urban bridges, the spaces created underneath their spans—the 'underbridge condition'—and the different experiences that these spaces generate. City bridges have two distinct types of users—those passing above/through, and those wandering below—and these users engage with two opposing realms of the bridge. The spaces created by bridges are of a special kind of complexity that maintains a delicate balance between the realms by allowing the space to be shared by two user groups, while keeping them disconnected. The focus of this report is on the 'below' users, the 'abject', whose activities elicit a kind of moral disgust in the center of society. By analyzing concepts such as borders, disgust, identity, and the nature of abjection in relation to the underbridge condition, this study will attempt to find a correlation between the materiality of urban bridges and the accumulation of this type of activity. The report will also focus on the social structure of the abject, and will place the underbridge condition within the discourse on the street and place-making in the city. The first portion of the report, entitled The Democracy of the UnderBridge will a) extend the idea of public space from the street to the underbridge, while discussing the three most pressing obstacles for achieving this purpose: psychological borders, the preeminence of the street as loci of urban activities and attention, and issues of disgust and b) discuss the social structure of the abject starting from trust as a common element that holds societies together, passing through a discussion on the role of filth in identity-making, and ending in an interpretation of Foucault's concept of heterotopias as applied to the underbridge condition. The second and third portions of the report will attempt to draw geographies of prostitution and homelessness, as these are elements of abjection that can be consistently found in underbridge spaces. The focus will be on place-making and geographic narratives traced through the pervasiveness of these models of urban depravity and filth. It is important to note the relative difficulty in locating sources that treat the urban abject as a unique group: either the interpretation is too limited (which is the case with specialized studies on one or another kind of abjection—of these there are many) or it is too broad (as is the case with definitions of abjection in relation to racial, gendered, or religious considerations, none of which are of interest to this study). The sources used were chosen for their involvement in the fields of study which I believe can best relate to the underbridge condition as distinct from the concepts of 'the city' and 'the street'. Finally, in order to illustrate the various concepts discussed in the study, photographic evidence has been accumulated throughout the summer of 2007 in the city of Newark, New Jersey. There are also images of Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and Borough Market and the National Theatre in London. The appendix includes a selection of images that are not part of the text, but will illustrate the concepts discussed in the study.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: On the Under-Bridge
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1569572
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