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By Nils Norman
London: Bookworks, 2000
Pages: 76
Dimensions: 6.5 in x 9 in
Cover: soft
Binding: perfect bound
Process: offset
Color: full color
Edition size: 1000
ISBN: 978 1 870699 43 3

This is one of our favorite books. We are really happy that it is still in print and that we can offer it to you. This book had a huge impact on how we look at and think about the ways that people use, try to control, try to resist control, and fight over city and public space.

In helpfully captioned photos from London, New York, and other cities, this book presents barricades, guard-rails, and outdoor seating designed for minimal comfort, anti-sitting and climbing devices and myriad other official models for controlling public behavior. From the other side of the fence, it also documents protest encampments in trees, community gardens and several actions that illegally modified street surfaces.

Bookworks says of this book:

This book addresses two areas of contemporary architecture and design. One is the development of a repressive form of urban architecture and design: Nils Norman has collected photographs of devices incluing surface studs, crowd control barriers etc., that are created in order to control the ever increasing privatised space of inner cities.

This development is linked to a new definition of 'public space' and private property - an urban space that is owned, operated and policed by private interests and corporations. The other is the vernacular architecture of protest culture; the proliferation of impermanent, makeshift, low-impact architectural structures and designs (such as barricades, tree houses and protest camps) that aid activists in the occupation of privatised space. Using images and texts Norman shows the dialectical relationship between 'power structures' and their 'subversive counterparts'.

Read what others had to say about the book:

"In the book The Contemporary Picturesque, Nils Norman gives us a ‘structuralist’ critique of the repetitive and oppressive features of the modern city. For instance, he shows how in the interests of efficient social control, urban planning has devised street furniture that is too small and uncomfortable to lie down on, barriers and bollards that direct the flow of crowds, ubiquitous surveillance cameras, patented anti-climb paint and anti-sitting bumps on fences and pavements. The artist also illustrates the subversive techniques and possibilities of resistance offered by the modern city, such as lock-ons, barricades and tripods, describing the methods used by insurrectionaries and protestors to reclaim urban space from state power. Barricades, for example, ‘unlike the official barriers and guard rails of city spaces, [are] built to obstruct the distribution of capital (and the paid representatives of the state) and to bring it to as long a standstill as possible.’" (READ MORE...)
- By Maja and Reuben Fowkes, translocal.org

"Artist Nils Norman succinctly documents this type of repellant architecture in his book “The Contemporary Picturesque”, which looks to the urban centers of New York and London as sites of such exclusions. He writes, “…street furniture became a subtle, and not so subtle strategy in the battle to manage and supervise the flow and distribution of crowds……The process in part was a deliberate training and perhaps more importantly an internalization of new rules and expectations..” These techniques have been employed in cities across the country, and yet all the bum-proof benches in the world won’t house, feed or provide the basic human rights that are denied to the nations’ poor. What is provided is an on-going whitewash of events that sets the average middle class citizen apart from and indeed, opposed to, our very neighbors." (READ MORE...)
- By Sarah Ross, insecurespaces.net

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