Capital Space

“… we all live in an almost constant state of crisis, in fact an economic crisis, not just of material economics, but also of the economy of desire, with the result that no sooner do we succeed in articulating a certain way of living than it becomes obsolete. We are constantly out of synch with the actuality of our experience.” Suely Rolnik  Molecular Revolution in Brazil, 1986.

The silvery form of Canary Wharf defines our skyline; towering grey shiny suits by day, jewel light box by night. Audible and visible from miles around, Canary Wharf is difficult to ignore and resolutely nameable. It is a centre of global finance, an iconic urban redevelopment project, a glorified shopping centre. The appropriate rhetoric comes thick and fast. But what happens when we stop asking what Canary Wharf is and ask instead: how do we know Canary Wharf and what does Canary Wharf do?

At a moment in time when the world of global capitalism is being fundamentally shaken: by events in the financial markets; by ongoing degrees of global recession; by challenges to the European Union and the Euro, there is an atmosphere of questioning which pervades further than political and economic debates in seats of government and in institutions.

This seems an interesting moment to look more closely at a space called Docklands. What are the economies that formulate the space, and what can they tell us about the actuality of experience in this capital city? What unexpected connections emerge when we immerse ourselves in Docklands’ Canary Wharf, delving inside, around, behind, before, below? Can this moment of financial ‘crisis’ be read through other economies? How do social yet unconscious flows mingle with the material reality of Canary Wharf and the city that surrounds it, to produce Capital Space? What is invested in capital space?

The contemporary city privileges only things of use or exchange values. In this current moment the landscape of the modern city bears the imprint of successive cycles of investment (the ebb and flow of capital investment) in the built environment. New waves of construction leave their mark through characteristic architectural styles or morphological arrangements of different elements, a complex layering of forms and structures. The economy is now so complex it seems pertinent to inquire: to what extent can we recognize the abstract systems on which it relies? To what extent can we decode and endure the contemporary condition of capital space?

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