Atifragility and The Right to the City: The regeneration of Al Manshiya and Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv-Jaffa


  • Gabriel Schwake Tel Aviv University



Henri Lefebvre’s concept of the Right to the City, expresses the right of the citizens to be part and to take part in their city’s creation. Lefebvre's theory was formed as a contra to “top-down” planning, which excluded the citizens from the process of urbanisation and led to the creation of alienated urban environments.
Complexity theorists criticised the "top–down" approach as well, largely due to its desire to simplify the city, in order to re-plan it rationally and efficiently. This simplification, created a “closed system”, which neglected various variables in the urban system, and sought to predict its unpredictable future development. The chase after the efficient city therefore leads to the formation of urban projects, which are not only alienated to their inhabitants, but that are also rigid and unable to adapt to the ever-changing nature of the city.
“Inefficient” urban systems, as Jane Jacobs had shown, have proven to be efficient after all, due to their diffused urban economy, which relied on several small-scale economic and social forces, enabling them to better adjust to unpredicted changes. Nassim Taleb called this type of behaviour Antifragililty, which describes complex systems that do not only remain unaffected by unpredicted changes, but also manage to take advantage of them.
Therefore, one could assume that if more individuals are able to take part and influence the city’s creation, then their Right to the city is more practiced, and the city, due to its fragmentation, is supposed to adjust better to unexpected changes.
In order to support this hypotheses, my research focused on two adjacent neighbourhoods in central Tel-Aviv: Manshiya and Neve-Tzedek. Both built in the 19th century. In 1954, they were declared as slums and designated for deconstruction. Manshiya was torn down in the 1960’s in a failed attempt to build the city’s central business district. Neve-Tzedek was not deconstructed but regenerated in 1980s-1990s.
My research asked: Was there a change in the granted Right to the city between the two projects? And how did this affect the neighbourhood's ability to adapt to unpredicted changes? To answer this question the research focused on the manner each project addressed five different civil rights crucial to the Right to the City: the right for habitation, the right to enjoy the city's infrastructure, the right to difference, the right to take part in the city's planning and the right to take part in the city's physical formation. This was then crosschecked with the manner each project responded to the social, economic and physical changes the city had undergone.
Manshiya's redevelopment was led by large-scale corporations, which excluded the citizens from the process of urbanisation, granted a minimal Right to the city and concluded in a rigid and failed mega-structure. Neve-Tzedek in contrast, was regenerated due to small-scale investments led by the local community, which granted a much larger Right to the city and enabled the neighbourhood to take advantage of the changes in the city, and to turn to one of Tel-Aviv’s most desired areas.


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