Globally red light districts have arisen as integral parts of big cities, but are confronted with top-down planning of urban renewal – usually met with resistance from red light zones to remain active in officially closed down areas – and gentrification. They shape the heart of the city, but hold a precarious position.
Due to the rhythm of red light districts, which come alive at night, conflicts of interest and tensions between residents and the sex industry arise. Urban planners and politicians are occupied with promoting an ‘attractive’ city, something red light districts are considered to defy. Therefore red light districts are the least safe and predictable parts of cities. The changing legal frameworks and shifting social stance towards the sex industry are influenced by processes of urban renewal, intertwined with socio-economic and real estate dynamics across the city.
This complicated situation poses questions like: what is the significance of sex work for the architecture of the city, particularly in red light districts that are designated for urban renewal? What are the consequences for urban development of the city? How should urban planners deal with red light districts that dominate inner circles of the cities, even more so when prostitution doesn’t officially exist? What can different cities learn from each other?
In this programme, Tsaiher Cheng will provide an outline of the urban situation of red light districts in five different cities as she has researched for Red Light City, namely Hong Kong, Taipei, Montreal, Antwerp and Amsterdam. With reports from these five cities, she will compare the similar phenomena red light districts have to deal with: the impact on the city’s urban form, its spatial organization and distribution. She will also talk about the differences between the cities in dealing with red light districts, determined by local policies considering prostitution and the cultural and historical contexts sex workers are working in. Avoiding a normative approach towards prostitution, this evening will be about the profound impact red light districts have on cities and city life, materialized in the inner parts of cities, which are designated for urban renewal.
Hans Ibelings will open the event and moderate the evening. Stefan Metaal, Rob van der Bijl and Ellen Kroon are invited to respond to the book and to enter a panel discussion and a discussion with the audience afterwards. Photos featured in the book of the different red light districts in the five centralized cities by photographer Roel Backaert will be displayed during the event.
The book will be available for purchase at the event € 25-,
About the speakers:
Rob van der Bijl is an urban planner and consultant. He is co-owner at FavaNet, an association powered by independent professionals that provide solutions for spatial planning and social empowerment.
Tsaiher Cheng is an architect, urban planner and intercultural urban researcher between East Asia and West Europe. She is founder of Boundary Unlimited, an architectural design and urban policy consultation agency based in Amsterdam.
Hans Ibelings is an architectural critic and historian. He was founder of the magazine A10 new European architecture and is currently editor of The Architecture Observer.
Ellen de Kroon is advisor of project and site development at GEBOUW ikhouvanjou.
Stefan Metaal is lecturer and researcher of urban renewal and social issues in neighbourhoods of cities and new towns at the University of Amsterdam.
Admission is free, but reservation is necessary.