Street life and street culture: between Early Modern Europe and the present - Follow on

Award Holder

Dr Fabrizio Nevola

Higher Education Institute

Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, University of Bath

Project Summary

This proposal for follow-on-funding is to continue the work of the 'Beyond Text' AHRC-funded network Street life and street culture: Between Early Modern Europe and the present. The aim of the project is to extend our discussion to include those involved with advising on and making public policy in relation to the public realm of the contemporary street.

Today the street is often synonymous with anxiety, worry, and anti-social behaviour: nothing of this is new. The opposite is also true, however, as urban renewal, major infrastructure and monumental architectural projects are invested by planners and policy-makers with the expectation that they will redeem depressed areas and renew the social and physical fabric of neighbourhoods and communities: again, this also applies to the past. Led by historians who are specialists on the cities, architecture, and social life of Europe in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, the Street Life and Street Culture network over the two years of its existence has brought together those who work on and are involved in the life of historic and contemporary cities and streets. To date, the Street Life and Street Culture network has involved architectural and art historians and theoreticians, historians, planners, public officials, artists and critics, film-makers, a sound artist and an actor, to create an interdisciplinary, international community drawn from the UK, USA and Europe. The aim has been to create a fruitful dialogue with multiple voices that will allow all of us to view the lives of cities, as witnessed along streets, through comparative perspectives.

The Street Life and Street Culture network seeks to understand the broader issues concerning the street as a place of cultural mediation and the construction of identities by comparing perspectives and methodologies from different disciplines, and confronting and comparing Early Modern experiences with our contemporary world as a means of throwing new light on issues. The street is a result of the urban process, a continuously reinforced dynamic between private and public spheres and the negotiation of public, social, and private identities. The built fabric of the street - not just a road along which people speed but a physical and social space created by the buildings that front onto it - forms an essential place for everyday social interaction, as well as a possible setting for spectacular events. The social relationships and the events that take place in the space of the street give particular meanings and resonances - temporary, local, national, or historical - to an individual street as well as to a city as a whole.

The network has sought an historical understanding of contemporary problems concerning street culture by addressing issues that may also help reframe current issues, thus feeding into public policy. This objective has been advanced by the network's varied constituencies and the involvement of our original project partners, CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment). The primary aim of this bid is to take the network one step further, to engage directly with policy/practice participants and thus to take the discussion we have initiated to a different level. In so doing, we seek again to show the value and significance of historical precedents from the Early Modern period for the debates that deal with contemporary concerns pertaining to the form and use of the public urban space of streets.


Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.