Architectural crimes and architectural solutions: Peter Clandfield
In The Urban Experience, David Harvey, building on Henri Lefebvre’s accounts of space as something produced, not simply given, observes that ‘[o]nly at certain moments’, such as instances of ‘corruption within a system of planning permissions […] does the nonneutrality of the creation of space become evident’ (Harvey 1989: 187). These words point to the capacity of crime fiction, revolving as it does around forms of corruption, to investigate not only complexities and dangers of urban environments, but also ways in which these environments are constructed and reconstructed both physically and ideologically. Drawing on the ideas of Harvey as well as other progressive urbanists, this essay focuses on recent crime novels that link localized crimes to broader questions of justice involving the built world and its uses and users. Often making effective use of architecture in the construction of their variations on the structural conventions of the crime genre, these novels connect individual urban crimes to less directly violent kinds of spatial and environmental injustice produced by the machinations of well-placed politically powerful people such as developers, architects, planners and politicians. In investigating the ‘architectural crimes’ of corrupt and inequitable urban development schemes, these novels suggest valuable perspectives on the recent economic crisis produced in no small part by just such schemes.