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City Plan: Concentric Circles, Grids, Complex Patterns (and Rivers and Mountains Too) Social Analysis of Urban Everyday Life Meeting 4 (February 13, 2014)

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Presentation on theme: "City Plan: Concentric Circles, Grids, Complex Patterns (and Rivers and Mountains Too) Social Analysis of Urban Everyday Life Meeting 4 (February 13, 2014)"— Presentation transcript:


2 City Plan: Concentric Circles, Grids, Complex Patterns (and Rivers and Mountains Too) Social Analysis of Urban Everyday Life Meeting 4 (February 13, 2014) Nikita Kharlamov, AAU

3 Going up in the hierarchy… From looking at an individual person and their perception and behavior to large-scale environment and the factors that go into its formation—particularly (today) in the form of real estate What are the specific agents and forces that drive the formation of built environment? Key term: urban development Key question: What drives humans to concentrate in urban environments?

4 Chicago School model of urban growth Ernest W. Burgess (1925) Key growth factor: Population pressure (immigrants) Central agglomeration (centralization) - attractive central zones Decentralization (commerce driving land prices up and pushing the fringes of the city outwards)

5 Chicago (Oops…)

6 Henri Lefebvre: Production of Space Trouble with the Chicago School model: assumes a ‘miracle’ – human communities miraculously transform urban space through just living there Lefebvre’s Hegelian Marxist axiomatic base: focus on political economy and on the capitalist process in its dynamic transformation throughout (modern) history Relevant for us: Because after the fall of socialism and the emergence of post-socialist economies many processes of urban change are driven by essentially capitalist forces of rent extraction Space as a product of human relations of production, consumption, accumulation of capital  urban social centrality (remember Lefebvre’s emphasis on centrality – we will encounter it again when we discuss globalization and urban revolution!) ‘Three spaces’: physical space (built environment itself); representations of space (conceptions that collective agents, such as developers and bureaucrats hold); lived space (space of ordinary human life)

7 Political Economy of Place Urban place (e.g., a district) is understood as an outcome of complex competition between multiple political-and-economic actors—for resources such as land Basic idea of development: accumulation of capital in the form of rent by transforming land so that real estate prices rise (e.g., construct high-rise apartment complexes in place of sparse de- populated ex-rural metropolitan fringes) Growth machine theory (Logan & Molotch, The city as a growth machine, 1976): this machine “can increase aggregate rents and trap related wealth for those in the right position to benefit”— focus on collective and institutional social action that is guided by concrete, discernible interests (motives). Classic case: the building of Chicago. William Ogden (1805-1877), the first Mayor of Chicago: the railway magnate brought the city to the fore as a place of urban centrality (in Lefebvre’s sense)

8 Themes in Sociology of Urban Growth Growth machine idea: formation of coalitions that involve developers (investors, construction companies, real estate entrepreneurs), political actors (local, municipal, city administrations), citizens (resident associations, city councils), and that join forces in driving up real estate prices through (re)development Regulation of urban space through laws, zoning regulations, construction permits, building codes Gentrification: Movement of middle classes into low income areas (pulled by low real estate/rent prices) that leads to general rise in prices and eviction of low income populations Neoliberalism: a set of political economic ideas that emphasizes deregulation, free market, and private property interests Troubles with growth machines: what if coalitions fail? What about welfare, low income populations, social justice? What about cases when governance is not done through legal means? How do we conceptualize such urban phenomena as slumming and squatting? Case of postsocialist cities: what are the agents of urban growth? Who makes decisions and what are the motives? Where are the citizens?

9 Common Division of Urban Forms City (concentrated settlement area with industrial and service economies and a distinct center) Metropolis (center of cultural attraction, node in national and global economy and culture) Suburbia (primarily residential areas surrounding cities, commuter population) Bedroom community («спальный район»): dense high-rise residential districts that are formally within urban areas, but in practice have little by way of commerce, industry, culture and recreation. Characteristic of socialist mass housing projects. Edge cities / postsuburbia: emergence of concentrated, urbanized zones with their own centers outside large cities. Especially in the US: a form of transformed suburbia which over time has accumulated enough employment and cultural opportunities to create its own urbanism. Think of cases in the Moscow Region! Multicentered metropolitan region: extends over a large region and contains many separate centers, each with its own abilities to draw workers, shoppers, residents Important distinction: agglomeration (spatial concentration of economic activities in a traditional urbanized center {city}) vs. conurbation (coalescence of two or more urban centers into one greater networked area). Moscow would typically be described as an agglomeration while Los Angeles is a clear case of conurbation

10 Possible Themes for Photography Gentrification Urban (re)development and its key agents Real estate businesses and their means self-promotion Images of ‘good urban form’ Citizen activism in relation to urban development Traces of previous ‘layers’ of urban form Varieties of actual urban form Edge and satellite cities Commuters and their mundane mobility Transportation, public transit, and means of connecting the city together

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