Whereas environmental and social impacts of urban sprawl are widely discussed among scholars from both the natural and social sciences, the spatial consequences of urban decline are nearly neglected when discussing the impacts of land transition. Within the last decade, "shrinkage" and "perforation" have arisen as new terms to explain the land use development of urban regions faced with demographic change, particularly decreasing fertility, aging, and out-migration. Although shrinkage is far from being a "desired" scenario for urban policy makers, this paper argues that a perforation of the built-up structure in dense cities might bring up many positive implications.
Since about the 1980s shrinkage has become a new normality especially for European cities and urban regions. As a consequence of the shrinking process, new dimensions of wastelands appear in the affected cities. Urban planners have to find solutions for these “holes” in the urban fabric and new visions are needed for open spaces. In the last few years, the wilderness concept has emerged in the planning field and it has become a fashionable term, in particular in urban restructuring in eastern Germany. If wilderness is a usable concept for urban restructuring, can wilderness be a new structuring element for urban planning? This article analyzes the mechanisms of formation of wasteland in shrinking cities, and then focuses on related debates in urban planning as well as the debates in urban ecology and nature conservation research. The article concludes by considering different aspects of these debates and the question of which role wilderness can play in shrinking cities is discussed.
A Photovoice Study with Urban Gardeners in Lisbon, Portugal
Krista Harper and Ana Isabel Afonso
Urban gardens are a form of self-provisioning, leisure and activist practice that is cropping up in cities around the world (Mougeot 2010). We present the history and contemporary terrain of Lisbon’s urban gardens and discuss the cultural values that gardeners attach to the practice of growing food in interstitial urban spaces. We present initial findings from our research with an urban gardeners’ association as it attempts to transform informal or clandestine garden spaces into an ‘urban agricultural park’. This coalition of gardeners from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds is reclaiming land and using a participatory design process to create a shared space. They hope to grow vegetables and to re-grow ‘community’ by forging shared experiences in the neighbourhood. We describe how we used Photovoice as a process for exploring residents’ motivations in planting informal and community gardens on public land. What visions of sustainability and the contemporary city emerge from the practice of urban gardening? What kinds of urban gardening practices produce ‘communities of practice’ that cross ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational lines? The Photovoice approach allowed us to examine how gardeners conceptualise their use of urban space as they build new civic identities around gardening and make political claims to gain access and control over vacant land.
This article theorizes the making and unmaking of the urban housing commons in Amsterdam. The article reviews the literature on the urban housing commons, sets out the analytics of use values and exchange values for housing, and situates these analytics within the transition from dominance of industrial to finance capital in the Netherlands during neoliberalization from the mid-1970s to the present. A vibrant housing commons in Amsterdam came into existence by the 1980s because of two social movements that pressed the Dutch state to institutionalize this commons—the New Left movement within the Dutch Labor Party, and the squatters’ movement in Amsterdam. The subsequent shift in dominance from industrial to finance capital has led to the decline of both movements and the erosion of the housing commons.
Jeffrey H. Jackson
By the 1920s, the physical transformation in the urban space of Montmartre led two groups of artists to "secede" from the city of Paris, at least in spirit. Calling themselves the Commune Libre de Montmartre and the République de Montmartre, these painters, illustrators, poets, writers, and musicians articulated a distinctive community-based identity centered around mutual aid, sociability, and limiting urban development. They also reached out to the poor of the neighborhood through charity efforts, thus linking their fates with those of other area residents. Through these organizations, neighborhood artists came to terms with the changes taking place in the city of Paris in the 1920s by navigating between nostalgia and modernism. They sought to keep alive an older vision of the artists' Montmartre while adapting to the new conditions of the post-World War I city.
Urban Exploration in Estonia
Francisco Martínez and Patrick Laviolette
This article outlines narratives of trespass. It analyses relations between the personal and the social in abandoned urban physical surroundings. Grounded in our own duo-auto-ethnographic encounters with off-limit places, the research examines the classic notion of liminality through a set of prisms that are less than orthodox. It does so by stressing the formative and transformative possibilities of those threshold spaces that often get bypassed, surpassed or trespassed. Through a series of vignettes describing moments of urban exploration in different parts of Estonia, our implicit aim is to unsettle such conceptual categories as risk and adventure, material decay and transgression. Explicitly, we argue for revisiting storytelling tropes such as the flâneur or the stalker, freeing them up from their respective leisure and pastime associations.
The renewal machine's struggle to organize hegemony in Turkey
In 2012, an urban renewal project in Eskişehir, Turkey, was initiated with claims of “festive renewal,” challenging the theories of critical urban studies that emphasize the disruptive effects of such projects. Built on a discussion about hegemony, which deploys consent and dissent in its organization, this article ethnographically investigates the tactics and strategies of the renewal machine that mobilized and co-opted parts of the locals into the project while invoking layers of dissent, distrust, and discomfort. The article discusses how historically built political, socioeconomic, and gender inequalities were efficiently detected, reconstituted, and put into the service of the renewal machine while revealing tension and dynamism behind the “festive renewal.” It shows a fragility of hegemony that is neither a given nor a completed template.
Contested spaces and contested politics
The global Right to the City network challenges exclusionary effects of neoliberal urbanization by claiming citizens' rights for access to urban space and to the benefits of urban culture. Artists belong to one of the most vulnerable groups in the context of gentrification and urban exclusion. At the same time, their creative and expressive capacities put them in a privileged position to voice protest. Oscillating between counterhegemony, accommodation, and strategic collusion, a group of artist-activists from the city of Hamburg in Germany have been employing the means of empowered symbolism, activist art, and emancipatory knowledge in order to implement an alterpolitics of space. Their occupation of the historic Hamburg Gängeviertel has successfully repoliticized questions over urban use value and urban access, which had been purposefully excluded from the realm of the political in the revanchist, neoliberal city.
Simmel, Space, and Urban Subjectivities
This article examines the growing scholarly interest in urban religion, situating the topic in relation to the contemporary analytical significance of cities as sites where processes of social change, such as globalization, transnationalism, and the influence of new media technologies, materialize in interrelated ways. I argue that Georg Simmel's writing on cities offers resources to draw out further the significance of “the urban” in this emerging field. I bring together Simmel's urban analysis with his approach to religion, focusing on Christianities and individuals' relations with sacred figures, and suggest this perspective opens up how forms of religious practice respond to experiences of cultural fragmentation in complex urban environments. Drawing on his analysis of individuals' engagement with the coherence of God, I explore conservative evangelicals' systems of religious intersubjectivity to show how attention to the social effects of relations with sacred figures can deepen understanding of the formation of urban religious subjectivities.
Paul H. Gobster
Ecological restoration is becoming an increasingly popular means of managing urban natural areas for human and environmental values. But although urban ecological restorations can foster unique, positive relationships between people and nature, the scope of these interactions is often restricted to particular activities and experiences, especially in city park settings. Drawing on personal experiences and research on urban park restorations in Chicago and San Francisco, I explore the phenomenon of this "museumification" in terms of its revision of landscape and land use history, how it presents nature through restoration design and implementation, and its potential impacts on the nature experiences of park users, particularly children. I conclude that although museum-type restorations might be necessary in some cases, alternative models for the management of urban natural areas may provide a better balance between goals of achieving authenticity in ecological restorations and authenticity of nature experiences.