Konstruktioner av en stadskärna: Den postindustriella stadens rumsliga maktrelationer
Doctoral thesis, 2014
This thesis highlights the standpoints of Swedish planning practice towards city centres and emphasises a critical power perspective in respect of the town centre development. The aim is to analyse critically how city centres are discursively constructed in contemporary Swedish urban planning and design and to enhance the understanding of what this means in respect of how spatial power relations in cities are created and consolidated. Given the increase in interest in urban cores and town centres, in both Swedish and European planning practice and discussions on cities, the intention, therefore, is to provide planning practice and research with a critical elucidation of contemporary Swedish town centre development and to supplement current research into town centre development, which is dominated by research based on economic perspectives and studies of best practice. A further intention is to present examples of how the production of urban spaces can be studied on the basis of power perspectives in the field of urban planning and design.
The theoretical and methodological framework of this thesis is based on a discourse theory approach which is combined with a relational perspective on space. This perspective emphasises the relationship between urban space and power and the production of urban space as a political process where the meaning of space is historically and contextually dependent and constantly constructed and reconstructed through concrete action. Discourse theory also offers a number of concepts and logics that have been used in the analysis of the empirical material.
The thesis is based on an empirical study of the transformation of Jönköping city centre, of which the analysis has involved qualitative processing of texts, images and maps relating to the transformation of Jönköping’s central areas as a municipal planning project. The analysis can be likened to a deconstructive reading, the discourse being made visible by breaking up the chain of arguments and inserting them into new contexts. To enhance the understanding of what this means to how spatial power relations in cities are created and consolidated, the empirical analysis is then discussed on the basis of alternative logics which highlight the systems of meaning that do not fit into the given discourse and which emphasise how power operates in the production of space in the planning and design of city centres.
The thesis demonstrates that the form of town centre development studied here can be regarded as a planning strategy which brings about spatial inequality by creating and consolidating differences and hierarchies between centres and peripheries. This occurs when the city centre is constructed as a bearer of future opportunities of the city in the post-industrial era and as a generic place which can represent universal ideals, while the periphery is constructed as an exception which is located at a societal and spatial “outside”. At the same time, the power dimension in the shaping of the urban space is rendered invisible by neutralising political choices so that selected planning strategies appear to be obvious and impossible to question. In contrast to this post-political tendency, the thesis emphasises the need to view the political in the shaping of urban space, where the construction of such space not only reflects social norms and power relations, but also plays an active part in the shaping of society.
concepts of space
urban planning and design
town centre development