Constructions of urban hierarchies: Spatial power relations of the post-industrial city
Paper in proceedings, 2014
Given the increased interest in city centres, both in Swedish and European planning practice and discussions on cities, this project provides a critical elucidation of Swedish town centre development, seen in a European context. Focusing on the relationship between urban space and power, the project deepens central themes from my doctoral thesis Constructions of a City Centre: Spatial power relations of the post-industrial city (Swedish title: Konstruktioner av en stadskärna. Den postindustriella stadens rumsliga makthierarkier), especially examining mechanisms of spatial inclusions and exclusions. The aim is to analyse what discursive constructions of the city centre means in respect to how spatial power relations are created and consolidated in contemporary Swedish town centre development.
The theoretical and methodological framework is based on a discourse theory approach which is combined with a relational perspective on space. This perspective emphasises how discursive constructions of the city influence urban space and the relationship between urban space and power, as well as the production of urban space as a political process where the meaning of space is constantly constructed and reconstructed through concrete action.
The study demonstrates that the form of town centre development studied 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 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 planning is characterized by a post-political tendency, where power dimension in the shaping of the urban space is rendered invisible by neutralising political choices.
city centre development
meaning of space