U&U - GHENT
U&U - 9th International PhD Seminar in
Urbanism and Urbanization / 7-9 February 2018
Department of Architecture and Urban Planning,
University of Ghent
After successful editions in Leuven, Venice, Barcelo-
na, Paris, Delft, Lausanne, the next edition of the PhD
seminars in urbanism and urbanization will be hosted
in Ghent, Belgium. Like previous editions, the seminar
seeks to bring together students writing their PhD
thesis in urbanism, working within very different dis-
ciplinary traditions, combining historical research, de-
sign research and different forms of urban research.
The community supporting this seminar series over
the years shares an interest in work that tries to
speak across the divide between urban studies and
the city-making disciplines, seeking to combine the
interpretation of the process of urbanization with the
commitment and care for the urban condition in all
its manifold manifestations, and bring together urban
theory and the theoretical grounding of urbanism.
The seminar welcomes all PhD students working in
this mixed ﬁ eld. The call for papers of each edition
foregrounds a set of themes that will be given special
attention. We invite students to respond to these the-
matic lines, however, papers addressing other themes
and concerns will also be taken into consideration.
On Reproduction1 :
Re-Imagining the Political
Ecology of Urbanism
Each period of urbanization comes with its
urbanisms. At times these are clearly deﬁ ned
and constitute distinct paradigms that ﬁ ll hand-
books, structure curricula and form schools. At
other times they are contested and subject of
vigorous debate. Today, urbanism is a ﬁ eld in
ﬂ ux, forced to engage in new urban questions
and address pressing social and ecological
concerns. As a direct result the contemporary
list of epithets qualifying the notion urbanism
has become virtually endless.
In this edition of the urbanism and urbanization
seminar we want to think the urban question
as a matter of political ecology, joining the
transdisciplinary efforts to think nature inside
the political economy of urbanization and to
develop a perspective on urbanism that unites
ecological and social justice concerns. In order
to do so, we proceed from a notion which has
deﬁ ned urbanism within poltical economy,
namely the question of ‘social reproduction’.
Reproduction is a term rooted in Marxist voca-
bulary that provides an analytic lens to think
the ways in which the logics of capitalist pro-
duction have been socially embedded. Urban
questions can be understood as questions of
social reproduction, in which typically three
concerns intersect: (1) the reproduction of life
itself pointing to the bio-political core of urba-
nism; (2) the reproduction of value, thinking the
division of labor, the role of paid and non-paid
labor, the split between use and exchange
value, internal and external economies, posi-
tive and negative externalities, etc.; (3) the
reproduction of the institutional and infras-
tructural arrangements put in place to enable
production processes, interrogating the ﬁ xed
capital and infrastructure cities are made of.
Urbanisms are speciﬁ c propositions regarding
the collective arrangements needed in order to
address and organize questions of social repro-
duction in an urbanizing society.
Within the historical Marxist perspective ‘social
reproduction’ has typically served as a critical
lens to expose urbanism as an ideological pro-
ject that provides the social support for capi-
talist production and uneven capital accumu-
lation (Harvey, Castells, Préteceille, …). Beyond
the ideological critique, starting from questions
of social reproduction is also an invitation to
think alternative urbanisms and imaginaries
to this dominant story of uneven development,
dispossession, gentriﬁ cation and environmental
injustice. Can we imagine urbanisms that do
not treat social reproduction as an afterthought
of production, as a necessary form of compen-
sation. What do such reproductive urbanisms
that renders the lives of people living in cities
more just, more meaningful and more inclusive
Revisiting the question of ‘social reproduction’,
we ﬁ nd ourselves in the midst of discussions
that are both new and old at the same time,
discussions regarding the metabolic basis of
our cities, the ways cities care for their citizens,
keep them healthy or make them sick; the ways
we share and distribute resources, both physi-
cal resources as well as social opportunities;
the ways we feed our cities and fail to give
citizens control over what they eat; the ways we
make citizens mobile or not, car-dependent or
blessed with multiple mobilities. The vigorous
yet contested quest for alternative urbanisms
makes us aware of the rather limited terms
through which the ﬁ eld of urbanism has tradi-
tionally addressed questions of social repro-
duction, placing the emphasis on the reproduc-
tion of labor and the concomitant concern for
housing and infrastructure. Thinking urbanism
in the reproductive nexus is an invitation to
think the biopolitical basis of urbanism in its
full breath, reaching out to the key discussions
that shape the urban agenda in the Anthropo-
cene (or should we say ‘capitalocene’).
The return to questions such as water, energy,
food, the circular use of resources brings back
to the ﬁ eld of urbanism subjects that have
been rendered absent by dominant urbanist
discourse. The political ecology literature fore-
grounds the various ways in which processes
of urbanization are deeply implicated in socio-
natural processes. Urbanists are expanding
their scope beyond the hard-wired questions
of housing, producing an expanded understan-
ding of the urban question. At the same time,
the operational translations that are made to-
day of this new urban question herald a rather
troubling reduction of the urban agenda within
a functionalist framework. Today the discourse
of urbanism is rapidly being taken over by the
new-speak of the circular economy, smart use
of resources, the shortening of supply chains,
the reduction of carbon emissions, the balan-
cing of ecosystem services, etc. Urbanists are
making an effort to think the process of urba-
nization within the food, water, energy nexus,
thinking urban services as eco-systems ser-
vices, meeting the challenges of urbanization
by nature-based solutions. These debates bring
biopolitical questions back central stage, yet
tend to produce a framing of these debates in
a rather functionalist, technical and managerial
We invite papers that reconstruct the intellec-
tual itineraries urbanism has walked in addres-
sing the seemingly new metabolic questions.
How do we think key questions of social and
environmental reproduction without falling
back into a vulgar functionalist reduction of the
city and urbanism?
The politics of the urban are deﬁ ned by groups
that join forces in addressing the speciﬁ c
conditions that the process of urbanization
subjects them to. The process of urbanization
literally moves and manoeuvers people into
new positions, subjecting them to new predi-
caments that move them in turn. Urbanisms
are deﬁ ned by the intellectual mobilities and
mental capacities that move people to not
simply be subjected to the process of urbani-
zation but rather to become the subject of their
shared history. The reproduction of urbanisms
is contingent upon the production of concrete
experiences that make urban development part
and parcel of a divided social consciousness
and collective imaginary. This is true for the
dominant urbanisms through which the urban
condition is shaped, but also holds true for any
effort to shape an alternative.
We invite papers that seek to think processes
of urban formation and urban change in rela-
tionship to the urban movements from which
they emerged and which deﬁ ned their original
motivations. When were urbanisms part of
food movements, housing movements, environ-
mental movements, mobility movements, etc.?
Which citizen groups, which political constel-
lations, which communities of practice, which
schools of thought, which disciplinary forma-
tions shape the urban project today?
Speciﬁ c urbanisms typically deﬁ ne the dividing
lines between what is internalized and exter-
nalized in the process of urbanization, between
what is placed in the centre and what is rende-
red absent. Urban political ecology questions
the social implications of the socio-political
consequences of speciﬁ c ecological choices
and thereby forces us to rethink the speci-
ﬁ c positionalities and geographies that have
undergirded the history of urbanism. Questions
of social reproduction, questions regarding
cooking, food growing, child rearing, educa-
tion, maintenance and repair have, more often
than not, been rendered absent, repressed and
treated as secondary. The history of urbanism
tends to reproduce the dominant geographies
and territorialities of centre and periphery, here
and overseas, production and consumption.
Taking political ecology seriously requires us to
write the history of urbanism from elsewhere.
New food geographies invite us to think the
urban food metabolism beyond the town-
country divide. The metabolic perspective
produces new geographies of waste but also
new riches and resources previously neglected
We invite papers that move the history of urba-
nism to neglected historical sites. We welcome
papers that actively seek to decolonize the ﬁ eld
of urbanism and dismantle the core-periphery
relationships, the geographies of uneven deve-
lopment reproduced by the urbanism.
The 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis might be
understood as a crisis of social reproduction,
the crisis of the excesses to produce hou-
sing in the commodity form, packaged and
repackaged as a ﬁ nancial product. The crisis
produces at the same time a heightened awa-
reness of the need to think the economies of
cities beyond the market and imagine alterna-
tive economies that may save our cities from
ﬁ nancial speculation, recover urban value as
use value, re-localize the circulation of capi-
tal and that undergird the governance of the
urban commons. Thinking alternative urbanism
requires the construction of an alternative
theory of value. The question of social repro-
duction is the obvious subject to think the
transition from efﬁ ciency to sufﬁ ciency, to think
urban development beyond growth.
We invite papers that reﬂ ect on the way in
which urbanisms have served as the experi-
mental growth for alternative reﬂ ections on
the economies of cities, from the historical
reﬂ ections of authors such as Henri Lefebvre,
over Jean Remy, André Gorz, Jane Jacobs, Ivan
Illich and others to contemporary efforts to
think the economy of the commons, the role of
community currencies, the sharing economy,
the decommodiﬁ cation of housing, the pooling
of resources. We invite people to think the role
of design in deﬁ ning the pertinent scales at
which these new economies can be articula-
ted, deﬁ ning the collective units of interven-
tions that articulate virtuous cycles of social
reproduction and within the contours of which
the balance between the quest for autonomy
and the recognition of open logics of exchange
can be articulated.
1 The thematic focus of the 9th edition of the U&U
seminars draws upon the collective work of Michiel
Dehaene and Chiara Tornaghi and their joint efforts to
mount the International Forum for an Agroecological
Urbanism to be launched at the meeting of the AESOP
sustainable food planning group in Coventry, UK,14-15
November 2017 (https://aesopsfp.wordpress.com/call-
for-papers/). See also: Tornaghi & Dehaene, Food as an
urban question, and the foundations for a reproductive,
agroecological, urbanism. (forthcoming). Dehaene, M.,
Tornaghi, C.., and Sage, C. (2016) ‘5.2 Mending the
metabolic rift – placing the ‘urban’ in Urban Agricul-
ture’. In Urban Agriculture Europe. Ed. by Lohrberg, F.,
Scazzosi, L. Licka, L., and Timpe, A. Berlin: Jovis.
Table of Contents
Ethnographies of design practices
Urbanism of temporality. Tracing the impact of food and shelter rehabilitation networks
on the production and reproduction of urban realities in Marka camp, Jordan
A critical look at regional planning: Jean Rémy and the concept of urban externalities
Unveiling Latin American territories; The Travesías of the Valparaíso School as a critical
practice of the planetary urbanization
Alvaro Mercado Jara
Live to understand: reﬂ ection on an ethnography of a high rise social housing estate in
Sites & Strategies
Re-imagining the collective space
Spontaneity in everyday space: Linking Social and Spatial through an Urban Design
Governing the air: knowledge, infrastructures, contestation
Nicola da Schio
Construction and its contrary. The role of demolition in the project of the city
Anna Livia Friel
Limits and inevitabilities of dams in the North American machine-territory
The Italy of the factories. Narrations, representations, images
Luis Antonio Martin Sanchez
The Northbothnian technological megasystem: Urbanization, territorial metabolism and
The strategies of territorial development in the test of coastal dynamics. From the mobi-
lity of the coastline to the spatio-temporal depth of the coastal area
Land for food. The Interaction of Urban Planning and Regional Food Planning
Waste space and recycling practices: the case of the Abattoirs in Brussels
Energy transition in the nebular city: a socio-spatial perspective on the case of heat in
Reinterpreting the territory’s resourcefulness
From Pipeline to Landscape: a Landscape-Driven Design for Stormwater Management
Brussels. (De)construction of a productive narrative
The Post-Growth City: Towards an Urban Research Agenda for the Post-Growth Society
Giorgos Koukouﬁ kis
Re-emerging landscapes: militarised territories from the Cold War period
The industrialization and the construction of the Alpine city-territory
The Congenital Defective Impetuses and Postnatal Distorted Development. Research on
the Impetuses and Problems in the New Towns’ Development of China
Waterscapes in transformation in the ‘Uitkerkse Polder’. Water as a protagonist for chan-
ging accessibility in landscapes challenged by infrastructures for climate resilience
Reviewing post-mining procedures in view of the potential incursion of landscape urba-
nism in resource extraction
Movements (part I)
Suburban place-making: ‘place distinctiveness’ as manifestation of political-economic
coalitions : Antwerp, c.1860-c.1940
Spatial fragmentation and self-organisation: a negative relation in
Igor Moreno Pessoa
(E)valuating the production of social space: A critical atlas of a residential subdivision in
Urban(ism) Movements: Occupying Central São Paulo
Another Geography of the Belgian Dispersed Settlements
Commons / Alternative economies
Neighbourhood as a socio-spatial common. A neo-Nolli map of Wrangelkiez, Berlin-
The garden cities of the 21st century
Slow builders in accelerating urbanity. The underwhelming radicality of La Poudrière,
Philippe De Clerck
Thermae as commons. Guide lines for the project of thermal landscapes
Re-designing the incremental city in times of climate change: design investigations into
the consolidated riverbank settlements of Guayaquil, Ecuador
Historicizing Ecological Urbanism: Paul Duvigneaud, the Brussels Agglomeration and
the inﬂ uence of ecology on urbanism (1970-2016)
The place given to and the place taken by Tionghoa in the postcolonial Indonesia. A
case study on Semarang
Movements (part II)
From dissensus to modernist consensus. On the irruption and reproduction of spatial
orders in 20th century Guadalajara.
Luis Angel Flores Hernandez
De-hierarchizing Belo Horizonte’s foundational plan, building theory from off the map
Patricia Capanema Alvares Fernandes
Death and life of citizen initiatives through participatory public policies in Madrid:
towards an open source urbanism or towards the end of it?
Challenging the capitalist cityscape? The inclusion of citizens in vacant space reuses in
Barcelona and Budapest
Luca Sara Brody
Limits and inevitabilities of dams in the North American machine-
Università Iuav di Venezia
Supervisor: Lorenzo Fabian
Expected thesis defence: April, 2019
Dams have been essential for the growth of population and its prosperity. Men have been building dams for 5,000 years.
Last century, 75,000 dams have been built in the United States. It has been estimated that by 2020 the 85% of those
barriers will reach the end of the designed life-span. Over the past 30 years approximately 900 dams have been removed
(in the US) due to ecological concerns, calling into question the supply model and the idea of the City. Construction of
dams complied to the inescapable necessity of progress, their demolition is driven by the search for an original landscape.
Two American stories of spatial and social modification are a chance to explore and problematize the limits and the
inevitabilities of dams in contemporary.
Dams have symbolized the Prometheus (Kaika 2006) of civil and economic progress; they played a central
role in the agricultural and industrial development of entire nations. Hundreds of thousands of dams have
been built in the world during the last century (World Commission on Dams 2000); emerging countries,
today, [not] exploit the inheritance and the knowledge accumulated by the previously emerged countries and
quench the thirst for water and energy through the construction of augmented concrete walls along the rivers.
The collective imaginary, of different generations, which spontaneously alludes to the great works of civil
engineering, inevitably refers to a rather clear historical (and psychological) phase: Modernity; and in this
process of popular representation the United States symbolize the effigy. In North American territory, more
than 75 thousand dams have been built, it means more than one dam a day over the last two centuries
(Babbit 1998). During the Great Depression dams meant a shared hope. Naturist ideologies, stolen from
Ralph Waldo Emerson, that allowed to build an ambiguous relationship of aesthetic and functional
dependence between man and nature, justified the only thought. The capacity to transform geographical and
daily scales determined them as the solution of an historical crisis to be left behind. According to Rowe
(1994), in North America, the long process of acceptance of modernity occurred precisely with those great
infrastructures that became part of people's lives, radically transforming habits and styles. The scalar duality is
the key for a critically reading of the artefacts and for understanding their value in a certain historical context:
the territorial transformation (I purely refer to the realization of a man-made lake that ennobles ‘dangerous
and turbulent’1 rivers) shows all the strength of the human genius. The distribution of water and energy,
which miraculously makes homes clean, intimate, welcoming and personal (Kaika, Swyngedouw 2000) is
proof of the rightness of that effort. Through this ‘scalar gap’ a relationship of transcendence between
individuals and infrastructures comes up and so, the pilgrimage towards the great works of civil engineering
assumes the value of a ritual among the touristic and the economic. Bridges, railways, dams became divine
material and therefore weapons, publicly manipulated, to claim man rights on the environment; those objects
later formalized the "public good" (Goubert 1989), their consequent spatial residue constructed the places
where the relationship between city and nature would then have been partially mediated.
The Second Great War had obviously undermined the credo in the heroic purpose of technology, which
nevertheless still represented the only known model to grow on one side and to rebuild on the other side (of
the planet). In the early seventies Jencks (1977) posed the historical passage from modernism to
postmodernism and Harvey (1989) recognized a mutation of capitalism in the economic paradigm, in those
same years, only after a dizzying rush to dams, the construction trend paused. The map of the country was
punctuated in every corner, the geographical space and the limit of the resources’ exploitation that derives
from it, the passage of time and the deterioration of the physical structures under its action, mixed with a
renewed ecological sensitivity laid the fundamentals for a crisis that would explode few years later.
Notes of the candidate
This paper collects a series of reflections that partly form the critical package of my doctoral thesis that was
born a couple of years ago following the reading of an article where emerged clearly (the idea) that the
demolition of dams could have marked the prodromes of an unexpected future. In the last twenty years about
nine hundred dams have been demolished in the North American territory2. It seems therefore that the
1 Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech at Boulder (Hoover) Dam was published in newspaper and broadcast at radios all over the nation.
Address at the Dedication of Boulder Dam, September 30, 1935, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
2 American Rivers Dam Removal database since 1999: americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/restoring-damaged-rivers/dam-removal-map.
(twentieth-century) model of landscape engineering got into crisis and that the dams are facing the end of
their life cycle. Rereading Thomas Khun (2009) one could identify the state of play in a phase among "the
birth of anomalies" and "crisis of the paradigm" supposing that the demolition of those artifacts is the
"scientific revolution". But the "normal science" (Engineering), into a severe crisis, is questioned by Ecology
– a multi-disciplinary science that from niche knowledge of the eighteenth century becomes commonly
shared by the environmental movement in the second half of the twentieth century – and by the anti-
economic maintenance interventions addressed by the new environmental awareness. Furthermore, the
demolition is dubious due to the uncertainty that itself implies (The Aspen Institute 2002) (the disciplines
called into question have not accumulated experience enough to define theories, methods and practices), and
with a larger scale view appears the fundamental role that the dams have had, and still perform, in the
construction and survival of the City. A recent article (Maavara et alii 2017) published in Nature Journal clearly
redraws the evidence with which climate change is inevitably also linked to the construction of dams:
sediments carried by rivers and blocked by barriers (dams) have an impact on the carbon cycle within the
terrestrial atmosphere. The annual report (ASCE 2017) published by the American Society of Civil Engineers
that investigates the health profiles of major American infrastructures, reporting manifest numbers,
recognizes the value of such a system in the water and energy supply for the entire nation, and it has been
estimated that a clear state of poor maintenance demands an investment of about forty-five billion dollars for
structural adjustments. These are some of the data that establish the debate between the limits and the
inevitabilities (of dams) whose problematization is the substance of my research. A first part of the thesis
(summarized in the previous lines) has been dedicated to the recognition of the literature on the theme: a
broader and more generic one from which I develop a reflection on the role of dams and on the geological
capacity of man demonstrated in the twentieth century, and a more specific one, ascribable to the object in
question, that allowed me to build a first genealogy of families of problems that drive the demolition. A
second part (subject of this article) was dedicated to the description of two American stories that offer
interpretative tools to relocate on the territory, inductively, the bipolarism between Demolition and
Conservation that has emerged in the study of structural data. Maria Kaika (2009) speaks of “hidden form”
(of the infrastructure), Pierre Belanger (2016) of “invisible scale” (of the infrastructure), in both it seems clear
the idea that there is a space on the planet, unknown to most people, in which man has built the supply
machine that has always marked the limits between urban space and its background. The places, where the
paradigm of the race to the natural resource has tragically marked the soils, become object of interest of this
paper whose text moves freely among the issues that have gradually emerged and that seemed to me more
urgent and adhering to the context. A certain ‘academic unruliness’ can be found in knowing and exploring
the facts of the territory with the eyes of the gold miner; a couple of trips to the United States represented the
essential tool (of an architect-urbanist) to observe, know and understand the places described and mapped
Two stories of North American dams
Diary one, part one
The hydrogeological district of the Klamath River [fig.1], which flows between Oregon and California, covers
about twelve square miles of biological, morphological and climatic diversity. The two Upper and Lower
basins – one marked by natural lakes and bas-relief deserts and the other characterized by steep mountains
and forests (Andersson 2003) – have been for decades the epicenter of two massive transformation projects.
The reclamation and therefore the development of some agricultural areas combined with the construction of
different dams for electricity production, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have contributed to
the slow decline of the water quality that evidently impacted on the native tribes who have been inhabiting
those places for centuries (Secretary of the Interior 2012). The Upper basin, since the first settlements of
Euro-Americans coming from the East, was characterized by agricultural areas (mainly orchards) that were an
important economic income of local communities. The Upper Klamath covers about the 40% of the entire
district but it receives only the 12% of annual rainfall, and the lake, despite the large surface, has an average
depth relatively low. The natural supply system therefore has minimum storage capacity and in 1878 a group
of resident farmers established a first company (Linkville Water Ditch Company) for the control and
management of surface water with irrigation purposes. The invention of the Francis turbine and the
consequent rush to the construction of pioneering pumping stations and small hydroelectric power facilities
meant an epochal change: the water could have been extracted, stored, distributed in shorter times and it
could have easily reached different heights. At this first revolution was added a political will that marked
forever the geography of the Klamath river: in 1902 the president Theodore Roosevelt signed the
Reclamation Act; in 1903 the engineers J. T. Whistler and H. E. Green looked for potential wet areas to be
reclaimed for agricultural purposes; in 1905 the Secretary of the Interior E. A. Hitchcock authorized the
Klamath Project. The rivers Wood, Williamson and Sprague, the major tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake,
and the Clear and Gerber lakes become the main water resource for about 235 thousand acres of reclaimed
The region was going to experience a period of abundance then called ‘Orchard Boom’ (in Kramer 2003). In
those decades, there were also stories of successes, failures, envies and business challenges that, then, merged
into the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. The construction, in 1891, of two power plants in Yreka and
Klamath Falls, one in California, the other in Oregon, demonstrate how the economic interests for that area
have always ignored the geopolitical boundaries. In 1852 the foundation of a ‘Jefferson State’ was
conceptualized. The secessionist movement failed, but that regional cohesion was compensated a few years
later by the California Oregon Power Company, which, raising several dams along the Klamath River, gave a
reputation to the territory, paternalistically called ‘Copcoland’.
[fig.1] Klamath Hydrological basin. On the top original drawing sheet of the Klamath Project where reclaimed
wetlands/agricultural areas are evident. Targets symbolize the four dams to be removed. Downstream of the river the
Hoopa Tribe Reservation. Source: from US Geological Survey, US Department of Interior. Elaborated by the author.
Since the first barrier, built in Fall Creek in 1903, a linear corridor of facilities has been built, marking the
landscape of the Lower Klamath: [from north-east to south-west] Link River Dam to Klamath Falls (OR),
the dam dedicated to J. C. Boyle3 in Siskiyou County (CA), after the grand canyons the two Copco dams and,
about forty miles away, the Iron Gate dam, the last in spatial and temporal order (built since 1958). Over the
decades of construction of diversions canals, pipes, power generation plants, pumping stations, tunnels and
dams, disparate economies became structural for the area. Forests were the ideal fuel for the wood industry;
the vast (and rare) Californian chromite deposits supported the foundation of several mines; the ‘wild and
scenic’ landscape of the region, after the construction of the railway, was granted to a discreet touristic
movement. The importance of the electrical production (and the subsequent energy transmission grid) in the
spatial coordination of the development is obvious. The rate of population growth was around 400% and the
process of evolution of the Klamath region would have experienced a period of partial slowing down only
during the years of the Great Depression when dams returned to occupy that paradoxical role of glue in a
disrupted society. In 1956 the California Oregon Pacific Company, which in the meantime had become
PacificCorp, signed a fixed-price contract with the ‘upstream of the system’ farmers and ranchers which
would have kept the power rates decidedly low, in exchange the surplus water of the irrigation process would
have been received to run through turbines. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was approved: minimum
3 John Boyle was vice president of the California Oregon Power Company (COPCO). Chief engineer of the hydroelectric project on the
flow regimes along rivers marked by hydroelectric exploitation were imposed to protect native fish
populations, crucial issue for future disputes.
Diary two, part one
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been center of social and cultural transformations for over three centuries.
Productive and economic adaptations inevitably met a civil and then military engineering process of the
territory. The urban area of Pittsburgh is bordered by three rivers: the Allegheny and the Monongahela flow
into the Ohio River which, after 1500 kilometers, flows in turn into the Mississippi. This hydrogeological
feature has driven a certain trajectory of the city whose center historically is the so-called Headwaters District,
underlining a series of records that clearly refer to water. Pioneer engineers tested the first keelboats and
steamboats, and in 1824 a series of interventions of cleaning of snags, boulders, and bars combined with the
construction of small dams led to the opening of the first commercial channel of the United States. In those
years Pittsburgh became the experimental station of a system of inland waterways that decades later brutally
demarcated the country's rivers, opening the door to the (multi-)use-of-resources model. The engraving of
some laws on the territory, and therefore on the society, triggered an intense debate. In the twentieth century
Pittsburgh fell in the center of a great controversy personified by politicians and engineers (Johnson 1979).
[fig.2] Known as the Headwaters District, the Pittsburgh District is comprised of the Ohio River drainage basin above
New Martinsville, West Virginia. Ongoing plan for Pittsburgh (1978) from the Flood Control Act (1936). At the north of
the District are visible: the Kinzua dam and the Quaker lake on the Seneca Reservation; the eight dams (of the Copeland
Act) on the Allegheny. Source: form US Geological Survey, US Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers
District of Pittsburgh. Elaborated by the author.
The city has been affected by numerous floods whose informations are reachable since the mid-1700s. In
1907, the Business District was submerged by water (with damage of six million and half of dollars), and it
was established the Flood Commission, whose largest exponent was the popular industrialist H. J. Heinz.
During this first phase of water management policies, an elite of industrialists and businessmen coalesced into
a civic force to fight a series of environmental reforms: the aspiration was dominated by economic and
commercial interests, but the group appeared as a class of progressives united for the community (Smith
1975). Until 1936, over fifty floods imprinted the city, and in 1936 on St. Patrick's Day, devastation
throughout the metropolitan area, 50 million dollars in widespread damage and the life of 47 people provided
fertile ground for promote a plan (Copeland Act) to build nine dams in the Allegheny valley, at north of the
city. Federal Government approved the Plan; President F. D. Roosevelt, by the Flood Control Act of 1936,
started an itinerary of construction of hundreds of barriers all over the country, and in 1938 he delegated total
responsibility for the management and control of surface water to the Army Corps of Engineers, which, in
this way, assumed absolute power over the consequent exploitation of resources and over the unavoidable
modifications of the geographies of the entire North American continent. In the same year the construction
sites of eight of nine dams [fig.2] of the Copeland Plan were in progress: the Kinzua dam, which should have
been built on the territories belonging to the Seneca tribe (Allegheny Reservation, 200 kilometers north of
Pittsburgh on the border with the state of NY) was hampered by the Natives themselves; the intervention of
the New York State authorities and the outbreak of the Second Great War weakened the interest in that
project: at temporary ‘low priority’.
During the war, Pittsburgh, like other cities, was abandoned by political powers and the only source of
livelihood was provided by the civic forces. After the war, the metropolitan area came up depleted by
widespread industrialization and water exploitation practices, and the decline in general quality of life forced a
series of Headquarters to move to New York. In 1943 the Allegheny Conference on Community
Development drew the conclusion to face environmental, economic and social problems, in this case the
most influential personality was R. K. Mellon, inheritor of the family empire. New floods, especially in the
point where the three rivers meet, rekindled interest in the ‘flood control’ issue and an unusual environmental
sensitivity associated with critical historical-geographical reading of the Golden Triangle produced a series of
projects: the urban parks of Olmsted Jr, Bennet, Moses, Wright, collapsed under the construction of several
apartment and office buildings, and a Hilton Hotel (Muller 2006). The link between the industrial elite and
the political representatives was intellectually modern, the Pittsburgh Renaissance project would have never
been accomplished without the construction of the Kinzua dam. The events overlapped between national
and personal interests for about 10 years. In 1957, under the impetus of President D. D. Eisenhower,
Congress allocated a million dollars for the construction of the dam, in the same year the Army Corps
defined the project as ‘necessary’. The opposition of the Seneca tribe was based on the ‘Pickering Treaty’
signed in 1794. It defined the boundaries of the reservation that the United States could have never claimed,
"nor disturb the Seneka Nation" (in Rosier 1995). Furthermore, the Natives asked the famous engineer A. E.
Morgan, first chairman of the great project on Tennessee Valley, an alternative plan. The proposal – of an
extremely innovative character that, in case of great flow, allowed the diversion of the Allegheny river to Lake
Erie – despite having the consent of several academics and professionals of the time, was not approved by
the Corps of Engineers. In 1958 the United States Court forced Indians to sell the land by ‘right of eminent
domain’. Under the bewildered public gaze the Natives started to abandon their ancestral lands in a historical
process of dislocation. The water of the reservoir would have flooded homes, schools, farmlands, holy places,
cemeteries, and the Indians would have had to rebuild the fragments of their communities a few miles to the
north. In 1966 the dam became operational while the tragedy of the Seneca opened a wound of a latent
anthropological conflict that will never be marginalized; the American deterministic nature, exasperated
during the difficult years of the Cold War, built that modern dowry that we would later call fixed
Reflections, part one
By these two stories it is clear that the transformation of the environment, where we live, is the result of an
intricate process of design overlaps in which aspirations and powers intercede. Signs are not always easily
ascribed, but the facts of history still remain an essential instrument to recognize, at least, those subjects that
directly intervene in the modifications of the terrestrial surface. Not only a glance at the course of events
declares that disciplines such as engineering, landscape, economy and then also ecology are in a continuous
alignment, but highlights how the boundaries of the urbanized environment have always been labile: "it is
hard to see where society begins and nature ends" (Harvey 1993). Objects move where resources move, and
endemically marginal territories drop at the center of a first socio-economic and later urban-scientific debate.
The dam in the two case studies takes on an iconic two-sided value: on the one hand, areas with unexpressed
potentials require infrastructural investments to follow a historical course of growth, on the other martyr
territories are transformed undergoing a process of development that takes place hundreds of kilometers
away. In these two features, we can find the paradigmatic value of the water infrastructure whose spatial
modifications produce temporal echoes that transform the in-the-middle-of-nowhere into areas dense of
those recognizable urban expressions that Banham (2009) would call "ecologies".
Diary one, part two
At the beginning of the 2000s, the Klamath River return to being the focus of local communities and mass
media, becoming motive of debates still burning in the United States.
In 2001, the Federal Government, due to a severe drought, force farmers and ranchers to reduce water
withdrawals in accordance with the special law for the protection of fish species (ESA): it has estimated a loss
of over 27 million dollars. The following year, the Bush administration, guarantees water to farmers and a
minimum free flow of the river causes one of the largest die-offs of adult salmon in Western history
provoking social tensions with the Natives who live along the river. Four years later, the government
prohibits fishing on a thousand kilometers of coastline to encourage the repopulation of fishes, triggering,
this time, fishermen. The system is facing a structural collapse, crisis follow one after the other and get
aggravated in a series of legal battles. In 2007 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the re-
license process, for the use of water in power generation by PacifiCorp, establishes that the dams should be
adapted to the new environment protection regulations and therefore provide fish ladders to stay operational.
Implementing fish passage and maintaining the aging dam is more expensive than taking them out. The
Natives start to demand their demolition and a controversial struggle over the water rights opens up. In 2010
about 40 parts – Natives, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, federal governments – sign the Klamath
Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement that force the four dams to demolition from January 2020. The
agreements provide for the approval of the Congress, whose position, even today, appears uncertain; the
resistance from a part of the population seems to resist.
Diary two, part two
The construction of Kinzua dam, after the war, meant the accomplishment of a hydrogeological vision and
became a structural element when, at the end of the seventies, Pittsburgh abandoned its industrial past for a
more financial, cultural and therefore tourist vocation. The dam had inevitably marked the end of an era even
in the history of the Seneca tribe: every economic, cultural, educational, political aspect of life of Natives had
been forged. In the eighties, after the failed promises of support from the New York State Government, the
Senecas opted for alternative economic development led by a new generation of leaders, later signing the
social redemption. Over the time, part of the Allegheny Reservation has become a mass of gas stations,
smoke shops, one-stop convenience stores, tribal bingo [fig.3] that detach from the inviolate natural
environment and from the (new) villages built with the dam. The tax-free sale of cigarettes and fuel clearly
has also attracted a non-native clientele, and within a few decades the tribe, thanks to the construction of
three casinos (Salamanca, Buffalo, Niagara Falls), has been managing an economic empire of over a billion
dollars (Hauptman 2014). In 2011, the FERC begin the relicensing process of the hydroelectric plant – 450
Megawatts of energy distributed in the district of Pittsburgh since 1970 – annexed to the Kinzua dam; the
FirstEnergy colossus offers for sale the concession. The Senecas (with the Seneca Energy LLC) apply to
acquire the license in the name of "the historical injustice"4 suffered. In 2013 the license is sold to the LS
Power of New York.
4 From the remarks of President R. O. Porter announcing the Seneca Nation’s application to acquire the Seneca Pumped Storage Facility
license, November 30, 2010.
[fig.3] Gas Station at Allegheny Reservation (NY). October 2016. Source: photographed by the author.
Reflections, part two
Several scientific fields could be addressed to define a horizon on what has been written and told so far.
Environmental Psychology, in recent decades, has conducted disparate research efforts on the sense of places
(Buchecker et alii 2007), and the theme of the attachment (to places) in this case is crucial to argue a first
consideration: identity is not an absolute value. In 1978, Proshansky defines "the place identity" (1978) as that
part of the Self that identifies the individual personality in relation to the physical environment. Recent
studies have shown that there seems to be a place identity in which people identify themselves "not only for
their environments, but also for places and landscapes that, although they do not belong to their own sphere
of direct experience, recall in their own configuration and in their own image, elements that are perceived in
themselves as pertinent to the identity of the places from which the people come from” (Bonnes et alii 2010).
The tribes of Natives, in California and Oregon (first case-study), reclaim a landscape – "a cultural image, a
pictorial (non-immaterial) way of representing, structuring and symbolizing surroundings" (Cosgrove, Daniels
1988) – that, after a century, clearly, is no longer the feature of that place. The search for the original
landscape [fig.4], which revokes rhetorical memories, thus becomes the rail towards the demolition/removal
of the dams and of a more recent productive identity of the river. The “selective use of the past” (Ashworth,
Graham 2005) to claim present and future development rights would evidently oblige the maintenance of the
dam, of its power plant and of all economic benefits deriving from it. In the second case study, Heritage
seems to be a “highly political process, malleable to the needs of power [and able] to validate and legitimize
territorial ideologies” (McDowell 2008).
[fig.4] [Hypothesis of] Evolution of Copco lake on Klamath river after the demolition of the Copco No.1 dam. Source:
from US Department of Interior, 2012. Elaborated by the author.
Places can be understood for their natural ability to influence the identity development of the individual, but
themselves, in common perception, can be characterized by a specific distinctiveness (Bonnes et alii 2010).
The question of the identity of places has tormented the intellectual debate since the nineteenth century and,
today, it seems to have been resolved with the idea of a "pre-built format filled with different contents"
(Banini 2013) which refers mainly to territorial marketing. The content-dam influences the tourist,
environmental, economic, residential image of the studied (paradigmatic) territories, and it is the trajectory of
an urban evolution based precisely on the clarity of those objects that assemble the “organic machine” (White
1995) of water infrastructure. Lakes, canals, aqueducts, levees, hydro-power plants, water towers and dams
are vivid environmental representations and therefore "imageability" of the city (Lynch 1960). [They are
removed and a trauma will irrevocably follow.]
Demolition, guided by social and environmental pressures and economic evidence, clashes with conservation,
legitimized by a process (of self-acceptance) which recognizes that the structure of territories and societies in
contemporary is a product of a new-technologies-building Modernity: it is impossible to go back. The cases
show how the two dogmas are tangible and coexistent. The collapse of native ecosystems, the risk of
droughts and floods, the energy crisis, the physical and technological obsolescence of facilities, the lack of
funding, the cursory interest of political agendas, a laissez faire federal management, suggest complex scenarios
whose consequences are still to be investigated.
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Challenging the capitalist cityscape? The inclusion of citizens in vacant space reuses in
Barcelona and Budapest
Luca Sára Bródy
Gran Sasso Science Institute | Viale Francesco Crispi 7, 67100, L’Aquila, Italy
Thesis supervisor: Alessandro Coppola
Expected date of thesis defense: November 2018
Working title of dissertation: What vacancy can offer to the contemporary city: Contestations
over the reuse of vacant spaces in a post-crisis era
Full or short paper: full
With the occurrence of the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, debates focused on how and
if capitalism has been questioned, transformed, or have become immune to criticism. As a
corollary of the crisis, ‘vacancy’ has become once again a visible and politically significant
issue, playing a key role in determining how cities respond to local problems and wider global
challenges, both on a temporary and more permanent basis. Therefore, it is necessary to focus
research on how different actors re-use these spaces and whether it provides a criticism to
capitalism, and in what ways. Meanwhile, scholars argued that in the policy discourse of local
governments ‘concepts such as equality or social justice are replaced by an emphasis on
belonging, inclusion, participation, recognition, legitimacy, governance, absence of conflict
or co-responsibility’ (Eizaguirre et al., 2012: 2007). The role of local citizens in urban
transformations thus can be understood as a result of the tendency that ‘the civil society
concept has come to represent less rights-oriented democratic politics than merely an anti-
statist appendage for the ‘compassionate’ side of market society’ (Somers, 2005: 17),
adjusting to entrepreneurial discourses and rules of the market, holding accountable
institutionalised practices in creating ‘civic monocultures’ (McQuarrie, 2013). In the
following I will argue for a deeper theorisation of citizen participation in vacant space reuses,
looking into discourses that shape the various reuses of vacant spaces, understanding the
crisis as a path-shaping moment for capitalist restructuring. The aim of this paper is to locate
alternative imaginaries and how these are attached to value orientation towards the realms of
social justice and equity. In doing so, I will rely on the book of Boltanski and Chiapello
(2005), who argued that the next crisis that capitalism will suffer has to be followed by a
‘social critique’ for its injustices, rather than for its inauthenticity, which entails the ‘artistic
critique’. Empirical fieldwork is carried out in two European cities: Barcelona and Budapest.
Methodologically, this study emerges from a qualitative study, based on semi-structured
interviews and non-participatory observation of city council policies that offer a public
competition for citizen initiatives to reuse vacant sites. The two cities provide different
contexts for analysis, Barcelona being a post-austerity Mediterranean, and Budapest a post-
socialist East European city, offering examples outside of the mainstream Anglo-American
literature and meta-narratives of neoliberalizing cities.
Keywords: Vacancy, Citizen participation, Alternative imaginaries, Barcelona, Budapest
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Bringing back conflict in citizenship practices. Urban Studies 49: 1999-2016.
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neoliberal civil society. Politics & Society 41: 73-101.
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social. Thesis Eleven 81: 5-19.
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Antwerp: Uitgeverij 010.
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Seppe De Blust (ndvr)
Chiara Tornaghi (Coventry University)
Michiel Van Meeteren (VUB)
Claudia Faraone (IUAV - UnivPadova)
Michael Ryckewaert (VUB)
Luce Beeckmans (Ugent)
Chiara Certomà (Ugent)
Viviana D’Auria (KUL)
Wouter Van Acker (ULB)
Lionel Devlieger (Rotor)
Axel Fisher (ULB)
Greet De Block (UA)
Bénédicte Grosjean (ENSAP Lille)
Chiara Cavalieri (EPFL)
Maria Chiara Tosi (IUAV)
Paola Vigano (EPFL - IUAV)
Els Verbrakel (Bezalel)
Nathalie Roseau (ENPC)
Bruno Notteboom (St-Lucas KUL)
Oswald Devisch (UHasselt)
Nadia Casabella (ULB)
Joachim Declerck (AWB)
Lukasz Stanek (Manchester University)
Elena Cogato Lanza (EPFL)
Marcel Smets (KUL)
Dominique Rouillard (ENSA Malaquais)
Adolfo Sotoca (LUT - UPC)
Bas Van Heur (VUB)
Ilja Van Damme (UA)
Pieter Uyttenhove (Ugent)
Brian McGrath (Parsons New School)
Lieven De Cauter (KUL)
Bart Verschaffel (Ugent)
Hillary Angelo (University of California)
Stijn Oosterlynck (UA)
Bert De Munck (UA)
Els Vervloesem (AWB)
André Loeckx (KUL)
Greet De Block
Scientiﬁ c committee
David Grahame Shane
Elena Cogato Lanza
Bruno De Meulder
Brian Mc Grath
Ghent University – Campus Boekentoren –
Department of Architecture & Urban Planning
Jozef Plateaustraat 22, BE – 9000 GENT
Printed in Belgium