Conference PaperPDF Available

Limits and inevitabilities of dams in the North American machine-territory



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.
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
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
look like?
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’).
Alternative questions
Track #1
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?
Alternative movements
Track #2
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?
Aternative sites
Track #3
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-
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
and undervalued.
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.
Alternative economies
Track #4
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
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 (
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
Dina Dahood
A critical look at regional planning: Jean Rémy and the concept of urban externalities
Martin Dumont
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
Jeanne Mosseray
Sites & Strategies
Re-imagining the collective space
Valentin Bourdon
Spontaneity in everyday space: Linking Social and Spatial through an Urban Design
Duygu Cihanger
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
Territorial Systems
Limits and inevitabilities of dams in the North American machine-territory
Luca Iuorio
The Italy of the factories. Narrations, representations, images
Luis Antonio Martin Sanchez
The Northbothnian technological megasystem: Urbanization, territorial metabolism and
political ecologies
Berta Morata
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
Thomas Beillouin
Land for food. The Interaction of Urban Planning and Regional Food Planning
Ivonne Weichold
Waste space and recycling practices: the case of the Abattoirs in Brussels
Andrea Bortolotti
Energy transition in the nebular city: a socio-spatial perspective on the case of heat in
Griet Juwet
Reinterpreting the territory’s resourcefulness
Julie Marin
From Pipeline to Landscape: a Landscape-Driven Design for Stormwater Management
Elisabeth Sjodahl
Brussels. (De)construction of a productive narrative
Marine Declève
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
Mladen Stilinovic
The industrialization and the construction of the Alpine city-territory
Roberto Sega
The Congenital Defective Impetuses and Postnatal Distorted Development. Research on
the Impetuses and Problems in the New Towns’ Development of China
Cai Xiaoxiao
Waterscapes in transformation in the ‘Uitkerkse Polder’. Water as a protagonist for chan-
ging accessibility in landscapes challenged by infrastructures for climate resilience
Sis Pillen
Reviewing post-mining procedures in view of the potential incursion of landscape urba-
nism in resource extraction
Margarita Macera
Movements (part I)
Suburban place-making: ‘place distinctiveness’ as manifestation of political-economic
coalitions : Antwerp, c.1860-c.1940
Laura May
Spatial fragmentation and self-organisation: a negative relation in
Brazilian metropolises
Igor Moreno Pessoa
(E)valuating the production of social space: A critical atlas of a residential subdivision in
Barbara Roosen
Urban(ism) Movements: Occupying Central São Paulo
Jeroen Stevens
Another Geography of the Belgian Dispersed Settlements
Guillaume Vanneste
Commons / Alternative economies
Neighbourhood as a socio-spatial common. A neo-Nolli map of Wrangelkiez, Berlin-
Dagmar Pelger
The garden cities of the 21st century
Anna Ternon
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
Eleonora Fiorentino
Socio-ecological systems
Re-designing the incremental city in times of climate change: design investigations into
the consolidated riverbank settlements of Guayaquil, Ecuador
Olga Peek
Historicizing Ecological Urbanism: Paul Duvigneaud, the Brussels Agglomeration and
the infl uence of ecology on urbanism (1970-2016)
Koenraad Danneels
The place given to and the place taken by Tionghoa in the postcolonial Indonesia. A
case study on Semarang
Kezia Dewi
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?
Cristina Braschi
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-
Luca Iuorio
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,
2 American Rivers Dam Removal database since 1999:
(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
Klamath River.
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
spatial/social capital.
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.
Andersson J. C. M., 2003. Life history, status and distribution of Klamath river Chinook Salmon. Davis: University of
ASCE, 2017. Infrastructure Report Card a comprehensive assessment of America's infrastructure. New York: American Society
of Civil Engineers.
Ashworth G. J., Graham J. G., 2005. Sense of place: sense of time. London: Routledge.
The Aspen Institute, 2002. Dam Removal a new option for a new century. Washington: The Aspen Institute.
Babbitt B., 1998. Dams are not Forever. In: Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting. Baltimore: US Department of
the Interior.
Banham R., 2009. Los Angeles. L'architettura di quattro ecologie. Milano: Einaudi. 1971. Los Angeles. The architecture of four
ecologies. New York: Harper & Row.
Banini T., 2013. Identità territoriali. Questioni, metodi, esperienze a confront. Milano: FrancoAngeli.
Belanger P., 2016. Landscape as Infrastructure: A Base Primer. London: Routledge.
Bonnes M., Bilotta E., Carrus G., Bonaiuto M., 2010. Spazio, luoghi e identità locali nelle tendenze recenti della
psicologia ambientale. In: Geotema 37. Bologna: Pàtron Editore.
Buchecker M., Harting T., Hunziker M., 2007. Space and Place – Two aspect of the Human-landscape
Relationship. In: A changing world: Challenges for landscape research. Berlin: Springer.
Cosgrove D., Daniels S., 1988. The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past
Environments. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Goubert, J. P., 1989. The conquest of water. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Harvey C. D., 2001. Heritage Pasts and Heritage Presents: Temporality, Meaning and the Scope of Heritage
Studies. In: International Journal of Heritage Studies 7(4). United Kingdom: Taylor and Francis Group.
Harvey D., 1993. The nature of environment: dialectics of social and environmental change. In: Miliband R.,
Panitch L. (edited by). Real Problems, False Solutions, Socialist Register. London: The Merlin Press.
Harvey D., 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Hauptman L. M., 2014. In the Shadow of Kinzua The Seneca Nation of Indians since World War II. Syracuse: Syracuse
University Press.
Johnson L. R., 1979. The Headwaters District: A History of the Pittsburgh District. US Army Corps of Engineers.
Jencks C., 1977. Language of Post Modern Architecture. New York: Rizzoli.
Kaika M., 2009. Hydropower: from Techno-Nature to Retro-Nature. In: New Geographies 2. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Kaika M., 2006. Dams as Symbols of Modernization: The Urbanization of Nature Between Geographical
Imagination and Materiality. In: Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96(2). Abingdon: Taylor and
Kaika M., Swyngedouw E., 2000. Fetishizing the Modern City: The Phantasmagoria of Urban Technological
Networks. In: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Malden: Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishers.
Kramer G., 2003. Klamath Hydroelectric Project Historic Context Statement. Portland: PacifiCorp.
Kuhn T. S., 2009. La struttura delle rivoluzioni scientifiche. Milano: Einaudi. 1962. The structure of scientific revolutions.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lynch K., 1960. The image of the city. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Maavara T., Lauerwald R., Regnier P., Van Cappellen P., 2017. Global perturbation of organic carbon cycling by
river damming. In: Nature Communications 8. Basingstoke: Macmillan Publishers.
McDowell S., 2008. Heritage, memory and identity. In: Graham B. J., Howar P. (edited by). The Ashgate Research
Companion to Heritage and Identity. Farnham: Ashgate.
Muller E. K., 2006. Downtown Pittsburgh Renaissance and Renewal. In: Scarpaci J. L., Patrick K. J. (edited by).
Pittsburgh and the Appalachians. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Proshansky H., 1978. The city and the self-identity. In: Environment and Behavior 10(2). London: Sage Journals.
Rosier P. C., 1995. Dam Building and Treaty Breaking: The Kinzua Dam Controversy, 1936-1958. In: The
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 119(4). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Rowe C., 1994. The architecture of good intentions. Towards a possible retrospect. London: Academy Editions.
Secretary of the Interior, 2012. Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior: An Assessment of
Science and Technical Information (Overview Report). US Department of Interior.
Smith R. M., 1977. The Politics of Pittsburgh Flood Control, 1936-1960. In: Pennsylvania History 44. PennState
University Libraries.
White R., 1995. The Organic Machine: the remaking of the Columbia river. New York: Hill and Wang.
World Commission on Dams, 2000. Dams and Development a new frame work for decision-making. London: Earthscan
Publications Ltd.
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
Boltanski L and Chiapello É. (2005) The new spirit of capitalism, London, UK: Verso.
Eizaguirre S, Pradel M, Terrones A, et al. (2012) Multilevel governance and social cohesion:
Bringing back conflict in citizenship practices. Urban Studies 49: 1999-2016.
McQuarrie M. (2013) Community organizations in the foreclosure crisis: The failure of
neoliberal civil society. Politics & Society 41: 73-101.
Somers MR. (2005) Let them eat social capital: Socializing the market versus marketizing the
social. Thesis Eleven 81: 5-19.
Sverrild, P., 2016. Periurban phase and sphere. An investigation into the urbanization of the Copenhagen suburb Hvidovre. PhD.
Aalborg University.
Thorns, D. C., 1972. Suburbia. London: MacGibbon & Kee.
Van Audenhove, M., 1992. Geschiedenis van de gemeentefinanciën van de nationale onafhankelijkheid tot het einde van de Eerste
Wereldoorlog 1830-1918. Brussels: Gemeentekrediet.
Van Herck, K. and Avermaete, T., 2006. Wonen in welvaart. Woningbouw en wooncultuur in Vlaanderen, 1948-1973.
Antwerp: Uitgeverij 010.
Vaughan, L. ed., 2015. Suburban urbanities. Suburbs and the life of the high street. London: UCL Press.
Velle, K., 1993. Het ministerie van openbare werken (1837-1990). I. Organisatie. Brussels: Algemeen Rijksarchief.
Walker, R. A., 1981. A theory of suburbanization: capitalism and the construction of urban space in the United
States. In: M. Dear and A.J. Scott eds. 1981. Urbanization and urban planning in capitalist society. London and New
York: Methuen.
Warf, B. ed., 2006. Encyclopedia of human geography. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Zitouni, B., 2010. Agglomérer. Une anatomie de l'extension bruxelloise (1828-1915). Brussels: VUBPRESS Brussels
University Press.
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)
Michiel Dehaene
David Peleman
Organizing committee
Michiel Dehaene
Greet De Block
Michael Ryckewaert
Viviana D’Auria
David Peleman
Martin Dumont
Julie Marin
Griet Juwet
Ide Hiergens
Chiara Cavalieri
Scientifi c committee
Michiel Dehaene
Pieter Uyttenhove
Paola Viganò
Dominique Rouillard
David Grahame Shane
Elena Cogato Lanza
Bruno De Meulder
Brian Mc Grath
Carola Hein
Els Verbakel
Chiara Tornaghi
Contact information
Ghent University – Campus Boekentoren –
Department of Architecture & Urban Planning
Jozef Plateaustraat 22, BE – 9000 GENT
Printed in Belgium
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Technological networks (water, gas, electricity, information etc.) are constitutive parts of the urban. They are the mediators through which the perpetual process of transformation of nature into city takes place. In this article, we take water and water networks as an emblematic example to excavate the shifting meanings of urban technological networks during modernity. Indeed, as water becomes commodified and fetishized, nature itself becomes re-invented in its urban form (aesthetic, moral, cultural codings of hygiene, purity, cleanliness etc.) and severed from the grey, ‘muddy’, kaleidoscopic meanings and uses of water as a mere use-value. Burying the flow of water via subterranean and often distant pinpointed technological mediations (dams, purification plants, pumping stations) facilitates and contributes to masking the social relations through which the metabolic urbanization of water takes place. The veiled subterranean networking of water facilitates the severing of the intimate bond between use value, exchange value and social power. We argue that during early modernity, technologies themselves became enshrined as the sources of all the wonders of the city’s water. Dams, water towers, sewage systems and the like were celebrated as glorious icons, carefully designed, ornamented and prominently located in the city, celebrating the modern promise of progress. During twentieth-century high-modernity, the symbolic and material shrines of progress started to lose their mobilizing powers and began to disappear from the cityscape. Water towers, dams and plants became mere engineering constructs, often abandoned and dilapidated, while the water flows disappeared underground and in-house. They also disappeared from the urban imagination. Urban networks became ‘urban fetishes’ during early modernity, ‘compulsively’ admired and marvelled at, materially and culturally supporting and enacting an ideology of progress. The subsequent failure of this ‘ideology of progress’ is paralleled by their underground disappearance during high-modernity, while the abandonment of their ‘urban dowry’ announced a recasting of modernity in new ways. We conclude that the dystopian underbelly of the city that at times springs up in the form of accumulated waste, dirty water, pollution, or social disintegration, produces a sharp contrast when set against the increasingly managed clarity of the urban environment. These contradictions are becoming difficult to be contained or displaced. Les grands réseaux techniques (eau, gaz, electricité, information etc.) font partie intégrale de l’urbain. Ce sont les médiateurs du processus continuel de la transformation de la nature urbaine. Dans cet article, nous prenons comme exemple emblématique l’eau et les réseaux d’eau afin d’explorer les significations changeantes des réseaux de technologie urbaine durant la période moderne. Alors que l’eau devient une marchandise fétichisée, la nature elle-même est reinventée dans ses formes urbaines (esthétique, morale, codes culturels d’hygiène, purité, propreté etc.) et coupée des significations grises, ‘ternes’, kaléidoscopiques, et des utilisations de l’eau comme une simple valeur utilitaire. L’ensevelissement de l’eau par les médiations technologiques spécifiques souterraines et souvent distantes (barrages, usines de purification, stations de pompage) aide et contribue à masquer les relations sociales à travers lesquelles prend place l’urbanisation métabolique de l’eau. Les réseaux d’eau souterrains voilés facilitent la coupure du lien intime entre la valeur utilitaire, la valeur d’échange, et le pouvoir social. Nous soutenons que durant la première période de modernité les technologies elles-mêmes devinrent inscrites comme sources de toutes les merveilles de l’eau de la ville. Les barrages, les réserves d’eau, les égoûts et d’autres éléments similaires étaient célébrés comme des icônes glorieux, conçus avec soin, ornés, et situés de façon prominente dans la ville, célébrant les promesses modernes de progrès. Durant la période de haute-modernité du vingtième siècle, les lieux de pélerinage matériels et symboliques célébrant le progrès ont commencéà perdre leur pouvoir de mobilisation et à dispara?‘tre du paysage de la ville. Les réservoirs d’eau, les barrages et les installations industrielles devinrent simplement des constructions d’ingénieurs, souvent abandonnées et délabrées, alors que les courants d’eau disparurent sous terre et à l’intérieur. Tous s’effacèrent aussi de l’imagination urbaine. Les réseaux urbains devinrent des ‘fétiches urbains’ durant la première période de modernité, causant un émerveillement et une admiration ‘obligatoires’, culturellement et matériellement représentant et soutenant une idéologie de progrès. L’échec ultérieur de cette ‘idéologie de progrès’ a son parallèle dans leur disparition sous terre durant la période de haute modernité, alors que l’abandon de leur ‘dot urbaine’ annonçait un remaniement de la modernité dans des directions nouvelles. Nous concluons que le bas-ventre dystopique de la ville qui surgit de temps à autre sous la forme d’accumulation de déchets, d’eau sale, de pollution, ou de désintégration sociale, produit un contraste marqué avec la clarté de plus en plus organisée de l’environnement urbain. Ces contradictions deviennent difficiles à contenir ou à supplanter.
Full-text available
The article offers an analysis of the iconography and symbolism of dam constructions at three levels: first, as embodiments of the dialectics between geographical imaginations and material practices in the process of modernization; second, as symbols of modernity's quest to conquer and urbanize nature; and third, as the catalysts for reconfiguring the relationship between nature and the city. The article grounds its analysis on the study of the Marathon dam, the first dam project for watering Athens, constructed in the 1920s. Being the biggest dam construction at the time in the Balkans, it became an iconic marker of Athens's modernization and of Greece's modernist project for controlling and taming nature. It also signaled a new era of trade relations between the United States and Greece by introducing American capital and work practices into Greece. However, this decidedly modern project was wrought with heavy neoclassical ornamentation and symbolism, and was veneered with the same marble as that used for the Parthenon. The article interprets this as an effort to reconcile iconographically the two prevailing geographical imaginations that infused the modernizing desires of Athens: modernizing the city through connecting it to the West and modernizing it through reconnecting it to its classical past. In the analysis, the article draws on original material from the archives of the National Library of Greece in Athens.
Suburban space has traditionally been understood as a formless remnant of physical city expansion, without a dynamic or logic of its own. Suburban Urbanities challenges this view by defining the suburb as a temporally evolving feature of urban growth. Anchored in the architectural research discipline of space syntax, this book offers a comprehensive understanding of urban change, touching on the history of the suburb as well as its current development challenges, with a particular focus on suburban centres. Studies of the high street as a centre for social, economic and cultural exchange provide evidence for its critical role in sustaining local centres over time. Contributors from the architecture, urban design, geography, history and anthropology disciplines examine cases spanning Europe and around the Mediterranean. By linking large-scale city mapping, urban design scale expositions of high street activity and local-scale ethnographies, the book underscores the need to consider suburban space on its own terms as a specific and complex field of social practice.
The damming of rivers represents one of the most far-reaching human modifications of the flows of water and associated matter from land to sea. Dam reservoirs are hotspots of sediment accumulation, primary productivity (P) and carbon mineralization (R) along the river continuum. Here we show that for the period 1970–2030, global carbon mineralization in reservoirs exceeds carbon fixation (P<R); the global P/R ratio, however, varies significantly, from 0.20 to 0.58 because of the changing age distribution of dams. We further estimate that at the start of the twenty-first century, in-reservoir burial plus mineralization eliminated 4.0±0.9 Tmol per year (48±11 Tg C per year) or 13% of total organic carbon (OC) carried by rivers to the oceans. Because of the ongoing boom in dam building, in particular in emerging economies, this value could rise to 6.9±1.5 Tmol per year (83±18 Tg C per year) or 19% by 2030.
Suggests that, geographically, suburbanization has three interwoven dimensions: spatial differentiation, decentralization, and waves of urban construction. Affirms that these are best explained by the method of historical materialism. Argues that suburbanization has been consistent with the individual, class and systemic interests of American capitalism, i.e. the 'suburban solution' has played a fundamental part in the success of capitalism in overcoming its own inner contradictions. -from Editors
According to a national report on brownfi elds redevelopment titled Recycling America's Land (USCM 2006), more than 400,000 sites with real or perceived environmental hazards dot the American landscape today. That legacy is estimated to be worth more than $2 trillion in devalued property. Underlying this legacy is a major network of post- war infrastructures-airports, harbours, roads, sewers, bridges, dikes, dams, power corridors, terminals, treatment plants-that is now suffering major decay from lack of repair and maintenance (ASCE 2008, Infrastructure Canada 2007-2008, Choate and Walter 1983). In revisiting a series of milestone events in the history of North America, this paper draws a cross- section through phases of industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries in order to track how the necessity for infrastructure accidentally emerged from crisis and failure. A series of patterns and shifts are identifi ed to expose the paradoxical, sometimes toxic relationship between pre- industrial landscape conditions and modern industrial systems. The underlying objective of this essay is to redefi ne the conventional meaning of modern infrastructure by amplifying the biophysical landscape that it has historically suppressed, and to reformulate landscape as a sophisticated, instrumental system of essential resources, services, and agents that generate and support urban economies. Three contemporary streams of development including urban ecologies, bio- industries, and waste economies are explored briefl y to discuss future fi elds of practice. © 2009 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
The argument. Preface. Acknowledgements. Part I: The Passage from Modernity to Postmodernity in Contemporary Culture: . 1. Introduction. 2. Modernity and Modernism. 3. Postmodernism. 4. Postmodernism in the City: Architecture and Urban Design. 5. Modernization. 6. POSTmodernISM or postMODERNism?. Part II: The Political-Economic Transformation of late Twentieth-Century Capitalism: . 7. Introduction. 8. Fordism. 9. From Fordism to Flexible Accumulation. 10. Theorizing the Transition. 11. Flexible Accumulation - Solid Transformation or Temporary Fix?. Part III: The Experience of Space and Time: . 12. Introduction. 13. Individual Spaces and Times in Social Life. 14. Time and Space as Sources of Social Power. 15. The Time and Space of the Enlightenment Project. 16. Time-space Compression and the Rise of Modernism as a Cultural Force. 17. Time-Space Compression and the Postmodern Condition. 18. Time and Space in the Postmodern Cinema. Part IV: The Condition of Postmodernity:. 19. Postmodernity as a Historical Condition. 20. Economics with Mirrors. 21. Postmodernism as the Mirror of Mirrors. 22. Fordist Modernism versus Flexible Postmodernism, or the Interpenetration of Opposed Tendencies in Capitalism as a Whole. 23. The Transformative and Speculative Logic of Capital. 24. The Work of Art in an Age of Electronic Reproduction and Image Banks. 25. Responses to Time-Space Compression. 26. The Crisis of Historical Materialism. 27. Cracks in the Mirrors, Fusions at the Edges. References. Index.