"Urban" World?

This video, produced by UTL researcher Daniel Ibañez, offers a visual narrative of major metageographical visions of the city, the urban and the world that animate contemporary discussion of world urbanization.  In particular, the video explores several major approaches to conceptualizing the world as a space of urbanization:  1) global city networks; 2) spiky world; 3) urban age world; 4) world Ecumenopolis; and 4) planetary urbanization.  The video is intended to provoke discussion and debate regarding the changing spatialities of urbanization under contemporary conditions. 

06/10/2016

LINK

The Insurgent Architect / Interview with David Harvey

This video presents key exchanges from an interview with David Harvey conducted by UTL researchers Mariano Gomez Luque and Daniel Ibanez.  The interview took place in Spring 2016 in conjunction with Professor Harvey's visit to the GSD as Senior Loeb Fellow, and it subsequently appeared on the website urbanNext.  We are grateful to our colleagues in the GSD and urbanNext for supporting this discussion and its distribution.

03/29/2016

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Terra Urbis: Composite geo-taxonomies for an urbanization without an outside

Nikos Katsikis, presentation at the conference, "What Is the Urban? Registers of a World Interior," Iowa State University (organized by Ross Exo Adams)

If urbanization is a ubiquitous condition that renders inherited spatial taxonomies (like the town, the city, the suburb), or dichotomies (like the town – country, or the urban – rural) obsolete, what are the new spatial categories that can be utilized in order to investigate this condition? Although it is argued that urbanization is a universal condition, this does not imply the existence of a homogeneous, symmetrical landscape. It rather incorporates very different and very asymmetrical geographies and patterns of, both socially, and ecologically uneven development. In order to start grasping these complex configurations, this presentation introduces a series of composite geo-spatial taxonomies, which aim to offer a matrix for classifying the terrain of ‘Planetary Urbanization’: On the one hand ‘agglomeration landscapes’ are the geographies where agglomeration economies, and in general agglomeration externalities and dynamics can unfold. On the other hand, ‘operational landscapes’ are the geographies that are connected to land extensive and, or, geographically bound operations that are impossible to cluster. A series of hybrid landscapes emerge as these two ‘extreme’ categories blend together in different ways around different areas of the world. 

04/05/2016

LINK

IS THE WORLD URBAN?

Neil Brenner lecture at GSD Open House 

(Note: Brenner presentation begins at: 9:20)

In this lecture for the GSD’s Fall Open House guests, Neil Brenner summarizes the critique of inherited approaches to urban theory and contemporary urban ideologies which he, Christian Schmid and others have been developing under the rubric of “planetary urbanization.”  He argues for the centrality of theoretical frameworks and abstract concepts in mediating all aspects of research, representation and practice, and on this basis, he examines and critically evaluates some of the framing assumptions that mediate contemporary debates on the “urban” dimensions of the modern world.  This argument is developed through a critical discussion of the nighttime lights map of the world, which has become one of the most influential contemporary spatial representations of the global urban condition.  Several counter-visualizations are presented from the work of the Urban Theory Lab that destabilize this and other hegemonic frameworks of global urban spatial ideology.  This work of critique is intended to open up new horizons for understanding, mapping, influencing and imagining emergent patterns and pathways of urbanization across the variegated geographies of our planet.

11/17/2015

RETHINKING URBANIZATION

Neil Brenner contributes to Daniels Forum, University of Toronto

(Note: Brenner presentation begins at: 20:00)

In October 2015, The Daniels Forum at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto, organized a debate on “Uber Urbanism” which considered the changing meanings of cities and urbanism under conditions of contemporary globalization.  The event was introduced and moderated by Daniels Faculty’s Richard Sommer, Dean and Professor of Architecture and Urbanism.  Neil Brenner presented his current ideas on planetary urbanization, and Jesse LeCavalier of the New Jersey Institute of Technology reported on his studies of logistical actors such as Walmart and Amazon.  The event concluded with a panel discussion and exchanges with audience members.  Thank you to Dean Sommer and the Daniels Faculty for the opportunity to present some of the UTL’s research agendas in this lively, stimulating and well-organized forum.  

10/14/2015

NEIL BRENNER CONTRIBUTES TO GSD PANEL ON ‘THE COUNTRYSIDE: RURALISM’ ORGANIZED BY GSD DEAN MOHSEN MOSTAFAVI

GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi has recently initiated a series of discussions of the “countryside” among GSD faculty, students and visiting scholars and designers.  The series began last week with an opening lunchtime presentation by GSD faculty member Christopher Lee, followed by an evening lecture by Frédéric Bonnet of the Accademia dell'architettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland.  Dean Mostafavi then moderated a lively and wide-ranging roundtable discussion with GSD professors Anita Berrizbeitia, Neil Brenner, John Dixon Hunt and Christopher Lee.  In his contribution, UTL Director Neil Brenner presented his thesis that contemporary approaches to the “countryside” must be subsumed within the broader “urbanization question”.  Across much of the planet, he argued, historically inherited hinterlands and “wilderness” zones are today being unevenly transformed into operational landscapes in support of capitalist industrial urbanization.  We are delighted to see such topics now so actively under discussion at the GSD, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with students, faculty and visitors in future sessions. 

The event description follows:

The countryside is often presented as bucolic, close to nature; the city, by contrast, as artifice shaped by capital. Raymond Williams addressed many of the fallacies of this disjuncture in his classic study The Country and the City (1973). What has happened to the countryside since then, and what is the relationship between the urban and the rural today?  While a great deal of scholarly attention has been dedicated to urban development and urbanization, the study of the rural has lacked a comparable systematic analysis. This event is the first in a series devoted to the countryside, intending to address that imbalance. The school also plans to offer a Rotterdam-based option studio devoted to the topic in the spring of 2016.

09/23/2015

LINK  

Reframing the Urban: Cities and their global impact

Neil Brenner interviewed by Peter Mares, Up-Close Podcast series, University of Melbourne.

In this interview, Neil Brenner argues that the widespread notion we live in an “urban age” as people move increasingly into cities is fundamentally flawed. He also suggests that “urbanization” be redefined to include the profound impact of city growth on ever more distant hinterlands. Presented by Peter Mares in the Up-Close Podcast series, University of Melbourne.

More info and a full transcript available here.

03/18/2015

The 'Urban Age' in Question: Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban

Neil Brenner, Dean's Lecture Series 2015, Melbourne School of Design.

In what sense is the 21st century world urban? In this lecture, Neil Brenner critiques contemporary ideologies of the “urban age,” which confront this question with reference to the purported fact that more than 50% of the world’s population resides within cities. Against such demographic, city-centric understandings, Brenner excavates Henri Lefebvre’s (1970) notion of generalized urbanization for conceptual and methodological insights into the 21st century planetary urban condition. He argues that the geographies of urbanization can no longer be conceptualized with reference to cities, metropolitan regions or even megalopolises, but today encompass diverse patterns and pathways across the planetary sociospatial landscape, from Manhattan to the Matterhorn, from the Pearl River Delta to Mount Everest, from the Nile River valley to the Pacific Ocean. This variegated urban fabric must become the focal point for new approaches to urban theory, strategies of collective intervention and imaginaries of built environments. The lecture concludes by briefly introducing the Urban Theory Lab's exhibition, "Operational Landscapes: Towards an Alternative Cartography of World Urbanization."

03/17/2015

URBAN GOVERNANCE, BUT AT WHAT SCALE?

Neil Brenner lectures at “Urban Age” conference in Delhi, India

Thanks to Ricky Burdett’s friendly invitation, Neil Brenner offered one of the keynote lectures at the Urban Age Conference on “Governing Urban Futures” held in Delhi, India.  Given our previous criticisms of the concept of the “urban age,” this was a much-appreciated opportunity for collegial dialogue in a fascinating setting.  Many interesting discussions and debates took place at the Delhi conference, which brought together a diverse group of scholars, planners, architects, policy makers, government officials and activists to explore the governance challenges associated with contemporary urbanization.

In this lecture, Brenner calls into question prominent contemporary triumphalist discourses regarding the local, the city and the urban.  Under conditions of global neoliberalization and austerity-led devolution, he argues, the appeal to “urban” governance to confront the planet’s major social, economic and environmental problems is actually a “weapon of the weak” rather than an expression of new institutional capacities or viable modes of democratic empowerment.  In contrast to localist discourses of urban governance, Brenner argues for a multiscalar approach to the governance of urbanization in which democratically accountable public institutions play an active role in channeling investments, equalizing infrastructure, redistributing social assets, alleviating risk/vulnerability and mediating uneven development across places, territories and scales.  

11/14/2014

"Globalization as reterritorialization," 15 years later: Daniel Ibañez in dialogue with Neil Brenner on the rescaling of urban governance

From the blog of the journal Urban Studies

"In 2013, to mark 50 years of Urban Studies, the Editors put together a Virtual Special Issue, bringing together articles from across the years. Fifteen articles were selected: the five most downloaded; the five most cited; and the five most important published prior to 1990 (as collectively decided by the Editors). These articles were made freely accessible on the Journal's website for six months during 2013 and readers were invited to vote for their three favourite articles.  Neil Brenner's article, "Globalization as Reterritorialization: The Re-scaling of Urban Governance in the European Union", was the clear favourite, with by far the most votes cast. The article, published in March 1999 (Volume 36/3), is one of Urban Studies' most highly cited articles."

Upon receiving this news, we prepared this video to discuss some of the major issues explored in the article, also in relation to some of the current agendas of the Urban Theory Lab.  The video was produced by our colleague and friend Maggie Janik.

The original 1999 article can be downloaded here

URBAN IDEOLOGIES AND THE CRITIQUE OF NEOLIBERAL URBANIZATION

Neil Brenner, Liquidation Conference, Zagreb, April 2014

The "city" has become a major focal point--both a site and a stake--of intense social, political and ecological struggles.  Such struggles are powerfully mediated through urban ideologies that attempt to naturalize or normalize the profoundly unequal power relations and destructive socio-ecological arrangements upon which everyday city life and worldwide urbanization processes are grounded.  One of the key tasks of critical urban theory is to illuminate the origins, operations and implications of such ideologies and, in so doing, to help construct alternative vocabularies and cartographies that might facilitate new forms of urbanism based upon radical-democratic empowerment, sociospatial justice and ecological rationality.  This lecture surveys the role of urban ideologies in contemporary capitalism and outlines various ways in which the methodological orientations, historical-geographical metanarratives and normative-political agendas of critical urban theory might destabilize and transcend them.  Building upon collaborative work with Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore, the lecture concludes by relating this approach to contemporary debates on neoliberal urbanism.

04/26/2014

Metabolic Upscaling

Projective Views on Urban Metabolism - Harvard GSD DDes conference 2014

The conference "Projective Views on Urban Metabolism" took place in Piper Auditorium at the Harvard GSD on Friday February 7th of 2014.  The conference was organized by Urban Theory Lab researchers and GSD DDes candidates Daniel Ibañez and Nikos Katsikis, with the support of Urban Theory Lab researcher Ali Fard and other doctoral students at the GSD.  The Urban Theory Lab co-sponsored the event along with our friends in the New Geographies Lab and several other GSD programs and labs.

In the first panel entitled 'Metabolic Upscaling', major theorists of urban metabolism addressed the transformation of socio-environmental dynamics in historical and contemporary perspective.  Their deliberations on the metabolic rift/shift, the anthropocene, and the contemporary socioenvironmental crisis are of considerable relevance to urban theorists concerned to understand the interplay between urbanization and the ongoing transformation of socioenvironmental landscapes.  Speakers in the first panel included Professor Jason Moore (SUNY-Binghamton), Professor Erle Ellis (University of Maryland), Professor Timothy Luke (Virginia Polytechnic Institute) and Professor Matthew Gandy (University College London).  A subsequent discussion with the audience was moderated by Professor Neil Brenner, Director of the Urban Theory Lab.  A forthcoming issue of the GSD journal New Geographies, entitled "Grounding Metabolism", edited by Daniel Ibanez and Nikos Katsikis, will further develop these themes.

02/07/2014

Urban theory without an outside

Neil Brenner, Centenary Lecture Series, The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL.

Urban theory has long been premised upon the assumption that cities are distinctive, discrete and bounded types of settlement space that can be contrasted to putatively "non-urban" zones that lie outside or beyond them (suburbs, the countryside, the rural, the natural and so forth).  In this lecture, Neil Brenner calls such entrenched assumptions into question and argues for a new epistemology of urbanization in which there is no longer any "outside" to a worldwide urban fabric.  Building upon the work of theorists such as Marx, Engels and Lefebvre, he proposes several conceptual tools for investigating this variegated fabric of extended urbanization across time and space.  The implications of this framework are then illustrated with reference to an ongoing research project on the transformation of the earth's most apparently "remote" places (including the Amazon, the Arctic, the Himalayas, the Sahara, the Gobi desert steppe, the Pacific Ocean, Siberia and the atmosphere) in relation to early twenty-first century urbanization processes.

12/12/2013

Urban theory without an outside

Neil Brenner, Lecture Series, "On Architecture," Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich.

Urban theory has long been premised upon the assumption that cities are distinctive, discrete and bounded types of settlement space that can be contrasted to putatively "non-urban" zones that lie outside or beyond them (suburbs, the countryside, the rural, the natural and so forth).  In this lecture, Neil Brenner calls such entrenched assumptions into question and argues for a new epistemology of urbanization in which there is no longer any "outside" to a worldwide urban fabric.  Building upon the work of theorists such as Marx, Engels and Lefebvre, he proposes several conceptual tools for investigating this variegated fabric of extended urbanization across time and space.  The implications of this framework are then illustrated with reference to an ongoing research project on the transformation of the earth's most apparently "remote" places (including the Amazon, the Arctic, the Himalayas, the Sahara, the Gobi desert steppe, the Pacific Ocean, Siberia and the atmosphere) in relation to early twenty-first century urbanization processes.

11/14/2013

Place, Capitalism, and the Right to the City

Neil Brenner, Keynote Address at Creative Time Summit, New York City.

To what extent can place serve as a basing point for projects to promote social and spatial justice under conditions of worldwide neoliberalism?

10/25/13

Overview: extreme territories of urbanization

Urban Theory Lab - GSD (Video prepared by Daniel Ibañez and Alexander Arroyo)

This video briefly summarizes our ongoing work on the "extreme territories of urbanization". Through a series of GSD Research Studios, we subject the theory of extended urbanization to “extreme stress” by applying it to several zones and conditions that are commonly thought to lie outside the urban condition:  the Arctic, the Amazon, the atmosphere, the Himalayas, the Gobi desert steppe, the Pacific ocean, the Sahara desert and Siberia.  By means of historical analysis, critical geopolitical economy, geospatial data visualization and conceptual experimentation, our research aims to extend the analytical and political horizons of urban theory into these “extreme territories” of urbanization.

06/15/2013

The 'urban age' in question

Neil Brenner, Archeworks Inaugural Lecture, Graham Foundation, Chicago

In what sense is the 21st century world urban? In this lecture, Neil Brenner critiques contemporary ideologies of the “urban age,” which confront this question with reference to the purported fact that more than 50% of the world’s population resides within cities.  Against such demographic, city-centric understandings, Brenner excavates Henri Lefebvre’s (1970) notion of generalized urbanization for conceptual and methodological insights into the 21st century planetary urban condition.  He argues that the geographies of urbanization can no longer be conceptualized with reference to cities, metropolitan regions or even megalopolises, but today encompass diverse patterns and pathways across the planetary sociospatial landscape, from Manhattan to the Matterhorn, from the Pearl River Delta to Mount Everest, from the Nile River valley to the Pacific Ocean.  This variegated urban fabric must become the focal point for new approaches to urban theory, strategies of collective intervention and imaginaries of built environments.

01/28/2013

Geography: State of the Field

Neil Brenner, Presentation at a panel discussion on “Geography: the State of the Field,” Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.

(Note: Brenner presentation begins at: 55:48)

Geography is a problematique—a set of questions about the production of space in the modern world.  It facilitates a critique of inherited sociospatial assumptions and an ongoing search for theories, categories and methods that might illuminate ongoing processes of sociospatial transformation.

11/16/2011

The Urbanization Question, or the Field Formerly Known as Urban Studies

Neil Brenner, Inaugural Lecture at Harvard GSD.

What is the purpose and problematique of urban studies in a world of generalized urbanization?

11/02/2011

After Neoliberalization?

(co-authored with Nik Theodore and Jamie Peck)

(Note: Brenner presentation begins at: 3:55)

Is neoliberalism dead?  It depends what is meant by “neoliberalism”—as well as “death.”  We offer a conceptualization and periodization of neoliberalization processes since the 1970s that distinguishes place-based experimentation, interspatial policy transfer and worldwide rule-regimes.  This approach also generates a theoretical framework on which basis to consider the prospects—currently dim, in our view—for the consolidation of counter-neoliberalization projects.

12/03/2010