Innovation in Large Scale Urban Development

Date and time
Wednesday 17 January 2018
17.30 – 19.30

Room G.12
The Bartlett
22 Gordon Street
London WC1H 0QB
view UCL Maps

Innovation in Large Scale Urban Development

Michael Mulhern, Degao Zheng, Yondela Silimela

Professor Jennifer Robinson (University College London)

Professor Phil Harrison (University of the Witwatersrand), Professor Fulong Wu (University College London)

Booking required via Eventbrite

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As part of a comparative ESRC research project, Governing the Future City, a comparative analysis of governance innovations in large scale urban developments in Shanghai, London, and Johannesburg, this public event brings together lead practitioners from the three contexts to learn from and reflect on different approaches to large scale urban development projects.

We are delighted to welcome as plenary speakers senior executive planners involved in the three case studies:

Michael Mulhern, Director of Planning, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC)
The role of the OPDC in delivering London’s strategic plans: Opportunities and challenges

Degao Zheng, Director of Shanghai Institute, China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.
Metropolitan spatial planning and governance in Shanghai: Satellite cities and urban growth

Yondela Silimela, Executive Director, Development Planning at the City of Johannesburg (until October 2017); currently, Morfosis Advisory & Investments, Johannesburg.
Post-apartheid spatial transformation in Johannesburg: the place of large scale interventions/the Corridor Project.

Financialization, land value capture and urban development: Comparative perspectives

Date and time
Monday 15 January 2018
17.00 – 19.00

UCL Anatomy G29 J Z Young LT
entrance from Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT
view UCL Maps

Financialization, land value capture and urban development: Comparative perspectives

The burgeoning literature on financialization, land value capture and urban development is often focused on transnational private sector actors, and has brought forward numerous detailed case studies of urban development in wealthier country contexts; interpretations veer between very wide-ranging generalizations on the circulation of capital, and detailed case studies of the politics of urban development.

Urban Transformations and UCL Geography host a Governing the Future City seminar with Ludovic Halbert (Université Paris-Est) and Tom Goodfellow (University of Sheffield), whose two papers intervene in the debates to build insights through comparative analysis across a wider variety of cases, including China, India, Africa, Chile, and attend to a diversity of actors, including states, smaller investors and emergent territorial networks.


Ludovic Halbert, Université Paris-Est, Latts

Beyond “yet-another case” of financialization of urban production: Financial infrastructures, comparative urbanism, and rent-based accumulation

This paper contributes to the debate on the financialization of the built environment, starting with reflections on the now well-honed Marxist framework which offers a general theory on the convergence between financial capital and landed property, two forms of “fictitious capital” that are constitutive of the real estate / finance nexus (Harvey 1985; Aalbers 2012). The paper suggests that the functionalist perspective inherent in this Marxist account, as well as the difficulties to operationalize it in fieldwork, may be overcome by developing an institutionalist perspective to explore financial infrastructures, i.e., the large-scale sociotechnical systems that circulate financial capital across space and give a specific texture to the money-form before it is transformed, here, into land/property capital. Such financial infrastructures are made of formal and informal rules and are devised, operated, and maintained through the mundane practices and cognitive categories deployed by the individuals and organizations that take part in them. They are always historically and geographically situated and thus fit well with the call for analyses seeking “particularizing theories” (Corpataux & Crevoisier, 2007), i.e., interpretations that do not look for a universal theory or general laws, but for realist and relativist explanations integrating a possibly wide-range of factors.

This analytical perspective on financial infrastructures opens a path for the academic community to engage in the now pressing task that consists in exploring land and property rent-based financialization processes in a global comparative urbanism perspective. It will benefit from the rich scholarship of the last fifteen years which offers both panoramic views that scan the forms and degrees of financialization within and between countries (Schwartz and Seabrooke 2008; Fernandez and Aalbers 2016), and from the grounded empirical material provided by an ever-growing collection of case studies analysing processes of financialization (and of “(non-)financialization” (Van Loon 2017)) of urban development in different national and city-regional settings. By mobilizing works developed by the research team, Latts, over the last ten years in different contexts (France, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Italy), as well as by a conversation with investigations in countries as varied as Chile, China, the US, Switzerland, or the UK, it becomes possible to follow the capital flows that are circulated through financial infrastructures by transcalar yet territorialized networks (Halbert and Rouanet 2014) and thus to put into comparison the different “particularizing theories” offered by these in-depth and empirically grounded works.

Far from any millenarian thinking, this will enable us to highlight how the current stage of capitalist accumulation through rent-based financialization is punctuated by three mutually reinforcing processes. The first one consists in a series of often decades-long political-economic transformations emerging into an unstable and potentially contested process of congruence. If many policies alter financial and land/property markets separately (facilitating respectively the expansion of financial markets and the treatment of land as a financial asset), they may combine and reinforce each other at times, either in an unplanned manner or as part of a more explicit policy project, and this all the more so where the multi-level state has converted itself to taking a financialized investor’s viewpoint, as well as drawing on their instruments and categories. Secondly, the forms taken by rent-based financialization, and their spatial, social, and political outcomes, are gradually framed by financialized conventions that are rooted in economic theory but also enacted within financial infrastructures thanks to historically and geographically situated professional practices, specific calculative devices, and associated cognitive environments. Thirdly, the paper will discuss how the texture of capital provided by financial infrastructures creates a window of opportunity and constraint for the individuals and organizations active in land and property markets. Although the latter may attempt to shape the financial infrastructures that provide capital to them, this time and place-bound window drives a series of sociotechnical mediations which unfold in more or less stable accumulation and regulation regimes associated with the pooling and channeling of financial capital into the (reproduction) of the built environment.


Tom Goodfellow, Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield

Property and land value capture in the finance periphery

This talk explores the experience of efforts to raise government revenues through urban land and property in several African countries, drawing particularly on the experience of Rwanda and Ethiopia. In contrast to much of the world, these are places where financial infrastructures do not (yet) play a substantial direct role in shaping the built environment. Such places languish at the bottom of global indices for real estate investment opportunities, being labelled “low transparency” and “opaque”. The fact that international financial investors are little involved, and that access to finance is highly constrained within these countries, creates opportunities for wealthy individual investors with resources to spare. Indeed, the opportunities for profit are such that although international financial actors see these settings as replete with risk, many domestic elites and diaspora see real estate as the “safest bet” for investment. This leads to a channeling of capital into the “secondary circuit”, fueling the kinds of property booms associated with contemporary cities in the South that harbour burgeoning populations of international salaried personnel as well as a rich minority of nationals. Thus, rather than international institutional investors financing the properties that house the domestic population (as is happening in much of the rich world), we see more or less the opposite: domestic capital financing the properties that house a small and partly international elite.

This situation facilitates healthy profits for the few who are able to invest substantially in the real estate sector, and provides housing only for the rich. In a sense, this exacerbates inequality on two fronts simultaneously, while also drawing capital away from potentially more productive and job-creating sectors of the economy. Central to this whole problematic is the question of land value capture. Property development and the uplift in land values that accompanies it can be part of the solution to a range of urban problems from poor infrastructure to weak municipal government capacity –  but only if some of that value is captured by the state. It is concerning that in some of the African countries where urban property booms have been most visible, land value capture has been virtually non-existent or deeply problematic. While Western donors have been pushing property tax reforms for years with little effect, more interesting to countries like Ethiopia has been the Chinese model of land-based finance. This can raise substantial revenues quite quickly, but is neither very socially progressive nor sustainable, as China is now discovering for itself. Potentially of greater value for African cities are lessons from the “tigers” of North East Asia; but despite the enthusiasm for Singapore in countries like Rwanda, the ways in which those states instituted land value capture mechanisms (including recurrent property taxes) from an early stage has largely been overlooked. The resulting potential for untaxed profit makes investing in high-end, high return property even more appealing, and creates a vicious cycle in which a powerful class concerned to protect property rents is well positioned to resist any efforts to capture land and property values in a more robust way. The position of this class is bolstered, somewhat ironically, by the relative lack of financial penetration.


The seminar is funded by an ESRC award, within the Urban Transformations programme.

Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin

Date and time
25th November 2017

11.00-12.30 p.m.

The Archivist, Unit V Reliance Wharf, 2-10 Hertford Road, London, N1 5ET
(find on Google Maps)

Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin

UK premiere of Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin (72 mins), directed by Matthew Gandy, at the London International Documentary Festival (LIDF)

In Natura Urbana the changing vegetation of Berlin serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geo-political division, and the newest phase of urban transformation. Natura Urbana takes us on a unique journey through Berlin ranging from the botanical microcosm of cracked paving stones to elaborate attempts to map the entire city in terms of its distinctive ecological zones.

Tickets can be purchased from the LIDF website from 15th:

Watch the trailer on the film’s website.


Urban Geopolitics book launch: Rethinking Planning

Date and time
20 November 2017

6-8pm (GMT)

UCL Roberts Building G08 Sir David Davies LT, Torrington Place, London WC1E 7JE
(find on UCL Maps)

Urban Geopolitics book launch: Rethinking Planning in Contested Cities

Urban Salon hosts the book launch of Urban Geopolitics: Rethinking Planning in Contested Cities (Routledge, 2018) edited by Jonathan Rokem and Camillo Boano.

Moving away from loosely defined urban theories and contexts, this book argues it is time to start learning from and compare across different “contested cities”. It questions the long-standing Euro-centric academic knowledge production that is prevalent in urban studies and planning research. Urban Geopolitics: Rethinking Planning in Contested Cities brings together a diverse range of international case studies from Latin America, South and South East Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East to offer an in-depth understanding of the worldwide contested nature of cities in a wide range of local contexts. It suggests an urban ontology that moves beyond the urban “West” and “North” as well as adding a comparative-relational understanding of the contested nature that “Southern” cities are developing.

In this event the editors and some of the chapter authors will present the books overarching themes and engage with selected cities.


18.00 Welcome and introduction


Jonathan Rokem (UCL Geography) and Camillo Boano (The Bartlett Development Planning Unit / UCL Urban Laboratory)


18.15 Book chapter presentations


Sadaf Sultan Khan, Kayvan Karimi and Laura Vaughan (UCL)

The tale of ethno-political and spatial claims in a contested city: the Muhajir community in Karachi


Pawda F Tjoa (Cambridge)

The Embodiment of the Ideology of “Development” in the Practice of Marketplace Coordination in Jakarta


Moriel Ram (SOAS)
The Camp vs the Campus: Revisiting the contested landscapes of an urban Mediterranean encampment in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus

Catalina Ortiz and Camillo Boano (UCL)

The Medellín’s Shifting Geopolitics of Informality: The Encircled Garden as a Dispositive of Civil Disenfranchisement?

19.00 Discussants

Matthew Gandy (Cambridge) 
Sara Fregonese (Birmingham)
Sobia Ahmad Kaker (Goldsmiths)

Followed by a Q&A with the audience and a drinks reception.

The event is hosted in collaboration with UCL Urban Laboratory and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL.

No booking required.

Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle

Date and time
11th November 2017

6.30-9.00pm (GMT)

Cambridge House, 1 Addington Square, London SE5 0HF
(find on Google Maps)

Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle

Urban Salon are supporting the screening of the film Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle as a fundraiser for the Aylesbury leaseholders legal expenses for the upcoming public inquiry on compulsory purchase.

Speakers include Beverley Robinson (Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group), Anna Minton (author, journalist and lecturer), Loretta Lees (urbanist and expert on gentrification, University of Leicester; co-organiser, Urban Salon), Uzoamaka Okafor (Chair, Regenter Myatts Field North Community), Jerry Flynn (35% Campaign), Gerlinda Gniewosz (Cressingham Gardens)Paul Sng (Director), Luke Doonan (Executive Producer).

All donation proceeds go to the Aylesbury Leaseholders legal expenses fund set up by the 35% Campaign. You can directly support the campaign on its GoFundMe page.

Mega-Urbanization in the Global South

Date and time
17 May 2017
6.00-7.30 p.m. (BST)

King’s College London, Pyramid Room, 4th floor, K4U.04, King’s Building, Strand Campus, London WC2R 2LS

Mega-Urbanization in the Global South

With contributions from an international range of established and emerging scholars drawing upon real-world examples, Mega-Urbanization in the Global South is the first to use the lens of speed to examine the postcolonial “urban revolution”. From the mega-urbanization of Lusaka, to the production of satellite cities in Jakarta, to new cities built from scratch in Masdar, Songdo and Rajarhat, this book argues that speed is now the persistent feature of a range of utopian visions that seek to expedite the production of new cities.

18.00 Phil Hubbard (KCL) to introduce
18.10 Ayona Datta (KCL) introduction to the themes and debates of the book
18.25 Hyun Bang Shin (LSE) reflect upon your chapter in the context of the themes and debates of the book
18.35 Commentary from Catalina Ortiz (DPU, UCL)
18.50 Commentary from KCL PhD student Liu Dong (KCL)
19.00 Open discussion and Q&A
19.30 Drinks and nibbles

Sensory Cities: New Methods and Approaches for Research, Planning, Design and Curation

Date and time
24 March 2017

10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m.

London Metropolitan University, The Wash Houses, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT

Sensory Cities: New Methods and Approaches for Research, Planning, Design and Curation

Urban Salon is a co-supporter of this international conference bringing together academics and urban professionals, from museum curators to architects and urban planners, to discuss how to research, create and represent sensory urban experiences.

As cities are not only driving economic forces in Europe but crucial entities for providing a sense of place in a globalising world, it is important to examine the role of the senses in place-making and attachments. This final conference of the AHRC funded international research network “Sensory Cities: researching, representing and curating sensory-emotional landscapes of urban environments” (2015-2017) shares our key findings from the project, drawing on the experience of three cities that are exemplar for different forms of urban regeneration: London, Cologne and Barcelona.

A range of cross-disciplinary, cross-European and cross-professional panels will discuss: What can academics and urban professionals interested in the senses learn from each other’s methodological approaches? How can sensory methods help museums to discuss a city’s past, present and future? How can the senses inform urban design in an ethical way? What structures can enable a participatory approach?

In the evening there will be a launch of the sensory digital think-kit developed through the discussions and experimental methods trialled across three cities to research the sensory geography of place.

Places are free but need to be reserved.

Imagining infrastructures

Date and time
6 March 2017
6.00-7.30 p.m. (GMT)

Centre Building Room CBG.1.06
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

Imagining infrastructure

The modern usage of the term infrastructure has gone through a series of permutations from early emphasis on logistics, organization, and the expanding scope of technological networks to more recent interest in the intersections with landscape, ecology, and alternative theorisations of urban materiality. In this event we will explore questions relating to the meaning and conceptualisation of urban infrastructures. The question of infrastructure will serve as an entry point for wider reflections on the changing experience of nature, modernity, and urban space.

This event is a collaboration with the British Academy.


Dr Jiat-Hwee Chang, Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore

Professor Dr Jochen Monstadt
, Chair for Governance of Urban Transitions and Dynamics, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University

Dr Manuel Tironi, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, P. Universidad Católica de Chile

Professor Jane Wolff, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto



Professor Matthew Gandy FBA, Professor of Cultural and Historical Geography, University of Cambridge

FREE. Registration required.

Vertical: The City from Satellites to Tunnels

Date and time
28 February 2017
6.00-7.30 p.m.

King’s College London, Strand Campus, Pyramid Room, King’s Building, London WC2R 2LS (View map)

Vertical: The City from Satellites to Tunnels

Urban Salon hosts the book launch of Vertical: The City from Satellites to Tunnels (Verso, 2017), the new publication by Professor Stephen Graham (Newcastle University).

In this event the author will explore the reimagining of the cities we live in, the air above us, and what goes on in the earth beneath our feet. He examines how the geography 
of urban inequality, politics, and identity is determined in terms of above and below starting at the edge of earth’s atmosphere and descending through each vertical layer to the design of sidewalks and underground bunkers.


Professor Phil Hubbard (King’s College London)

Dr Hyun Shin (London School of Economics)


Date and time
11 February 2017
5.00-7.00 p.m. (GMT)

Bloomsbury Theatre Studio, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AH


In collaboration with the UCL Urban Laboratory, and hosted at the Bloomsbury Theatre Studio, we present a production of #haters, a spoken-word narrative-theatre play by Odd Eyes Theatre, looking at how “gentrification” in the name of urban regeneration is changing the cultural landscape of the UK.

The play will be followed by a panel considering the value of performativity in discussing gentrification issues and representation and social class in gentrifying London.


June 2014, London. A stab, a tweet and a social-media storm rip the sultriness of the hottest summer on record since 1976.

Two young heroes, worlds apart, gravitate towards each other against the will of alluring internet chimeras. Two epic journeys set out in the storm of urban regeneration. Will their hands touch?

Inspired by real events #Haters tells about “hipsters”, “roadmen” and social-media chimeras digging out the real people beyond the stereotypes. It’s about opportunities, fate and values told with a good dose of self-irony and with extreme compassion for the characters involved. It’s about the housing crisis and a world that changed suddenly right before your eyes, of which you could only bear witness.

Expect spoken words and live music, beats and outlandish sounds provoked by verbatim social-media text. Expect bitter-sweet humour, tenderness and compassion. Expect to change your mind.

Written and directed by Emilia Teglia. #Haters is funded by Arts Council England.


A small ticketing fee will cover venue costs and avoid no-shows. Donations towards the production will be welcome at the end of the evening.


Further links:

Arts Council England
Odd Eyes Theatre