Timescapes of Urban Change: : London – Barcelona, a regeneration comparison

Date and time
Tuesday 29 November 2016
6.30-8.15 PM (GMT)

UCL Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre, 25 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AY

Time and space lie at the centre of discussions on urban redevelopment projects. The making of urban space is in many ways a materialisation of the passing of time socially, financially, and politically. Yet, those using the city inhabit and create a diversity of temporalities. Hence, urban change is underpinned by a multiplicity of temporal narratives, practices and ideologies which operate at different speeds and intensities, sometimes converging, other times conflicting, to produce a particular sense of place.

Focusing on two cities that are exemplars of their urban regeneration in recent years: Barcelona and London, this event will bring together urban professionals and academics to reflect, from a long-term perspective, on the role of time in the construction and experience of these two cities. By doing this, we hope to situate questions around temporality at the forefront of the research agenda on urban change.

View the programme here.



  • Simone Abram (Anthropology, Durham University): “Anticipation and Apprehension: temporal agency in urban change”
  • Mari Paz Balibrea (Department of Cultures and Languages, Birkbeck): “Militant time, leisure time, working time: Reflections on life in the creative city”
  • Carme Gual Via (Foment Ciutat Vella, Barcelona City Council): “As time goes by…or how cities reinvent the wheel every term of office”
  • Euan Mills (Future Cities Catapult): “How should temporal considerations affect the design of the built environment?”
  • Bob Allies (Allies and Morrison Architects): “The urban masterplan: a process not a product”
  • Mike Raco (The Bartlett, UCL): “Living in democratic times: Reflections on the transformation of London’s built environment”

This is the first of a two-part conference, with the second taking place at the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona on 12 and 13 December. Both events will be streamed live online and there will be opportunities for those not in attendance to participate in the discussions and pose questions. More information on the live stream soon.

The event is part of Dr. Monica Degen’s research project Timescapes of Urban Change, supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.

RSVP via Eventbrite: urbantimescapes.eventbrite.co.uk

Cities in the BRICS: What are we comparing?

Date and time
Friday 11 November 2016
2-4 PM (GMT)

UCL Pearson Building, Room G07, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT 

Cities in the BRICS: What are we comparing


Yan Yang and Philip Harrison (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)


Fulong Wu (Bartlett School of Planning, UCL)

The term BRIC was used initially in an analytical sense to refer to a grouping of countries beyond the West with the potential to reconfigure the geography of the global economy. After 2009 however it referred to a political alliance with geopolitical intentions (with BRIC becoming BRICS when South Africa joined in 2010). The construct is under pressure in terms of its analytical and political use as BRICS economies have become increasingly differentiated in terms of economic performance and as severe diplomatic tensions have emerged within the alliance.

In this seminar we discuss ongoing comparative work on cities in the BRICS, a grouping of countries that account for nearly 40% of the world’s total urban population. With the enormous diversity of the BRICS in almost all categories – including scale, economic performance, levels and rates of urbanisation, income and governance – questions arise over the meaning and purpose of comparison. We discuss the challenge of comparison but nevertheless show how very different places can be drawn into a meaningful comparative conversation. There is however a significant point of commonality. All countries in the BRICS have experienced far-reaching political and/or economic transformations over the past few decades in a way that the global West has not.

In the presentation we show how these macro changes have been translated into urban change, but also show how differences in the national and local management of these processes account in part for significant differences (and similarities) across the BRICS in terms of urban outcomes. We use the different trajectories of metropolitan governance as an illustrative case. 

No booking required, just turn up. For further information, contact Jenny Robinson.

In Defense of Housing

Date and time
25 October 2016
6.30-8 PM GMT

PAR.2.03, Parish Building, London School of Economics, London WC2A 2AE

In Defense of Housing


Dr David MaddenProfessor Peter Marcuse (via Skype)


Dr Melissa Fernandez Arrigoitia, Dr Suzanne Hall, Dr Paul Watt


Dr Hyun Bang Shin

Housing is one of the most pressing urban issues of our time. In this event marking the publication of their book In Defense of Housing, Peter Marcuse and David Madden explore the causes and consequences of the housing problem and detail the need for progressive alternatives. They argue that the housing crisis has deep political, social, and economic roots and will not be solved by minor policy shifts. As a critical response, they explore the potential of a radical right to housing.

David Madden (@davidjmadden) is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Cities Programme at the LSE.

Peter Marcuse is Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University.

Melissa Fernandez Arrigoitia is Lecturer in Urban Futures at Lancaster University.

Suzanne Hall (@SuzanneHall12) is an urban ethnographer and Director of the LSE Cities Programme.

Paul Watt is Reader in Urban Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.

Hyun Bang Shin (@urbancommune) is Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the LSE and an organising member of the Urban Salon.

Book launch: Moth

Date and time
8 June 2016
6.30-8 PM GMT

Stoke Newington Bookshop, 159 Stoke Newington High St, London N16 0NY 

Book launch: Moth

Inspired by the plants and animals found in marginal spaces and wastelands, Matthew Gandy has written a new book, Moth. This book forms part of the Reaktion Animal series which weaves together aspects of science with cultural history.  Labelled as “wonderfully idiosyncratic” by The New York Times, the Animal series offers a novel approach to exploring the historical significance of various animals. Matthew’s book focuses on the moth: long associated with darkness and the gothic imagination, yet significant in a myriad of other ways, from silk production to sensitive indicators of environmental change.

“The rich history of vernacular names speaks to the significant place of moths in early cultures of nature: names such as the Merveille du Jour, the Green-brindled Crescent and the Clifden Nonpareil evoke a sense of wonder that connects disparate fields such as folklore, the history of place and early scientific texts, ” Matthew writes.

Manufacturing Gesellschaft: Urbanized Nature and the Green Screen

Date and time
Thursday 2 June 2016
2.30-4 PM GMT

G07, Pearson Building, UCL Department of Geography, London, WC1E 6BT

Manufacturing Gesellschaft: Urbanized Nature and the Green Screen 

Dr Hillary Angelo, University of California, Santa Cruz

This talk offers a sociological account of urban greening: the normative practice of using nature to fix problems with urbanism. Through a historical comparison of greening practices at three moments of major urban restructuring in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, I find that urbanization made nature into a tool for manufacturing Gesellschaft, or ideal urban society, and that a social imaginary of nature as a vehicle for social goods, which I call urbanized nature, makes greening practices possible. In addition, the comparison reveals that greening operates with characteristic social logics. While spatializing very particular ideals of bourgeois urban publics, nature’s “green screen” allows protagonists to carry out greening projects as universally beneficial investments in the public good, and conditions audiences to respond in kind.

Dr. Hillary Angelo is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California Santa Cruz. Her work explores the relationship between ideas about nature and urbanization processes from historical, theoretical, and ethnographic perspectives. She is currently preparing a book on urban “greening” in Germany’s Ruhr region, and is at work on two new projects: one on infrastructure and sociology (with Craig Calhoun), and the other on equity in urban sustainability planning. Recent publications include “From the city lens toward urbanisation as a way of seeing: Country/city binaries on an urbanising planet” (Urban Studies 2016) and “Urbanizing urban political ecology: A critique of methodological cityism” (IJURR 2015, with David Wachsmuth).

Theorising urban studies on/from China/Asia

Date and time
21 April 2016
5.30-7.30 PM GMT

Room G07, UCL Pearson Building, London WC1E 6BT (See UCL Maps)

Urban Development by Project: Comparative Perspectives


  • Richard Ballard, Romain Dittgen, Phil Harrison, Mike Makwela, Alison Todes (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg)
  • Stan Majoor (University of Amsterdam)
  • Gilles Pinson (Sciences Po, Bordeaux)


  • Fulong Wu


  • Jenny Robinson

This seminar is associated with the beginning of a new ESRC Urban Transformations funded comparative study of large scale urban development projects in London, Johannesburg and Shanghai – Governing the Future City.

There will be drinks and snacks after the seminar, to provide an opportunity for informal discussion and networking.


Conflicting spatial visions: mega projects in Johannesburg, South Africa

Richard Ballard, Romain Dittgen, Philip Harrison, Mike Makwela & Alison Todes (University of the Witwatersrand)

The City of Johannesburg in South Africa is located within a complex set of inter-governmental relations, and also within the temporal framing of declining state coherence and political factionalism. Over the past few years distinctive and competing urban spatial visions have evolved within the Metropolitan City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng Provincial Government which governs a city-region which includes Johannesburg. Within the city administration a vision has cohered which draws largely on conceptions of the compact city, urban densification and transit-oriented development. In the provincial government, however, the vision is of large-scale urban expansion, with large new residential investments beyond the existing urban edge, and especially in areas of vulnerable or declining economies. The paper explains the emergence of these competing visions before exploring the ways in which the divide is revealed through large scale mega projects. The first project, Modderfontein, is on the spatial edge of Johannesburg although it is centrally located within the city-region. It is the site of a major private investment by a Shanghai-based developer, Zendai Properties. It has been welcomed enthusiastically by provincial government but has received a more ambiguous reception from city government, which has been involved in complex negotiations with the developers and Zendai’s London-based consultants. The Corridors of Freedom, by contrast, is a flagship initiative of the city government which is viewed warily by provincial government. It is an attempt to stitch together the fragmented apartheid city through densification (mainly) along the routes of the new Bus Rapid Transit System. Both developments reveal an entanglement of competing state and private interests, and both have uncertain futures which relate in part to market conditions but also to a fluid political context.

Urban Megaprojects as journeys in a changing landscape

Dr. Stan Majoor (Professor Coordination of Urban Issues, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences)

Their long trajectory of decision-making and execution makes urban megaprojects particularly prone to the effects of changing political, economic, technical and social conditions. We claim therefore that it is crucial to take a dynamic perspective on urban megaproject delivery, with a focus on how political and economic parameters and actor-constellations evolve over the stages of a project delivery lifecycle. Successful megaprojects have the capacity to use this turbulence in a positive way to change and adapt programmatically and organizationally. This lecture critically analyses three contemporary urban megaprojects, Amsterdam Zuidas (the Netherlands), Copenhagen Ørestad (Denmark) and Melbourne Docklands (Australia) that not only faced extensive turbulence, but also initiated strategies during their delivery phase to change and adapt.

Governing by Project

Gilles Pinson (Sciences Po, Bordeaux)

Abstract to follow

Planetary Gentrification

Date and time
16 March 2016
5.30-8 PM GMT

Room PAR.LG.03, Parish Building, LSE (see LSE Maps)

Book launch: Planetary Gentrification

To celebrate the launch of a new book Planetary Gentrification (2016, Polity Press) by Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto Lopez-Morales, join us on the evening of Wednesday 16 March for a special launch event at LSE.

Please register on Eventbrite before 29th February (or until places are filled).

Authors: Loretta Lees (University of Leicester), Hyun Bang Shin (LSE) and Ernesto Lopez-Morales (University of Chile, Santiago)

Discussants: Fulong Wu (UCL), Andrew Harris (UCL) and Alex Loftus (KCL)

Supported by:
Department of Geography and Environment, LSE;
Department of Geography, University of Leicester;
CITY: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action

Book description
This is the first book in Polity’s new ‘Urban Futures’ series.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, proclamations rang out that gentrification had gone global. But what do we mean by ‘gentrification’ today? How can we compare ‘gentrification’ in New York and London with that in Shanghai, Johannesburg, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro? This book argues that gentrification is one of the most significant and socially unjust processes affecting cities worldwide today, and one that demands renewed critical assessment.

Drawing on the ‘new’ comparative urbanism and writings on planetary urbanization, the authors undertake a much-needed transurban analysis underpinned by a critical political economy approach. Looking beyond the usual gentrification suspects in Europe and North America to non-Western cases, from slum gentrification to mega-displacement, they show that gentrification has unfolded at a planetary scale, but it has not assumed a North to South or West to East trajectory the story is much more complex than that.

Rich with empirical detail, yet wide-ranging, Planetary Gentrification unhinges, unsettles and provincializes Western notions of urban development. It will be invaluable to students and scholars interested in the future of cities and the production of a truly global urban studies, and equally importantly to all those committed to social justice in cities.

Differentiated Mobilities in Contested Cities: Towards Comparative Approaches

Date and time
2 February 2016
1.30-6 PM GMT

IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT (see UCL Maps

Differentiated Mobilities in Contested Cities: Towards Comparative Approaches

In this workshop, we aim to explore urban contestation in various cities throughthe lens of mobility, and to work towards creating comparative frameworks to study mobilities in contested cities.

Contemporary cities are well understood as places of difference, diversity, and encounter. Whether this difference is a creative force or a potentially destabilizing force is a topic for further discussion. Here, we are concerned with understanding how urban mobilities are structured and experienced in contested cities.

In particular, we are interested in inviting discussion on the ways in which urban difference is made apparent and potentially transformed through patterns of mobility and urban circulations. We would like to explore how governmental policies or planning outcomes that affect patterns of mobility cause further fractures and perpetuate difference in the city but also to reflect on what new kinds of social interactions might emerge. And finally, we will consider how we can compare differentiated mobilities across contested cities, and what lessons we can draw from such comparisons.


Draft programme structure:

13:45: Welcome: Jennifer Robinson (UCL)
13.50: Introduction: Jonathan Rokem (UCL) & Sobia Ahmad Kaker (LSE)
14:00: Session I: What can we learn from mobilities in different contested cities.

Sobia Ahmad Kaker (LSE) – Securitizing Circulation: Porous Borders and Fluid Enclaves in Karachi
Suzanne Hall (LSE) – Elaborating Migration: the co-production ofurban diversity and discrimination

15.00 Coffee Break
15:30 – Session II: Towards comparative approaches.

Jonathan Rokem (UCL) – Contested Mobilities: Learning from Urban Difference in Jerusalem and Stockholm.
Jorge Blanco (University of Buenos Aires) – Uneven Mobilities in Contested Cities: Latin American Cases in Comparative Perspective

16.30: Responses from invited respondents/ Discussion (chaired by Jennifer Robinson) with Laura Vaughan (UCL); Camillo Boano (UCL); Stephan Graham (Newcastle)

17.25: Close and drinks

The Engineer and the Plumber: Mediating Mumbai’s conflicting infrastructural imaginaries

Date and time
20 January 2016

6 PM

UCL Pearson Building, Exhibition Room GO07, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

The Engineer and the Plumber: Mediating Mumbai’s conflicting infrastructural imaginaries


Dr Lisa Björkman (Department of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Louisville)


Professor Andrew Barry (UCL Geography)

Two decades ago, the rules governing the provision of piped municipal water supply in the Indian city of Mumbai underwent a dramatic shift, whereby access to water became linked to the policy frameworks governing eligibility for a property titling scheme – what the paper characterizes as “hypothetical property right”.

The paper outlines the ideological basis and practical implications of the profound policy shift, as well as the material, legal and political contradictions of this new regulatory regime. Focusing empirical attention on a neighborhood in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs, the paper demonstrates how these contradictions are increasingly mediated by the material and practical knowledge, embodied expertise, local authority and wide-ranging sociopolitical relations of an intermediate cast of characters known locally as “plumbers”. The social, political and hydraulic imaginaries animating the work of “plumbing” are shown to inhabit a temporal and spatial imaginary distinctly at odds with a network-flow paradigm within which the work of water supply planning and distribution in Mumbai is conceptualized, materialized and institutionalized. The hydraulic and legal contradictions of these clashing infrastructural idioms – of flow and event – have rendered the hypothetical property-right based water infrastructural regime highly unstable. 

The paper follows these spiraling contradictions, tracing how the instability eventually erupted in Mumbai’s waterscape. With the hypothetical property right based water policy framework delegitimized and effectively unmade, the city’s water infrastructures (their planning and operations) remain caught between dueling infrastructural imaginaries – suspended in a highly politicized state of limbo.

No booking required. See UCL Maps for directions to the location.

Learning from China and Questioning China Exceptionalism: An interdisciplinary debate

Date and time
Wednesday 20th May 2015
2.30-6 pm (GMT+1)

Room 32L.LG.04, 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London School of Economics and Political Science (Maps and Directions)

Learning from China and Questioning China Exceptionalism: An interdisciplinary debate

The next Urban Salon seminar is going to take place at the LSE as a half-day workshop to provide a space for a unique opportunity to listen to academics working in various disciplines, who are to reflect on their own research and share their thoughts on how studying China has added value to each disciplinary understanding.

Closing date to register: 15th MayRegister to attend.

Professor Michael Keith, ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford

Professor Fulong Wu, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London

Dr Kean Fan Lim, School of Geography, University of Nottingham

Dr Leigh Jenco, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science

Hyun Bang Shin, LSE

Exceptionalism and urbanism: China’s cities, the genealogy of markets and thinking about a comparative urbanism

Michael Keith, University of Oxford

In this talk Michael Keith draws on the work from his collaborative book China Constructing Capitalism to consider how we might make sense of what is sometimes described as the exceptionalism of China’s growth model.  He will focus in particular on how we come to think of the historical relationship between law and economics in the genealogy of markets in shaping the crucible of contemporary urbanisms. The suggestion is that this focus opens up alternative ways of thinking about comparative urbanism in contemporary study of the metropolis.


China�s Changing City Planning: Planning for Growth

Fulong Wu, Bartlett School of Planning, Univeristy College London

This paper will review changing city-planning practices in China. The discussion will contrast the effort of developing a new civic center in Shanghai in the era of Republic China, the programs of developing industrial workers’ villages in the socialist period, and the recent planning and development of new towns and eco-cities. The role of city planning in delivery of entrepreneurial urban governance is discussed. At the national and regional levels the instrument of planning is utilized to achieve a more coordinated development. The changing role of city planning is examined, especially with reference to forming the discourse of growth, which legitimizes the state control over urban development. The study helps to explain the puzzle why planning has not diminished along with the demise of the socialist economy. The study also reflects on the notion of neoliberalism and asks to what extent China’s urban development conforms to the paradigm of the neoliberal city.


On the Conceptual Implications of State-driven Infrastructural provision in the Chongqing city-region

Kean Fan Lim, School of Geography, University of Nottingham

This presentation discusses the implications of the state-driven infrastructural overhaul of Chongqing, a major city-region in interior China, for current conceptualizations of “Chinese exceptionalism”. It shows how this overhaul, widely construed to be antithetical to market-driven industrialization at the national level, was in fact an outcome of national spatial strategies that favored selective marketization along the Chinese coastal seaboard. Specifically, the lack of private capitalistic interests in driving infrastructural development in Chongqing impelled the municipal government to undertake the financial risks of infrastructural construction across eight major domains. Subsequent industrialization in the mid-2000s occurred as improved facilities enabled time-space compression, in turn vindicating and perpetuating state involvement in infrastructural provision. This phenomenon offers a double complication of the developmental story in post-Mao China. First, extensive state involvement in inland urban economies like Chongqing is neither a simple residue nor a potential resurgence of Maoist economic governance; it is ironically a reaction to the geographically-targeted, “first wave” marketization pathway of the post-Maoera. Second, state construction and management of infrastructural amenities is not inherently anti-market; on the contrary, it now drives a new wave of market-oriented industrialization across cities in interior China. By extension, the Chongqing case underscores how the economic history of post-Mao China is neither linear nor exceptional to the entire country; it is more accurately framed as a dynamic – and hence inherently capricious – interaction of inherited institutions, selective economic liberalization and state spatial strategies.


Toward the Creative Engagement with Chinese Thought

Leigh Jenco, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science

This presentation will be based on the introduction to my book forthcoming in September from Oxford University Press, titled Changing Referents [??]: Learning Across Space and Time in China and the West. The book examines the theoretical possibilities opened by a series of Chinese debates, dating from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, in which awareness of Chinese ethnocentrism as well as methods of learning from difference were subject to heightened (some would say unprecedented) scrutiny.  These Chinese thinkers personally confronted the historical processes that supposedly culminated in the displacement of “pre-colonial,” “indigenous,” or “traditional” modes of thought by the terms of supposedly universal Enlightenment modernity.  In contrast to typical readings, I argue that their conversations actually enable more constructive assessments of how and why we might want to learn from foreign others – an important lesson in our own age, when globalization forces us to confront very similar questions and when methodological discussions about engaging “otherness”  themselves remain Eurocentric. In this paper I focus primarily on how Chinese thought can be used “creatively” in this way despite pronouncements of its modern “death” by Joseph Levenson and others.