Book Chapter // Branded Megaprojects and Fading Urban Structure in Contemporary Cities

del cerro 2013 book cover

Ponzini D. (2013), “Branded Megaprojects and Fading Urban Structures in Contemporary Cities” in Del Cerro Santamaria G. (ed), Urban Megaprojects: A Worldwide View, Emerald, New York, pp. 107-129.

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This book chapter discusses the combination of structure plans and urban megaprojects.  Different cases and examples involving name architects and spectacular artifacts are considered in diverse urban contexts. In fact, the publicly stated rationale of promoting branded megaprojects is to trigger and harness the real estate market in order not only to create private revenue, but also to contribute to the public city in terms of infrastructure, public space, cultural amenities, international visibility and branding. In many cities, this induced significant changes not only in terms of negotiating building codes or urban design standards and public-private and financial arrangements, but also in terms of the overall city form and the most significant urban development trends, which were supposed to be driven by structure plans and overarching visions.

Drawing on cases of megaprojects and urban planning processes in different cities such as Abu Dhabi, Milan and others, this chapter suggests that the tensions between branded megaprojects and structure plans are not due only to contextual constraints, but also to the basic assumptions underlying this combination. In this sense, the chapter questions the idea that economic, planning and political conditions alone can explain the failures and shortcomings of urban megaprojects.

Reflecting on current global trends in urban development, these findings seem relevant both for reconsidering the roles of architectural branding and the weakening of large-scale urban planning devices in Western cities and for allowing emerging countries to learn from past experience in this field.