Book Chapter // Competing Cities and Spectacularizing Urban Landscapes

Ponzini D. (2012), “Competing Cities and Spectacularizing Urban Landscapes” in Anheier H. K., Isar Y. R. , Hoelscher M. (eds) Cultural Policy and Governance in a New Metropolitan Age. Cultures and Globalization Series, Vol. 5, Sage, London, pp. 201-225.



From the Introduction

“… In today’s multi-sector city governance networks (typically including local government, public and nonprofit cultural institutions, private real estate actors and mixed public-private agencies) culture facilities and activities are generally expected to trigger urban regeneration and economic development, but the latter evidently depends also on complex contextual factors, e.g. accessibility, availability of financial, social and cultural capital for the intervention and for economic and social complementary activities. Yet representing architectural aesthetics as a determinant factor in regeneration and economic revitalization has been the means for diffusing beliefs and behaviors among decision makers and has provided certain actors with apparently favorable conditions. The support of a limited number of global architectural firms and of similar cultural services and institutions tends to homogenize the urban and cultural landscapes of cities while, paradoxically, these very cities seek to distinguish themselves by hiring star architects or hosting peculiar cultural activities.

A better understanding of this phenomenon and of  how cultural politics might mediate various interests or induce the redistribution of positive effects in a larger set of social actors and groups, are crucial both to urban planning in general and to urban cultural policy-making in particular.  In my view, the interpretation of outstanding and meaningful architectural interventions should be discussed not as the definition of isolated aesthetic spaces or as the accomplishment of a given spatial or functional order, but as the exploration of possible transformations in the urban landscape and of its different material and immaterial uses. This perspective implies a cultural conception of the urban landscape, of its material and symbolic construction through time, and not only as the accumulation of icons and spectacles to be consumed by the media, private investors or by politics…”