Mobility and Built Form

The shaping of built form by globally circulating models is concerned with the production, circulation and local reception of blueprints for the design of built form that claim universal applicability. The aim is to study aspects of urban globalisation which have been rarely investigated until now. The focus is particularly on how these ‘mobile models’ not only shape material spaces but also contribute to the creation of transnational networks of expertise, the distribution of social positions, and the definition of institutional rules related within these spaces.

Involved Professors

Ola Söderström is full professor of social and cultural geography at the University of Neuchâtel. He has been working on the social and cultural dimensions of urban change for twenty years. His PhD was devoted to a comparative analysis of heritage politics in Canada and Switzerland. He has directed over ten different research projects, including one on innovative architectural and planning projects in Europe in terms of their use of research on urban practices, and one on the role of images in urban planning. Ola Söderström is the former director of a private research centre on architecture and planning (the Fondation Braillard Architectes in Geneva, 1994-2002). This project is resonant with his present work on the relations between mobility and built form. He has supervised many doctoral and MA theses.

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Gianni D’Amato is a trained sociologist and political scientist. He currently is director of the Swiss Forum of Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel. His research projects focus on migration policy and citizenship, in particular on accommodation and integration processes in their relation to nationhood, transnationalism, and irregular migration. Recently, he also did research into integration processes at the local level. As a full professor of migration studies at the University of Neuchâtel, he teaches courses on Pluralism, Migration Sociology and Theories of Citizenship. He supervised both MA dissertations and PhD theses covering different aspects of migration and citizenship studies.

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Postdoctoral Researcher

Laurence Crot, PhD (LSE) is a post-doctoral fellow at the Geography Institute (IGG) of the University of Neuchâtel

Research Title: Sustainable urbanism on the move: One Planet Living Communities

Abstract: This research project examines the mobility of ideas and policies of sustainable urban development by focusing on the global circulation of 'One Planet Living', a model of urban planning geared towards the creation of low carbon cities. The analysis places particular emphasis on the geographies of planning knowledge engendered through this travelling process, as well as on the political economy of the adoption/adaptation of these solutions once they ‘touch ground’ in host environments. The model under consideration is the product of a partnership between the designers of BedZED, a world-renowned ecological community in South London, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). There is currently a ‘One Planet Living community’ in the making on every continent.

The two selected case studies are Masdar City, a flagship ecological city under construction in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and Sonoma Mountain Village, a planned eco-community in North California. In each case, the author examines the travelling process involved and the locally-defined strategies of adaption and/or resistance to the scheme. The aim is to identify and explicate the mechanisms by which a transnational planning model is being ‘mobilised’ and de-territorialised through scientific, policy and corporate networks, as well as ‘immobilised’ and re-territorialised every time it gets translated into local urban forms. The analysis is theoretically-informed by the neo-institutionalist literature on policy transfers and the conceptual tools under construction in the emergent literature on ‘new mobilities’.

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Key Texts

  • Söderström, Ola. 2006. ‘Studying Cosmopolitan Landscapes’ Progress in Human Geography 30 (5): 1-6.
  • Söderström, Ola. 2009. Urban Cosmographies. Un indagine sul cambiamento di Palermo. Rome: Meltemi (co-written with D. Fimiani, M. Giambalvo et S. Lucido).
  • Söderström, Ola. 2010. ‘Forms and Flows in the contemporary transformations of Palermo’s City Centre ‘. In M. Guggenheim and O. Söderström (eds.) Re-Shaping the City. How global mobility transforms architecture and urban form. London: Routledge (189-209).
  • Crot, Laurence. 2006. Scenographic and cosmetic planning: globalization and territorial restructuring in Buenos Aires. Journal of Urban Affairs 28(3): 227‐251.
  • Crot, Laurence. 2010 (forthcoming). Transnational urban policies: ‘relocating’ Spanish and Brazilian models of urban planning in Buenos Aires. Urban Research & Practice 3(2).