Planetary Urbanization

Theory project

Chris­ti­an Schmid, Pro­fes­sor of socio­lo­gy, facul­ty of archi­tec­tu­re, ETH Zurich
Neil Bren­ner, Pro­fes­sor of urban theo­ry, Har­vard Gra­dua­te School of Design (GSD)

Recent Publi­ca­ti­on Links:
The Urban Age in Ques­ti­on (2014)
Towards a New Epis­te­mo­lo­gy of the Urban (2015)
Jour­neys Through Pla­ne­ta­ry Urba­ni­za­ti­on (2018)

Alrea­dy four deca­des ago, Hen­ri Lef­eb­v­re put for­ward the radi­cal hypo­the­sis of the com­ple­te urba­ni­za­ti­on of socie­ty, deman­ding a radi­cal shift in ana­ly­sis from urban form to the urba­ni­za­ti­on pro­cess. Today, the urban rep­res­ents an increa­singly world­wi­de con­di­ti­on in which poli­ti­cal-eco­no­mic rela­ti­ons are enmes­hed. This situa­ti­on of pla­ne­ta­ry urba­ni­za­ti­on means, para­do­xi­cal­ly, that even spaces that lie well bey­ond the tra­di­tio­nal city cores and sub­ur­ban peripheries—from tran­so­cea­nic ship­ping lanes, trans­con­ti­nen­tal high­way and rail­way net­works and world­wi­de com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons infra­st­ruc­tures to alpi­ne and coas­tal tou­rist encla­ves, “natu­re” parks, off­shore finan­ci­al cen­ters, agro-indus­tri­al catch­ment zones and erst­while “natu­ral” spaces such as the world’s oce­ans, deserts, jun­gles, moun­tain ran­ges, tun­dra and atmosphere—have beco­me inte­gral parts of the world­wi­de urban fabric. While the pro­cess of agglo­me­ra­ti­on remains essen­ti­al to the pro­duc­tion of this new world­wi­de topo­gra­phy, poli­ti­cal-eco­no­mic spaces can no lon­ger be trea­ted as if they were com­po­sed of dis­cre­te, dis­tinct and uni­ver­sal “types” of sett­le­ment.  In short, in an epoch in which the idea of the “non-urban” appears increa­singly to be an ideo­lo­gi­cal pro­jec­tion deri­ved from a long dis­sol­ved, pre­indus­tri­al geo-his­to­ri­cal for­ma­ti­on, our image of the “urban” like­wi­se needs to be fun­da­ment­al­ly reinven­ted. The pro­ject aims at deve­lo­ping a new ana­ly­ti­cal frame­work for the ana­ly­sis of con­tem­pora­ry urba­ni­za­ti­on pro­ces­ses.