Comparing urban renewal in Barcelona and Seoul: urban management in conditions of competition among global cities

Asia Europe Journal, 10.1, pp. 21-39
with Matjaž Uršič
Springer Verlag | Berlin | 2012 | ISSN 1610-2932
DOI 10.1007/s10308-012-0319-1

Cities have become increasingly autonomous economic and political actors which actively respond to the pressures and opportunities of globalisation. Consequently, the urban management of any particular city is often based on the assumption that the city can improve its position against rival cities by efficiently managing its strategic resources and promoting its presumed advantages. Though such an approach to urban management may help cities to improve their global competitiveness and the quality of their residents’ everyday life, it can sometimes result in negative consequences at the local level, thus actually narrowing the development prospects of the cities in the end. This article discusses urban management against the backdrop of the competitive urban policy in Barcelona and Seoul, and compares the local consequences of urban renewal in both cities. Based on a comparison of the two cases of urban renewal, 22@ Activity District in Barcelona and the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul, this article argues that, in conditions of competition among global cities, even very different approaches to urban management and urban renewal may result in similar consequences at the local level.

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Selling global Seoul: competitive urban policy and symbolic reconstruction of cities

Revija za Sociologiju, 41.3, pp. 291-313
Croatian Sociological Association | Zagreb | 2011 | ISSN 0350-154X
DOI 10.5613/rzs.41.3.2

The paper focuses on a process of symbolic reconstruction of cities, where the existing image or meaning of places is purposely changed with the aim of attracting new investments, events or tourists to a particular city. The process of symbolic reconstruction is situated within the context of growing competition among cities. Symbolic reconstruction also affects tourism development in cities by providing an easily marketed and consumable image and meaning of places. The case of the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul helps in understanding how symbolic reconstruction of cities is related to and affected by competitive urban policy, urban renewal and city marketing. Observing local consequences one can conclude that while the Cheonggyecheon restoration and resulting symbolic reconstruction of the city helped Cheonggyecheon to become the major tourist attraction and icon of global Seoul, it also resulted in a decline in local places and cultures. Such outcomes of urban renewal contradict strategic goals of urban policy and may prevail in the end over the benefits, which the Cheonggyecheon restoration brings to tourism development and everyday life in Seoul.

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Industrial heritage in Barcelona: between vacant monuments and everyday life

AB, 41.190-191, pp. 40-42
Association of Architects of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2011 | ISSN 0352-1982

The 22@ district of activities is a typical case of urban regeneration of a former industrial area in Barcelona. The plan envisages an extensive economic transformation and urban regeneration of a working-class neighbourhood Poblenou whereby the city authorities would create new investment and employment opportunities and improve the city’s competitiveness. A lot of attention has been directed towards the protection of industrial heritage as an important aspect of Poblenou’s unique identity with the plan outlining various schemes to transform the former factories into new manufacturing, educational, residential or community spaces.

The practice has shown, however, that the protection of industrial heritage in Poblenou is more focused on preserving the appearance of the former factories than on the questions of their future purpose and significance, which has led to a conflict between the residents of the neighbourhood and the city authorities. The industrial heritage, which represents a part of everyday life to the residents of Poblenou and is a symbolic expression of their working-class past, was understood mostly as an opportunity for new investments by the city authorities. The 22@ district of activities thus shows that the successful protection of industrial heritage in Barcelona is largely due to the strivings of the civil society for the right to common memory, which makes the case of Poblenou relevant also for the Slovene environment.

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Urban regeneration in global Seoul: new approaches, old divides?

Viennese Contributions to Korean Studies II, pp. 185-204
Koreanologie am Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften, Universität Wien (eds.)
Praesens Verlag | Vienna | 2010 | ISBN 978-3-7069-0619-7

The Cheonggyecheon restoration, as the most known example of urban regeneration in Seoul, has drawn a lot of attention in Korea and abroad for its innovative approach. The restoration is often presented as a case that has noticeably improved quality of life and resolved growing social, economic and environmental disparities in the city. Yet the Cheonggyecheon restoration also plays an important strategic role as an instrument of urban policies, by which Seoul Metropolitan Government is trying to improve global competitiveness and global image of the city. In this paper we show that it is precisely the discourses and policies of globalization that have become not only a motor of urban regeneration, but also an important source of emerging social and spatial divides in Seoul. We argue that exclusion of local residents, caused by the Cheonggyecheon restoration, may lead towards decline of civic participation and alienation of the city as a common political agent of all citizens. Such undesired social, spatial and political outcomes may at the end prevail over the actual benefits of urban regeneration.

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Local responses to global challenges: cultural context of urban change in Barcelona and Seoul

Založba FDV | Ljubljana | 2009, ISBN 978-961-235-386-5 | 2012, ISBN 978-961-235-501-2 (ePub)

Local Responses to Global ChallengesThe book Urban Change and Local culture in Barcelona and Seoul talks about how globalization influences everyday life in cities and about the importance of local culture for urban change. With a broad cross-cultural study of 22@ Activity District urban renewal in Poblenou in Barcelona and Wangsimni New Town urban redevelopment in Seoul the book reveals how structural inequalities on the global and national level influence everyday experience of both cities. Residents in Poblenou and Wangsimni actively respond to the changes in their everyday living environment, which are caused by the globalization, and in this way influence the transformation of both neighbourhoods. Contrary to a general belief that due to globalization cities are becoming more similar to each other, the book shows how local culture remains an important source of urban change in cities today, while being at the same time the source of their distinctiveness and diversity.

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Urban change and local culture: responses to urban renewal in Wangsimni

Journal of Seoul Studies, 37, pp. 117-153
Institute of Seoul Studies | Seoul | 2009 | ISSN 1225-746x

Urban renewal is a process, which improves quality of life in cities and addresses disparities caused by past urban development at the local level. Yet cities have also become increasingly integrated at the global level. The competition between them influences the way a particular city reacts to pressures and opportunities of globalization. Urban renewal is therefore often instrumentalized by political elites and private investors for improvement of global status of a particular city, which may in turn result in undesired social, economic, environmental or political outcomes at the local level. Seoul is no exception in this regard. This paper deals with the urban renewal in Wangsimni, an old neighbourhood east of the downtown Seoul, in order to study how globalization affects the urban renewal, how urban renewal constrains everyday life in cities, and how the citizens respond to challenges caused by it. In the conclusion the article argues that local culture has been a major source of responses to urban renewal in Wangsimni, although in this particular case the actual outcomes of those responses were far from desired. Urban renewal in Wangsimni namely seems closer to developmentalism, characteristic for Seoul in the past, than to anticipated sustainable development of Seoul in the future.

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Cheonggyecheon restoration: bridging old, building new divides in global Seoul

Urban regeneration in New York, London and Seoul, pp. 216-229
Urban Regeneration Network (eds.)
Pixelhouse | Seoul | 2009 | ISBN 978-89-958897-5-6

The article shows that it is the discourses and policies of globalization that have become not only the motor of urban regeneration, but also the main source of growing social and spatial divides in cities. These divides are even more obvious in globalizing cities such as Seoul. In conclusion the article argue that exclusion of marginalised social groups, which emerges as a consequence of urban regeneration, leads towards declined participation of citizens in the process of urban governance and towards alienation of cities as shared political institutions. Such undesired outcomes of urban regeneration may at the end prevail over its benefits, as the case of the Cheonggyecheon restoration illustrates.

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Poljane reinvented: social cohesion and collective space

Poljane: extended city centre, pp. 129-137
Ilka Čerpes, Blaž Križnik, Luka Mladenovič, Marko Studen (eds.)
Municipality of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2008 | ISBN 978-961-6449-17-5

Sustainable city and new public spaces are the main topics of the latest edition of Europan. The paper argues, however, that the debate about sustainable city and new public space needs to be translated into more operational concepts such as social cohesion, collective space or identity politics in order to become relevant for the future development of the Poljane area, the Europan site in Slovenia, and for the everyday experience of Ljubljana in general.

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Restoration of the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul: global cities and collective space

Družboslovne razprave, 55, pp. 115-134
Slovenian Sociological Association | Ljubljana | 2007 | ISSN 0352-3608

The paper explores the broader social background of transformations that public space is undergoing amidst the conditions of transnational co-operation and growing competition among cities. The character of public space in global cities is becoming more homogenous and excluding due to its increasingly instrumental role in urban development. The importance of public space for the formation of a democratic and heterogeneous civil society is thereby being eroded. The paper tries to show how the recent restoration of the Cheonggye stream in Seoul in South Korea has influenced its social role and thus verify the assumption of the excluding nature of public space in global cities. The reasons why Cheonggyecheon is losing its past role of a place where civic society and local cultures were reproduced are summed up in the conclusion.

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