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Zombie Urbanism

Type of project
Basic research

About the project

In the endeavor to create an urban environment that is perceived as appealing by the established and culturally oriented middle class, earlier successes are unscrupulously copied: A prominent cultural building signed by a star architect, a promenade for sophisticated walk and a couple of delicious restaurants and cafes. The result is a kind of Zombie Urbanism where standardized perceptions dominate.

The project is spurred by a curiosity about how physical and aesthetic features interrelate with social features. Both in my gentrification research and in more recent research on urban harbour front developments, we  explore how urban environments, as for instance streetscapes or prospects for public space developments, both reflect and condition social features and dynamics. Especially in harbour front developments, such as  in Oslo, it seems that planners and designers operate with conceptions about urban ways of life that at first glance appear to be living but which in practice are fairly stiff and dead. Jonny Aspen has coined this approach to urban design ‘Zombie Urbanism’, cf. his article in the anthology Shaping the City: Studies in History, Theory and Urban Design, edited by Rodolphe El-Khoury and Ed Robbins (2013). A short version of the same article is published in Norwegian in the arts magazine Billedkunsten.