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For this issue, we’re featuring MONU's 19th issue, Greater Urbanism.
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MONU is a biannual magazine on urbanism that visualizes the city through a wide lens, covering politics, economy, geography, ecology, sociology, topology and architecture. The "urbanism" central focus is an umbrella term for all the aforementioned themes, explored through critical articles, images, projects, and urbanist philosophies from a variety of contributors. Produced by Board Publishers, the independent magazine is based in Rotterdam, NL, and began continuous publication in June 2004.
From MONU's umbrella-platform, each issue examines a topic relevant to the future of cities (current and developing), offering a variety of perspectives and fueling continued debate. As a magazine, the publication is a platform for ideas to be both exchanged and collected.
MONU's most recent issue, Greater Urbanism, focuses on the issue of "greatness" in cities. From Toronto to Paris, cities are developing their greater metropolitan areas. Waves of significant growth are not a new phenomenon, but change necessarily creates new opportunities and threatens old ones. This double-edged sword is discussed through interviews, research material, projects and essays from world-wide contributors.
Here’s an excerpt from the article "A Brief History of Speculative Urbanization" by Christopher Marcinkoski. The full article is available in MONU #19 - Greater Urbanism.
A Brief History of Speculative Urbanization
By Christopher Marcinkoski
One of the most oft-repeated talking points heard from those involved in planning of urban territories is the United Nations’ projection of global population growth and the corresponding increases in urban populations predicted over the next 40 years.[i] This forecast has provoked widespread demands for the construction of new urban districts and infrastructures throughout the developed and developing worlds to accommodate these swelling future populations.[ii] Yet what this intensified promotion of new metropolitan form Urbanization itself has become a – if not the – preferred instrument of economic production and expression of political power in both established and emerging economies.too often ignores is that this sort of urbanization is rarely undertaken as a purely social and cultural enhancement for a population in need, but more commonly as a political and economic hedge by governments in search of destinations for surplus capital and accolades as globally competitive world cities.[iii] As such, this essay uses a preoccupation with what can be characterized as the fundamentally speculative nature of contemporary urbanization as a point of departure for considering the thematic question of Greater Urbanism.
In the call for proposals, MONU’s editors state that many of the recent metropolitan growth plans proposed over past decades (particularly in European cities) have been “too exuberant, too vast” to truly be believable.[iv] Purportedly sound population projections; measures of infrastructural demand; and forecasts of economic growth have been held up as the rationale for these proposed expansions of established cities with minimal questioning of their rationale or accuracy. Yet we need only look to Spain, Ireland and the UAE over the last decade, or the new cities of southern and western China being built today, to see the artificial nature of these prognostications, and in particular, their employment for primarily political purposes related to economic growth.
In fact, in considering the speculative nature of contemporary urbanization, one might argue that over the last 25 years, urbanization itself has become a – if not the – preferred instrument of economic production and expression of political power in both established and emerging economies. Therefore, it is worth considering the implications of this reality for the planners and designers engaged in the elaboration of these metropolitan initiatives.[v]
[i] See United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, accessed 07.28.2013
[ii] See for example Volume 34 “City in a Box,” Archis 2012 #4 and the work of the Dutch research group International New Towns Institute.
[iii] While some have made the converse argument, i.e. that growth drives urbanization, it is clear that many policymakers are betting that causality runs the opposite way; see for example Anett Hoffman and Guanghua Wan, “Determinants of Urbanization,” in Asian Development Bank Economics Working Paper, Series No. 355, July 2013. See also Michael Pettis, “The Urbanization Fallacy,” in China Financial Markets, posted 08.16.2013, accessed 08.17.2013.
[iv] See Erik Swyngedouw, Frank Moulaert and Arantxa Rodriguez, “Neoliberal Urbanization in Europe: Large-Scale Urban Development Projects and the New Urban Policy” in Antipode, Volume 34, Issue 3, pages 542–577, July 2002.
[v] For the purposes of this essay, “speculative urbanization” is defined as….the undertaking of land acquisition and/or infrastructure and building construction in the pursuit of uncommon financial gains under the presumption of market demand despite the absence of a specific future tenant or consumer.
Also in MONU #19, Greater Urbanism:
"Unlimited Greatness - Interview with Antoine Grumbach", by Beatriz Ramo and Bernd Upmeyer
"Greater Moscow", by Anton Ivanov
"From Utopia to Real World", by Fabrizia Berlingieri and Manuela Triggianese
"Grand Paris", by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
"Greater Singapore: Exporting the Model City-State", by Calvin Chua
"Metro-Detroit Faith Territories", by McLain Clutter
"Out of Obscurity", by Magorzata Kuciewicz and Simone De Iacobis
"Metrocology: The City Unseen", by Tom Marble
"Fragmentation vs. Unification", by OMA/ Text by Clément Blanchet
"One Hundred and Ninety-Nine Miles, by Rob Holmes
"Life on the Edge", by Hannah Hunt Moeller
"Skopje, Great, Greater, Grandeur", by Ognen Marina
"Greater Connections", by James Khamsi and Emily Goldman
"Crushed Ground - The Fragmented Territory of Austerity-Stricken Athens", by Panos Dragonas
"Reconsidering the Greater Urbanism Agenda", by Petros Phokaides, Iris Polyzos, and Loukas Triantis
"Facemap", by Julie Bogdanowicz
"Notes Towards a Botanical Urbanism", by Jennifer W. Leung
"Metropolitan Strategies - Interview with Rikhard Manninen", by Bernd Upmeyer;
"From the Kremlin to Dachas", by Flavien Menu
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This issue of Screen/Print was co-written by Amelia Taylor-Hochberg and Matas Šiupšinskas, an architect and the author of several articles in popular and scientific magazines. His research interests are: the history of town planning, mass housing, urban morphology and Soviet architecture.
Editorial Manager for Archinect. I write, go to the movies, walk around and listen to the radio. My interests revolve around cognitive urban theory, psycholinguistics and food.