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Title: Towards a theory of urban design under neoliberalism : the urban revolution as methodology
Author: Vergara Perucich, J. F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 835X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis critically discusses the current status of urban design as a disciplinary field and as practice. It maintains that urban design has been wholly reshaped by neoliberalism. It has become a discipline that has neglected its original ethos – designing good cities – in order to align its theory and practice with the objectives of neoliberalism. In investigating the neoliberalisation of urban design, this thesis puts forward an object of study: urban-design-under-neoliberalism. This object situates the conceptual analysis, and illustrates the way neoliberalism compromised urban designers’ ethics, practices and theories, becoming instrumental to the neoliberal transformation of urban society represented in contemporary urbanisms. Methodologically, the thesis is inspired by the critical reflections of Henri Lefebvre in The Urban Revolution. This book puts forth an essential critique of urban studies, challenging the methods and ethos of practitioners and researchers, and calls for a non-capitalist practice for developing the city. The thesis employs three methodological strategies to critically unpack urban-design-under-neoliberalism. These strategies are transductive reasoning, levels and dimensions of analysis, and spatial dialectics. These strategies are complementary and provide an analytical framework to understanding how neoliberalism subsumed urban design using economic, political, social and spatial strategies. Urban-design-under-neoliberalism represents an approach to the production of spaces in which revenues and profits are the main criteria used to decide the form of the space. Therefore, this thesis embraces the far-reaching methodological framework developed in The Urban Revolution, and contributes to the development of critical theoretical reflections in order to disentangle how the disciplinary field of urban design has become an instrument for accomplishing capitalist goals in relation to extracting value from urbanisation processes. This framework addresses the contradictory relationship between the ethos of urban design and the neoliberalist practices such as entrepreneurialism, public-private partnerships, and the privatisation of social services. The thesis uses Santiago de Chile as the contextual spatial site to ground the research and analysis. Santiago’s urban form is investigated through three main approaches: (i) historical research of the relationship between urban practices and political-economic goals; (ii) recent urban strategies that illustrate the actual neoliberalisation of the city; and (iii) a discursive analysis of urban designers’ practices under a neoliberal regime, focusing on their ethical reflections. As a result, the thesis offers an assessment of the practice of urban design under neoliberalism. A set of theoretically informed reflections aim to the much-needed discussion on the ethical, practical and theoretical dimensions of urban design. It aims to unravel the contradictions and cracks in the virtual object of study – urban-design-under-neoliberalism. Ultimately the thesis seeks to contribute towards building a potential alternative theory of urban design under neoliberalism as an act of resistance and revolutionary strategy.
Supervisor: Boano, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available