Producing the Public: Architecture, Urban Planning, and Immigration in a Swedish Town, 1965 to the Present

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Producing the Public: Architecture, Urban Planning, and Immigration in a Swedish Town, 1965 to the Present

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Title: Producing the Public: Architecture, Urban Planning, and Immigration in a Swedish Town, 1965 to the Present
Author: Mack, Jennifer Shannon
Citation: Mack, Jennifer Shannon. 2012. Producing the Public: Architecture, Urban Planning, and Immigration in a Swedish Town, 1965 to the Present. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: European modernist architectural design and urban planning for suburbs have often been theorized as dystopic creation myths. These narratives focus on the unfulfilled promises of activist designers to deliver equality, overscaled and generic neighborhoods, and contemporary social exclusion. Södertälje offers another view. This dissertation combines history, ethnography, and formal analysis to examine how architects, urban planners, and immigrant residents conflict and collaborate in the production of the city. The Swedish town of Södertälje serves as a lens through which to view these processes: it is both a nexus of high modernist spatial and social planning and the ostensible capital of the diasporic Syriac Christians, who now comprise approximately 26% of the local population. Postwar Swedish designers sought to reduce class differences through home standardization and a blurred public-private divide; this happened just as the country received numerous refugees, including Syriacs, who had left difficult conditions in Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon and quickly concentrated in Södertälje. There, they became active designers of a new urban landscape, first claiming welfare state public spaces but then slightly altering their uses. This suggests that “generic” modernist urbanism was more successful at accommodating difference than has typically been argued. More recently, Syriacs have built a state-of-the-art soccer stadium and colossal churches that – while sited in industrial zones in Södertälje – function as monuments and pilgrimage sites for the diaspora. In new, Syriac-dominated neighborhoods of custom-designed, single-family houses, Syriac participation has exceeded the “voice” that planners typically allocate to immigrants; their architectural displays of difference and affluent forms of segregation generate anxieties for planners trained in the welfare state’s traditions, which have long linked spatial uniformity to social equality. In aggregate, the Syriacs’ discrete projects have changed the way that the city functions, both in space and in the practices of the town’s expert designers, a development that I label “urban design from below.” This justifies a call for new orientations toward modernism, segregation, and participation in space making and suggests future trends for other European peripheries, where immigrants are also using and reconstructing postwar housing projects.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10345114
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