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Urban Studies review


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Urban Studies review

  1. 1. This article was downloaded by:[informa internal users] On: 29 October 2007 Access Details: [subscription number 755239602] Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Urban Studies Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Book Reviews Online Publication Date: 01 August 2007 To cite this Article: (2007) 'Book Reviews', Urban Studies, 44:9, 1857 - 1867 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/00420980701432457 URL: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: This article maybe used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
  2. 2. DownloadedBy:[informainternalusers]At:13:5329October2007 Imagine a Metropolis: Rotterdam’s Creative Class, 1970–2000 PATRICIA VAN ULZEN, 2007 Rotterdam: 010 Publishers 234 pp. Euros 29.50 paperback ISBN 978 90 6450 620 8 paperback This superb study of Rotterdam’s creative classes pro- vides an array of insights and makes a series of essen- tial contributions to the growing interest within urban studies about the role of creative entrepreneurs in reimagining and remaking cities. Indeed, the work of two key thinkers in the field, Florida (2002, on the creative classes) and Anderson (1983, on ima- gined communities) are major influences on van Ulzen, although she commendably utilises the work of other academics, particularly Sharon Zukin. The depth and breadth of this book are noteworthy for three main reasons. The first is the comprehensiveness of its coverage of cultural activity in Rotterdam (including photography, films, music, cafe´s, the dance scene, architecture, artistic residential commu- nities, family magazines and even a Rotterdam cookery book). Second is the framing of this specific Dutch case study within wider urban developments impacting on global cities and, in particular, post- industrial ‘second’ cities. Third is its exploration of key concepts of modernity, multiculturalism, the ico- nography and images of cities, political conflict, the relationship between the local state and private actors and the grounding of contemporary develop- ments in the continuities and discontinuities of the past. Furthermore, the book’s utilisation of the icono- logical method of investigation pioneered in the 1930s by Edwin Panofsky (p. 40) results in it being extensively and beautifully illustrated throughout. Van Ulzen critically assesses how the concept of Rotterdam as a wereldstad (world city) or metropolis has evolved within the dimensions of the social, material (architecture and urban design) and imagined city. In doing so, she focuses on how an aesthetic view of modernity canonised Rotterdam’s futuristic qual- ities (p. 49) based on the iconography of roads and traffic, high-rise buildings, city lights at night and the docks/river, perfectly captured in poet Jules Deeler’s notion of ‘neon romanticism’ (p. 83). Her key insights include identifying how the contempor- ary imagination of Rotterdam traces its roots back to the early 20th century and in particular the interwar period and also how the defining elements of moder- nity were subject to a counter-movement of the small-size ideal (the C70 movement in Rotterdam’s case) in the 1970s. This historical account is fascinat- ing, not least in counter-posing the 1930s equation of increasing car traffic and urban progress with contem- porary environmental concerns. Van Ulzen also ident- ifies the limitations of ‘official’ municipal policies, interventions and the role of aldermen in contrast with underground cultural movements, artists and entrepreneurs. The contribution of key individuals is given particular prominence in her account. She also makes the important point that economic conditions are limited in their explanatory power for periods of cultural renaissance, citing the 1930s and 1980s as periods of simultaneous cultural expansion and econ- omic recession (p. 153). Van Ulzen is particularly strong on explaining how, far from the city of work and the city of culture being juxtaposed, the industrial heritage of cities such as Rotterdam is a key determi- nant of their cultural assets, with linked aesthetic and economic value, symbolised in the rehabilitation of the port area (p. 109). She also finds, perhaps uncom- fortably for local policy-makers and residents alike, that the international cultural identities of ‘opposing’ cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam (and we can also think of Glasgow/Edinburgh, Madrid/Barcelona and others) are positively defined by their relationship with each other, not withstanding the political hag- gling over the sites for national cultural institutions which she describes (p. 171). Although it does not detract from the quality of the analysis within its own set parameters, the book is con- sciously limited in its application of Florida’s ideas. Van Ulzen acknowledges that Florida defined the crea- tive classes more broadly and crucially to include media or business services. Although she notes that a city’s cultural image may influence company reloca- tions (p. 143), she focuses on the creative ‘professions’. The absence of an account of the city’s relationship with business entrepreneurs is a weakness, exacerbated by the lack of coverage of the commercial impacts of the cultural sectors upon the financial and employment circumstances of Rotterdam. This is linked to the one substantive issue where this reviewer disagrees with van Ulzen’s commen- tary. Unsurprisingly, this book attributes significant influence to the creative classes in reshaping and reimagining Rotterdam and gives a persuasive account of the dynamics of this process. However, it may overstate the extent to which the metropolitan ideal has “regained its lustre for the public at large” as the author claims (p. 111). She is convincing when she shows how Paul Martens’ photographs or Jules Deeler’s ‘Stadsgezicht’ (Cityscape) poem have achieved mass popular appeal amongst Rotterdam- mers. However, the claim that, due to a poster cam- paign, no-one living in Rotterdam could have been unaware of the emergence of a new magazine (Hard 1860 BOOK REVIEWS
  3. 3. DownloadedBy:[informainternalusers]At:13:5329October2007 Werken) is less believable (p. 87). This gets to the core of the problem: the extent to which the vibrancy of Rotterdam’s culture is disseminated beyond the crea- tive class (see Savage, 1991). Van Ulzen is right to refer to Thorton’s notion of ‘sub-cultural capital’ (p. 126), itself adapted from Bourdieu. However, one of Bourdieu’s arguments is that cultural capital acts to exclude as much as to include and to define otherness, and ‘sub-cultural’ capital may be the epitome of this process. Van Ulzen implicitly describes this in the resistance of many residents to the new cafe´s of the 1980s or the popular reaction against key ideas of modernity demonstrated in the consultation exercise surrounding the Binnenstadsboek (‘inner city book’, p. 76). Where this becomes more damaging is in the author’s apparent regret that social housing develop- ments in the city required more weight to be given to occupants’ requirements than architects’ ideas (p. 107). The substantially negative impact of much Le Corbusier -influenced public housing architecture on the lives of deprived residents in many European cities (Coleman, 1985) requires greater recognition here, as well as a realisation of power differentials between urban e´lites (creative as well as political) and poorer citizens. A brunch for 5000 Rotterdam- mers at the opening of the Erasmus Bridge was cer- tainly an impressive event (p. 198) but does not in itself counter such exclusionary forces. Where van Ulzen is on stronger ground is her cru- cially important account of how multiculturalism is an inherent characteristic of metropolitanism. This ranges from the dance scene being a “binding agent for cultures” (p. 28) through the ‘Rotterdam Sparkles’ campaign of 2000 to the popular selection of the Mevlana Mosque as Rotterdam’s most attractive building (p. 214). Underpinning this is the idea that cities can be the starting-point for securing an identity (and similar processes are emerging in the self-defi- nition of many minority ethnic citizens as primarily Londoners rather than, say, ‘British’ citizens). As many cities search for the “aura of cultural vital- ity” within the global economy (p. 87)—for example, through the Dutch development of broaedplaatsenbe- lied (cultural incubation policies)—this book’s lasting impression is of the real importance of how cities are imagined and portrayed, grounded in Robert Park’s realisation in 1925 and quoted here (p. 33), that the city is a state of mind. With regard to Rotterdam, it is therefore impossible not to be impressed with a city that has ‘When everything proves an illusion, illu- sion is the thing that remains’ printed on its dustcarts! JOHN FLINT Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University References ANDERSON, B. (1983) Imagined Communities. London: Verso. COLEMAN, A. (1985) Utopia on Trial: Visions and Reality in Planned Housing. London: Hilary Shipman. FLORIDA, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class: And How Its Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books. SAVAGE, J. (1991) England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock: London: Faber. THORNTON, S. (1995) Club Cultures, Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press. Clusters in Urban and Regional Development ANDY CUMBERS and DANNY MACKINNON (Eds), 2006 232 pp. £60.00 hardback ISBN 0 4153 6011 0 hardback Regional industrial clusters have been in vogue for more than two decades now and there is little indi- cation that their significance is waning. On the con- trary, to quote from Simmie’s contribution to this volume, clusters continue to hold a “beguiling siren call” promising “increased competitiveness, higher productivity, new firm formation, growth, profitabil- ity, job growth and innovation” (p. 131). So time to take stock and to see how these various claims can be upheld. This is what this edited volume, based on the earlier Special Issue published in Urban Studies (Vol. 41, Nos 5/6) intends to do. After a summarising introduction, 11 chapters focus on key issues and topics in the clustering debate, including the role of labour mobility, firms linkages, knowledge pro- duction and circulation and industry cycles. They are clustered under three headings, ‘Conceptualising clusters’, ‘Clusters, knowledge and innovation’ and ‘From dynamic to mature clusters’. Starting-point for the discussion is the claim that, as emphasised by the editors in the introduction, ‘cluster’ remains a ‘fuzzy’, ‘chaotic’ and ‘incoherent’ concept (p. viii). A key ambition of the volume is to bring some clarity to the debate. So, what is the achievement, 11 chapters and 225 pages down the line? A problem with answering this question is that the volume does not really produce a conclusion itself. The introduction primarily provides a summary and a brief list of core directions for future research. In particular, the editors point out the significance of formal channels of labour mobility and the role of external connections in the form of embedding in international networks. Yet, they could have gone a step further and considered the extent to which the results hint at a more precise and more coherent BOOK REVIEWS 1861