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På spaning efter den goda staden: om konstruktioner av ideal och problem i svensk stadsbyggnadsdiskussion
Örebro universitet, Akademin för humaniora, utbildning och samhällsvetenskap. (Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CUReS))ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2453-1549
2009 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
In search of the good city : constructions of ideals and problems in Swedish urban planning discussion (English)
Abstract [en]

In this dissertation constructions of contemporary urban ideals are in focus, starting from the understanding that they are constructed in relation to both an idea of an urban renaissance and one ofa dissolving, or sprawling, city. The aim of the dissertation is to investigate and analyse how the city and the urban are discursively constructed in contemporary Swedish urban planning discussion. This is done by analysing articles from the Swedish Journal of Planning (Plan) and publications from the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) and the Urban Environment Council (Stadsmiljörådet). The main research topics are: How is the city and its history constructed? What norms are constructed about the city and the urban? How is planning and the role of the planner constructed, and what kind of knowledge and practices are emphasised? Methodologically, the dissertation is inspired by social constructivist methods, and mainly discourse theory. Applying this to the urban context means understanding urbanity and cities as constantly constructed and reconstructed discursively, even if both appear to be defined, absolute and recognisable. The analysis investigates these appearances and the meanings they are given – in this case in an urban planning context.  The analysis shows that history plays an important part in both the construction of ideals and problems. Both contemporary planning and the urban ideals are conceptualised in the light of a modernist planning era, which is emphasised as the period when the “real” city was dissolved or even destroyed. An “original”, pre-modern city is constructed and guarded as the norm, and the categorisation of places appear as important. Concepts both open and defined appear as central, such as diversity, variation, identity and urbanity. The planning practice that supposedly creates the good city is ideally a sensitive and emotional practice and practitioner, in line with communicative planning theory. Binary conceptual couples structure the discourse to a high degree, resulting in polarisations such as compact/sparse, city/countryside or inner city/suburb. The problematic or contradictory, such as the suburb, is marked off from the “real” city, and an inside and outside of the good city is created. The importance of a holistic and comprehensive planning perspective is emphasized, but at the same time the urban ideal that comes out appear as a strongly normative outlook from the traditional inner city. An inner city “we” is constructed, and the suburb, the suburban and its inhabitants are seen as an Other.  The dissertation also discusses some openings and contrary voices in the discourse and in other urban research indicative of an attempt to move beyond the polarisations. By questioning hierarchies and polarisations, and opening up for influence from outside of the discourse, concepts such as diversity and urbanity could be given alternative meanings instead of being used to mourn the loss of a “real”, original city or urban public space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet , 2009. , 210 p.
Örebro Studies in Human Geography, 4
Keyword [en]
Boverket, city, discourse, diversity, Stadsmiljörådet, Sweden, urban development, urban ideals, urbanism, Plan, planning
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-116201ISBN: 978-91-7668-685-0 (print)OAI: diva2:588966
Public defence
2009-10-30, Hörsal F, Forumhuset, Örebro universitet, 13:00 (Swedish)

QC 20130204

Available from: 2013-02-04 Created: 2013-01-16 Last updated: 2013-02-04Bibliographically approved

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Tunström, Moa

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