Human Geography > Urban Geography
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The conclusion summarizes the main concepts and reminds the reader of the meaning of key terms like ‘spectacle’ and ‘haunting’. It also raises questions about the boundary between authenticity and alienation that the retail ruins provoke, and reminds readers that this methodology is about detecting social power and politics.
The Introduction provides starting points for understanding what ruins are and what retail ruins might be. There are three ideas that are presented here that frame the book: first, ruins have hauntological capacities; second, hauntings are affective; and, third, this affective hauntology of the retail ruin reveals a void that troubles the spectacle of retail capital everywhere it goes.
This chapter examines vacant sites around Newcastle upon Tyne’s city centre to consider the possibility of retail ruins. Using photographs taken by the author, the chapter fuses them with other observational data collected over a 12-month period (2021–22). Using a montage approach, this material weaves together a photo essay with a philosophical arch between Benjamin’s dialectics and Derridean hauntology. This move can help us avoid pitfalls in understanding dialectics as an appropriate framework for analysis, particularly for issues concerning consumption and retail. The chapter focuses a microscope on these void-like spaces whose negative energies seep into the urban atmosphere. Their qualities deserve attention as unwitting agents in the production of atmosphere, tinging it all with a spookiness that runs down our spines when confronted with the ghost. For that reason, a montage approach allows for a consideration of specific ideas and themes, though without synthesizing them into a singular summary of what they might mean. As an anti-totalitarian methodology, it leaves space for readers to think for themselves.
In the context of widespread precarity and ongoing crises, it is no surprise ruins have captured much attention in recent years. This book is about a new kind of space, one that is deeply troubling for consumer society: the retail ruin.
Jacob C. Miller bridges human geography, archaeology and critical urban studies to offer a starting point for conceptualizing retail ruins. Drawing on fieldnotes and photographs, Miller crafts a hauntological approach informed by the theories of Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida to more recent thinking on assemblage, spectacle and the politics of urban space.
This chapter turns to the critical urban studies literature to better situate these ruinous spaces and to better understand their context. Some major trends in urban thinking confirm the disruptive potential of the urban ruin. Gentrification, for example, aims at recapturing its disruptive potential, a process that has retail as one of its under-studied areas of interest. Other trends like ‘heritage-led redevelopment’ and ‘pop-up’ spaces of temporary urbanism also signal how retail capital and the spectacle also attempt to claw their way back. This chapter, then, reviews various urban strategies that attempt to exorcise the ghosts that haunt the spectacle and retail capital. In this way, then, deconstruction helps us better grasp and understand the logics of ‘creative destruction’. Equally, the void never establishes itself permanently; rather, it always keeps things moving, often by being filled in, thereby pushing it back into hiding. There is a productivity to its negativity. Other trends like heritage-led regeneration provide challenges for how we might better understand and situate retail ruins in a contested urban landscape. This chapter provides further background materials to better situate the case study as an urban and regional centre in the context of industrial decline and post-industrialization over recent decades.
This chapter introduces concepts and theories for understanding retail ruins and ruination, including recent research on industrial ruins, ‘new ruins’ and specific forms like ‘ruins in reverse’. The chapter introduces the complexities of these emerging conversations, as well as the thought of Walter Benjamin, who was not only one of the first theorists of spectacle, but also one of the first to study retail ruins with his unfinished master work The Arcades Project. His work presages both the construction of the society of the spectacle in the post-war period and its demise at the turn of the new century. The chapter draws on lines of connection between his work and other recent approaches to the study of ruins and ruination, specifically approaches in contemporary archaeology that link space, subjectivity and the passage of time in unique and powerful ways. Lastly, these trends overlap and correspond with the ‘spectral turn’ and hauntology as a deconstructive practice that guides a way through some of the difficulties found in this emerging body of work. The final section is on methodology and the ‘question of context’ that situates the fieldwork site of Newcastle upon Tyne.
With the book’s evidence in hand, this concluding chapter first synthesizes how everyday condo living harbours risks for the high-rise condo home, especially in the context of substandard condo design and construction quality. Legal scholar Michael Heller’s anticommons thesis provides a helpful way to conceptualize an additional potential risk of underuse associated with the ‘sharing’ of some common property elements in condominium. Stepping back, this chapter then considers the prospects for high-rise condo futures in light of these risks. It delivers two sets of provocations informed by this book’s findings on the impacts for homemaking of poor quality high-rise housing and owner/renter relations. These provocations are intended to promote discussion and perhaps action for brighter urban condo futures. This latter task is identified as far from straightforward, however, with recent optimism expressed by urban scholars about condominium’s prospects subsequently argued to be premature or potentially misplaced.
This chapter sets out a property-sensitive conceptual framework for examining home which better accounts for the way home is practised in propertied landscapes. Drawing on legal geography’s understanding of everyday property, the framework captures how perceptions and practices of property inform homemaking. It then provides a revised conspectus of contemporary high-rise condo living by rereading relevant housing and urban literatures through this framework. This review serves two purposes. First, it synthesizes extant understandings of the lived experience of (high-rise) condo housing and identifies various omissions, including of the socio-territorial dynamics behind everyday condo living. Second, it tables evidence of condo owners and renters’ divergent homemaking experiences. It shows that despite some recognition that internal tenure-based inequalities riddle condo life, these have not been systematically explored from owners’ or renters’, perspectives, leaving unknown their implications for the condo home.
This chapter explores the private unit’s borders and introduces territorial incursions as another constraint or pressure point for condo homemaking. It identifies how residents engage in socio-territorial practices of boundary-management in response to repeated visual, acoustic, olfactory and material breaches into their private units. This chapter shows these private borders operate as intensive, often porous zones of physical contact between residents’ condo units, especially where design and construction is subpar and as poor zones of social interaction. Residents’ interpretation of co-residents’ incursions as unreasonable contribute to the construction of co-residents, and renters especially, as ‘bad’ neighbours. These bordering dynamics undermine the condo home, creating perceived nuisance and diminishing residents’ (sense of) territorial control. Residents independently mediate their private interests with private judgements about what will be non-invasive to co-residents, with recourse to formal governance rules and agents relatively limited. This chapter corroborates how informal local working rules circumscribe condo homemaking.
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Condominium and comparable legal architectures make vertical urban growth possible, but do we really understand the social implications of restructuring city land ownership in this way?
In this book geographer and architect Nethercote enters the condo tower to explore the hidden social and territorial dynamics of private vertical communities. Informed by residents’ accounts of Australian high-rise living, this book shows how legal and physical architectures fuse in ways that jeopardise residents’ experience of home and stigmatise renters.
As cities sprawl skywards and private renting expands, this compelling geographic analysis of property identifies high-rise development’s overlooked hand in social segregation and urban fragmentation, and raises bold questions about the condominium’s prospects.