Just add water: waterfront regeneration as a global phenomenon
From the Inner Harbor in Baltimore to the Canary Wharf in London Docklands, from Darling Harbor in Sydney to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront in Cape Town, from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to Wan Chai in Hong Kong, it seems that no city is complete without a revitalized waterfront. Not only are such developments seemingly ubiquitous but they often bear a striking resemblance to each other, suggesting that a formula or ‘instant mix’ recipe for regeneration is being followed. Increasingly, this trend is not just restricted to post-industrial cities in the West but is also seen in the fast-developing economies of Latin America, the Gulf States and South East Asia. This chapter explores this global phenomenon by focusing on two inter-related issues: how this ubiquity can be characterized and understood, and the international mobility of regeneration ideas and practices. The chapter begins by outlining a brief history of waterfront regeneration and some general characteristics and trends. It then goes on to critically explore – through a number of case studies – two ways in which the global reach of waterfront development has been understood in the literature, namely (1) as the international transfer of ‘models’, or (2) as the expression of a universal urban policy, linked to competitiveness and neoliberal urbanization. The chapter concludes by arguing that an alternative analysis based on the concept and practices of assemblage – the bringing together of different elements, actors and ‘ideas from elsewhere’ in the creation of urban space – can play a useful role in framing studies of waterfront regeneration. In particular, it argues that such an alternative analysis can ensure that the interplay between the local and the global and the tensions and contradictions often found within such schemes are recognized.