chapter  16
16 Pages

“Birmingham Needs You. You Need Birmingham”: Cities As Actors and Actors in Cities

ByTim Hall, Phil Hubbard

Something significant happened to the form of Western cities in the last quarter of the twentieth century, with landscapes of production giving way to landscapes of consumption. The phenomenon of industrial sites transformed by commodification and aestheticization was noted throughout the urban West as former manufacturing spaces gave way for nouvelle cuisine restaurants, heritage centers, coffee shops, art galleries, science parks, shopping malls, and high-tech landscapes (Zukin 1998). One spatial corollary of this was that the city appeared to be turning “inside out,” as previously centralized functions of urban retailing, business, and leisure became de-centered, unraveling in their path memories of more familiar industrial districts (Soja 1996). Describing the emergence of exopolitan edge cities, Edward Soja accordingly suggested that the city center was no longer the primary focus of urban life but was joined by a multiplicity of new “centers” that were, conversely, distanced from the traditional city center. As the city turned inside out, rituals of urban recreation also become de-centered; urban dwellers increasingly sought distraction in spectacular, peripheral landscapes located away from the “inner city” (Hannigan 1998). Yet, for all that, it was evident there were significant countervailing tendencies, with the emergence of “twenty-four-hour city” policies aimed at reversing the decline of city centers, chiefly by attracting affluent, youthful consumers. In the twenty-first century, such “neoliberal policies” of gentrification became ever more entrenched, bequeathing a variegated urban landscape of investment and decline.