Week 20: Splintering Urbanism

by wangtianchen

How cities are increasingly fragmenting into cellular clusters of globally connected high-service enclaves and network ghettos?

Splintering Urbanism

This week’s reading article ‘Splintering Urbanism‘ by Stephaen Graham and Simon Marvin described in seven parts about Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition.

To briefly summarise this article, ‘Splintering Urbanism’ demonstrates that electronics-based networks segregate as much as they connect and that they do so selectively. Stephaen Graham and Simon Marvin make an international and interdisciplinary analysis of the complex interactions between infrastructure networks and urban spaces. It delivers a new and powerful way of understanding contemporary urban change, bringing together discussions about: globalization and the city, technology and society, urban space and urban networks, infrastructure and the built environment, developed, developing and post-communist worlds.


What does ‘Splintering Urbanism’ mean?

‘Splintering Urbanism’ means destruction of the economic, social, and material fabric of cities as a result of the selective impact of new technologies and networked information and communications infrastructures. A term coined by geographers Steven Graham and Simon Marvin to refer to the ways in which infrastructures, including information and communication technologies, can fragment the experience of the city. [1]


An example of The Charter of Dubai

It is a manifesto of urban readjustment. The Charter of Dubai is a future urban vision by SMAQ architecture urbanism research, Berlin.


Proposed for the Rotterdam Biennale 2009/10, “it has been drafted at a moment in time when the global real estate market has ground to a halt. Looking around, we find ourselves with the remains of an investment practice that focuses on built premium spaces: malls, business parks, gated communities, retreats, resorts. This document is based on the thesis that the luxury refuges of today will be inevitably reclaimed.


X-Palm – initial collage

Across the world, these refuges have been confirming the tendency towards the development of a fragmented and socially stratified urbanity, which was pertinently described as splintering urbanism by Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin. By manipulating the perimeters and parameters of the refuge, new forms of interdependencies will proliferate. This act of border manipulation also provides gaps, occasions, or potentials to misuse infrastructural networks.

How to turn the refuge from a traditional burgh (a fortified town) into a borough, a quarter that is a functional and thorough part of the urban landscape?

The Palm Jumeirah, also called the Palm Dubai, is not only the most spectacular of upscale refuges but it is also the paradigm: the ultimate diagram in terms of figure, internal organisation and external relations. On the Palm, so-called virtual villas have been bought and re-sold ten times before the first stone was laid. Prices tripled and when they suddenly fell, people with no actual interest in using the homes called themselves owners. In the aftermath, what remains of these dysfunctional spectres is the laid-out infrastructure, literally the earthwork, roads, cables, tubes, and building stock.” [2]

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X-Palm – reCOVER diagram                X-Palm – reLOCK aerial view                 X-Palm – rePLOT aerial view

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X-Palm – rePLOT typologies                     X-Palm – rePLOT distribution                   X-Palm – rePLOT situations

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                                       X-Palm – reSOURCE cycle                                  X-Palm – detail


[1] IGI GLOBAL. (n.d.). What is Splintering Urbanism. Retrieved February 15, 2015 from http://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/splintering-urbanism/28023

[2] Daniel. (2010). reclaim luxury refuges. Retrieved February 15, 2015 from http://www.deconcrete.org/2010/03/29/reclaim-luxury-refuges/