Urban Design Project II 2024. Liminal Cities: Ruins of Capitalism.

UDP2 turns our attention to destructive modes of development of the capitalist city. Buildings and the land they stand on have become one of the most lucrative investments in global economic systems. Cities have become places of spatial exploitation. But in contrast to other commodities, the financialization of land serves only a “fictitious form of capital that derives from expectations of future rents“ (Harvey 2012) – a speculation. In the current climate of social, political, financial and environmental instabilities, many urban development projects face uncertain futures. One of the most visible urban impacts is that of failed speculative real estate investment. Construction projects in many European cities are currently being put on hold as a result of the insolvency of several real estate companies. Thus, large-scale buildings are turned into ruins mid-construction through the side-effects of the commodification of space – capitalist ruins (Tsing 2015).

In this upcoming semester we will focus on various forms of stalled and abandoned construction projects as spaces of liminality. We will analyze these across commercial uses, housing, sites of production and reproduction and urban nature: abandoned construction pits turned lakes, mid-construction stopped investor architectures, turned-obsolete warehouses, gutted office buildings waiting for demolition, urban wastelands, de-rented apartment blocks, green spaces threatened by new developments, sites of newly developed but vacant office blocks, or suspended renovations of existing housing projects.

With investors going bankrupt, main prospective tenants jumping ships and the city without the financial means or political will to develop such projects, how can these places be turned into common goods again? Who was, is and can be involved into such processes? What are the political, spatial and temporal trajectories that enabled these places to develop in the first place? How can we turn around destructive forms of speculation into more generative modes of investment and urban development? To what extent can these mid-construction ruins serve as a cultural means of speculating about more socially sustainable and just futures? Because of the liminal nature of these places, through “collective inventiveness” (Stavrides 2018) and “speculative fabulation” (Haraway 2016), we can propose alternative futures for these sites which exceed the logic of the capitalist system.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Experimental Futures: Technological Lives, Scientific Arts, Anthropological Voices. Durham: Duke University Press.

Harvey, David. 2012. ‘The Urban Roots of Financial Crises: Reclaiming the City for Anti-Capitalist Struggle’.

Stavrides, Stavros. 2018. ‘Urban Porosity and the Right to a Shared City’. In Porous City: From Metaphor to Urban Agenda, 32–37. Birkhäuser.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Donnerstags, 10:15-12:45 Uhr, HVP-3.101 / Seminarraum III

  • Construction site Paloma-Viertel. Photo: Paul Linnow
    Construction site Paloma-Viertel. Photo: Paul Linnow



Current annual theme

Liminal Cities

Liminal Cities

Urban Life In-between