Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
The models we use for understanding the city have changed since the early 20th century when the social-spatial researchers of the Chicago School elaborated their idea of ‘urban ecologies’. Technological, social and urban changes mean we can no longer understand processes of economy, community, formation and transformation through social and economic networks and ecologies as they were elaborated, and if we wish to understand processes of social formation and transformation in cities today it will be through differently spatialised ecologies. There is an increasing attention today to a ‘sociology beyond societies’ which understands urban and social processes of formation and transformation as a consequence of multi-scalar mobilities in the horizontal geographical plane. An idea of spatial ecologies of urban and social formation and transformation will be elaborated that begins with spatialities of mobility consisting of horizontal network layers and shows how these may produce, in the relation between mobility and communications layers, ‘live’ centralities of place and emplacement. The idea offers the possibility of a solution to the problem of the commensurability of spaces of connection and flows and spaces of place and emplacement – by giving ontological priority to spaces of connectivity and taking spaces of place to be their product. The solution, while being counter-intuitive, nevertheless opens the possibility of an analytic of place which promises to be highly productive for urban designers and others interested in the making of socially productive and sustaining place.
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