Paper: The inter-dependency of image and material space: The role of discourse in neighborhood development. Examples from Berlin.

Dellenbaugh, Mary. 2014. The inter-dependency of image and material space: The role of discourse in neighborhood development. Examples from Berlin, Germany. Paper presented at “The Mediated City”, London, 1-3 April 2014.

Available for download here.

The image of cities has developed from a predominantly physical/visual concept (i. e. Lynch, 1960) to cover a range of immaterial values (i. e. Lefebvre, 1974) and branding and marketing measures (i. e. Ashworth & Voogd, 1990). However, the physical materiality and social composition of a neighborhood or city do not exist separately from its immaterial image; indeed, they are interdependent. Changes to the image of a district, for example through marketing efforts to brand a space as hip, bohemian, or creative, can influence the demand for housing, leading to changes in the attitudes of landlords to their properties, rent price changes, and resultant demographic restructuring of the area; conversely, changes to the demographic composition or material structure of the neighbourhood can similarly affect its image.

Post-industrial urban development (following Bell, 1973) leans particularly heavily on the incorporation of symbolic and immaterial worth as the key selling points in urban development (Montgomery, 2008). However, to date, the relationship between image and branding and structural neighborhood development has remained undertheorized.

This paper draws on recent research conducted in Berlin to examine this phenomenon in detail. In particular, the author examines the role of the recent upswing in creative marketing efforts in Berlin (following Colomb, 2012) in combination with neoliberal welfare law reform (Holm, 2011) and the city’s (over)dependence on tourism revenue in the sociospatial segregation of the eastern part of the city since the turn of the millennium.

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