The everyday politics of urban transformational adaptation: Struggles for authority and the Barcelona superblock project

Christos Zografos, Kai A. Klause, James J.T. Connolly*, Isabelle Anguelovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As the vulnerability of cities to the effects of climate change increases, so does the urgency of and interest in urban transformational adaptation. To date, however, research has not looked empirically at how “everyday” urban politics shape the multi-scalar political constraints that prevent municipalities from implementing transformational adaptation. We analyze the Poblenou superblock project in Barcelona, Spain as an effort to enact transformational land use planning linked with climate adaptation efforts. We find that the key driver behind opposition is the everyday political struggle for municipal authority, which materializes in clashing visions for the future city – and who has the political clout to define and own them. We show that urban transformation is at least as much about competitive urbanism and related short-term political gains as it is about the importance of environmental and quality-of-life benefits that are ostensibly the target of interventions. We also highlight how civic and political contestation over the authority of ‘climate champions’ can jeopardize not only transformational adaptation achievements, but also the political survival of champions themselves. We conclude that transformational adaptation can be obstructed not only out of fear for the material and political effects of transformation per se, but also because of the message it conveys as concerns of who has the authority to decide for “the common good”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102613
JournalCities
Volume99
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Authority
  • Climate change governance
  • Competitive urbanism
  • Mobility planning
  • Superblock
  • Transformational adaptation

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