What’s happening in Utopia? Revisiting ‘new’ suburban communities / STREAM D – Urban informality: from plan to everyday life

Organizer: Lynda Cheshire (The University of Queensland, AU)


Just on a decade ago, the ‘new’ suburban community burst onto the international urban landscape. Inspired by earlier Garden City, New Town and New Urbanist approaches to urban planning, these new residential communities were comprehensively ‘master planned’, incorporating mixed land use, the provision of extensive social and community services, a highly aestheticized design, and the promise of attachment to place and community. Internationally, they varied considerably in form, ranging from entire suburbs or towns to small, restricted access estates that were privately owned by a community title and physically or symbolically segregated from the surrounding area. The response from academics to this new form of suburban community was highly critical on three counts. First in the way they were seen to be bound up in the commodification and marketing of a particular form of community life; second that they were indicative of the growing privatisation of everyday life where the affluent could retreat into homogeneous ‘privatopias’; and third in the excessive, and rather suspect, power exercised by property developers in governing local life. In many cases, however, such critiques were academic rather than empirically-based, and driven more by the view that new communities represented all that was wrong with contemporary urban life, than by a detailed study of the everyday experiences of those who lived there.

Some ten years on, new suburban communities have become more mainstream and many have matured to the point where they are no longer so new. It is timely, then, to take stock of the new suburban community, and the associated research and debates that surround it, by asking the following kinds of questions:

  • What do new communities look like today?
  • To what extent are they still seen as a controversial form of residential development?
  • Have the fears surrounding them been realised and are they a blight on the kind of city that we aspire to live in?
  • What are the experiences of those living in these places; how do they imagine, shape and influence them?

Abstracts on papers engaging with these, and related, questions about the current state of new communities, and associated research and debate, are welcomed.

D5 What’s happening in Utopia? Revisiting ‘new’ suburban communities

Chair: Lynda Cheshire (The University of Queensland)

Contact: l.cheshire@uq.edu.au

Serin Bilge
Commodifying the Utopia: The Case of Branded Housing Projects, Istanbul

Adriana Hurtado-Tarazona
From utopian planning to lived experience in a suburban social housing community

Anja Jorgensen Mia Arp Fallov
Local social integration between utility, change and idealism

Pedro Henrique Torres
Spaces of hope? Notes on ‘new’ suburban communities in Rio de Janeiro and Boston

Philip Lawnton
High-density sprawl? The contradictions of the development of an Irish new town

Distributed papers:

Manuela De Vincenzi
Shape as an ideology: an analysis between shape, meaning and interpretation of urban design: the case of Troia and the Condado neighbourhood in Lisbon

Nicholas Choy Compromised utopias?
Urban design coding in an era of English austerity

Emma Felton
Rethinking the suburbs: creative practitioners’ experience of working and living in the suburbs

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