Perspectives in Metropolitan Research 1

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ISBN 978-3-86859-370-9

Perspectives in

Metropolitan Research

Self-Induced Shocks:

Mega-Projects and Urban Development




and Urban

Gernot Grabher and Joachim Thiel (eds.)



Joachim Thiel/Gernot Grabher/Constanze Engelbrecht

Urban Mega-Projects as Self-Induced Shocks:

Introduction to the Collection


Photo Series I

Andrea Bosio

I’ve Never Been There


Mega-Projects: Urban Development

Oliver Ibert

Out of Control? Urban Mega-Projects between

Two Types of Rationality: Decision and Action Rationality


Deike Peters

Urban Mega-Projects and Reversibility:

The Re-Railing of Los Angeles


Photo Series II

Jamie McGregor Smith

Borrow, Build, Abandon


Mega-Projects: Large-Scale Events

Walter Siebel

Mega-Events as Vehicles of Urban Policy


Gernot Grabher/Joachim Thiel

Mobilizing Action, Incorporating Doubt:

London’s Reflexive Strategy of Hosting the Olympic Games 2012


Martin Müller

Mega-Shock, Mini-Outcome:

Russian Authoritarianism and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi


Photo Series III

Marc Ohrem-Leclef

Olympic Favela


Mega-Projects: Management and Markets

Willem Salet/Luca Bertolini/Mendel Giezen

Complexity and Uncertainty: Problem or Asset in

Decision-Making of Mega Infrastructure Projects?


Leonore van den Ende/Alfons van Marrewijk

Rebalancing the Disturbance:

Shock-Absorbing Platforms in Urban Mega-Projects


Yijiang Wu/Andrew Davies/Lars Frederiksen

The Birth of an Eco-City Business: Arup’s Dongtan Project


Preface of the

ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin

and Gerd Bucerius

Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Vol. I: Self-Induced Shocks: Mega-Projects

and Urban Development

More than half the world’s population lives in cities and metropolitan areas. This

makes metropolitan studies, urban development, and urban planning some of the

most fascinating research fields of our time. This alone was reason enough for the

ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius to organize a summer school on this topic

in 2008; this was carried out with the HafenCity University Hamburg, the

Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies (HU Berlin), and the Center for Metropolitan

Studies (TU Berlin). A publication presenting the school’s results sparked

off this new series.

The ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius would like to see Hamburg become an

international center of research on the future of urban areas and urban life. In order

to bring in many different perspectives on this research topic, the ZEIT-Stiftung

has initiated a visiting scholars program in cooperation with the HafenCity University.

It is scheduled to start in autumn 2015 and will bring experts in urban

planning, postdoctoral researchers, and young scholars to Hamburg to foster exchange

and dialogue between various cities and between various academic and

non-academic fields.

The foundation hopes that this volume will provide a basis for future studies on

Perspectives in Metropolitan Research. This first book, Self-Induced Shocks:

Mega-Projects and Urban Development, will hopefully lead to many comments and

critical responses, just the right thing to kick off a new series!

Hamburg, June 2015

Prof. Dr. Michael Göring

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the

ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius

6 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Editorial Note

Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

With the world facing increasing levels of urbanization, questions about the development,

challenges, and embodiment of large cities are becoming more pressing.

In order to find reasonable solutions, a highly differentiated approach to the metropolis

of the future is essential. The search for much-needed answers to social,

architectural, technical, urban-planning, building, and closely related questions demands

different theoretical and empirical methods in research and design.

The HafenCity University Hamburg aims to contemplate and make concrete question

of what the future of metropolitan areas could and should look like. A systematic

interdisciplinary as well as transdisciplinary approach is required for coping

with the future. With this approach in mind, the idea arose for a publication that

uses varied perspectives from metropolitan research.

This present publication represents the start of a series that reflects on the planned,

built, surveyed, and lived surroundings in urban areas and links these to social, economic,

political, and cultural aspects. Providing unconventional, specialized topics,

the series Perspectives in Metropolitan Research explores these developments. Each

topic is discussed in a process-oriented manner, which is supplemented by policy

implications and suggestions for taking action. Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

is neither a traditional publication of architectural, artistic, or engineering

research nor an exclusively cultural or sociological series but rather an exposition

that aims to connect and inaugurate surprising and relevant perspectives in metropolitan


Perspectives in Metropolitan Research is a joint project of the HafenCity University

Hamburg [HCU] and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin & Gerd Bucerius foundation. The series

will release one volume annually with rotating guest editors.

Professor Gesa Ziemer

Vice President for Research, HCU

Self-Induced Shocks: Mega-Projects and Urban Development


8 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research



as Self-Induced


Introduction to the Collection

Joachim Thiel/Gernot Grabher/

Constanze Engelbrecht


The leaning tower of Pisa is probably one of the most famous buildings in the

world. It also epitomizes the predominance of Italian cities in Europe during the

first centuries of the second millennium. The tower, though, is more than simply a

prominent structure from a particular era in European urban history. It embodies

the culmination of a larger complex of buildings around the cathedral, “located on

the edge of the existing city” (Benevolo 1993, p. 32). The whole ensemble was erected

during the twelfth century, conceived as “the centre of a new city of unimaginably

grand scale and dignity” (pp. 32-33). The project was to restructure the medieval

grid of the city and to consolidate Pisa’s fame as a “second Rome” (p. 32) that reflected

its major political, economic, and cultural role at that time.

The strategic urban complex, however, remained an “uncompleted project [left]

isolated at [the city’s] north-western corner” (p. 32-33). The ambitious idea of reorganizing

the physical pattern of the city eventually did not materialize. This was

Self-Induced Shocks: Mega-Projects and Urban Development


I’ve Never Been There

Andrea Bosio

Andrea Bosio

Been There

Similar to radio and TV in the nineteen-fifties, the internet in the

last decades has propelled a fundamental transformation of our

modus vivendi. Being both product and medium of the global era,

it has hugely sped up the exchange of information. The web facilitated

the circulation of news and knowledge and, thereby, paved

the way for rapid knowledge sharing. While Web 1.0, popular until

the nineteen-nineties was almost exclusively based on static websites,

in the more recent Web 2.0, interaction is the basic ingredient.

Phenomena such as Napster, YouTube, and Facebook — to

name but a few — have literally changed our lives. Expanding our

personal networks, watching videos, and listening to music have

never been so easy or immediate.

Google satellite and Google street view are crucial components

of this transformation. The two software tools have mapped

the entire planet from different perspectives. Particularly Google

street view allows many of our cities to be visualized from the

perspective of an average-height human. The Googlemobile,

equipped with a photographic camera on its roof, takes 360° photos.

It silently drives down busy and quiet streets, immortalizing

the urban reality meter by meter. The lens mounted on the

Googlemobile captures buildings, vegetation, animals, things, and

people — nearly always unknowingly. The results are then sent

back to the US company's servers and inserted into the API navigation


Computer users start from a geographic position selected

from the vertical satellite view and can “descend” to ground

level — or, rather, to approximately two meters above the

ground — and see the views collected by the cars on their worldwide

mission. What is more, one can then surf the images on the

16 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

| I've Never

screen with a mouse or keyboard: one can travel along a street, go

back, turn around to look at something or zoom in on a detail, all

making it possible to explore reality at 360°. One can visit almost

an entire city while sitting comfortably in front of a screen.

What could previously only be achieved by personal in situ experience,

picturesque postcards, or numerous photo reports today

is only as far away as a mouse click, thanks to computers and

new-generation smartphones. A large slice of the planet, mainly

the urbanized areas, has literally been broken down into millions

of frames, collected arbitrarily without choosing a specific subject,

and recomposed with software into one continuous surfable vision.

The picture of the surroundings is created via a mechanical

photographic-mapping method. The adoption of specific technology

and its equally precise application allow us to visualize the

attained result on a monitor and surf the images. We are able to

experience the reality in an objective and non-interpretative portrayal.

This is a new way to enjoy a new image of reality.

I have always used Google’s satellite and street view system to

view cities and principally to identify the urban drift areas featured

in some of my photographic projects. In these cases, I use

software as if it were a map made of pictures to find my way

through the reality of direct experience. This is also the approach I

adopted for the photographic project presented here. However, on

this occasion, the subject of my shots was the representation of

the city supplied by Google street view on my computer screen. I

treated this new pixelated reality as a territory for exploration

and managed to compile a true photographic record of it by selecting

different points of observation in this virtual space. I photographed

the city without ever actually being there.

Andrea Bosio | I've Never Been There


EXPO 1967 | Biosphère | Montreal, Quebec, Canada

28 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Los Angeles Music Center | Walt Disney Concert Hall | Los Angeles, California, USA

Andrea Bosio | I've Never Been There



Urban Mega-Projects

and Reversibility:

The Re-Railing of

Los Angeles


Deike Peters

Reversing Course in the Automobile City: The Mega-Project of Re-Railing Los Angeles

Any urban mega-project is by definition a high-stakes intervention. Yet flagship

mega-projects such as new sports stadiums, fancy museums, or redeveloped

waterfronts — all projects mainly designed to boost a city’s entertainment and cultural

appeal — are different from infrastructural mega-projects such as revitalized

rivers, urban expressways, and subway or airport expansions in that the impacts of

the former are more localized, causing them to compete against each other, whereas

the impacts of the latter are typically more cumulative, with long-term consequences

for urban prosperity. Transportation mega-projects are especially crucial

for a city’s long-term development prospects because urban economic success and

urban mobility are invariably — and unfortunately negatively — intertwined. Traffic

is the one problem that always gets worse when a city does better economically,

with high levels of road congestion typically indicating increased economic activity

and success.

50 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Looked at differently, transportation mega-projects have the

potential to thoroughly reverse deeply ingrained beliefs about the

nature and character of a particular city or neighborhood. Some

of the most consequential planning decisions in urban history

have to do with what kind of transportation infrastructure to invest

in and which modes of transportation to favor. This chapter

accepts the proposition that mega-projects constitute hierarchical

interventions in cities that set important dynamics in motion.

Mega-project researchers often speak of “points of no return” and

of “path dependencies” once decision-makers have committed

themselves to a particular set of large-scale investments. But contrary

notions of reversibility are rarely investigated.

In this chapter, I pose the provocative and partially hypothetical

question whether decades of mega-investments into freeways,

highways, and single-purpose boulevards can be undone by similarly

large-scale investments into alternative transportation infrastructure.

More specifically and less speculatively, this chapter interprets

the twenty-first century quest to “re-rail” the Los Angeles

metropolitan region as a multipart mega-project comparable to

the city’s previous multipart mega-project of littering the region

with countless freeways in the second half of the twentieth century.

Throughout the twentieth century, Los Angeles was considered

a poster child for car-oriented development and low-density suburban

sprawl. Starting in the nineteen-fifties, many freeways

were built to crisscross the entire urban region. Ample parking

was provided for all new housing developments and workplaces.

But is Los Angeles doomed to follow this path of automobile dependence

indefinitely or is it reversible? And what role do rail megaprojects

play in the quest to change course? And what other factors

are important in order for LA to successfully transform and

remake itself? When the international team of architects and urban

designers tasked with developing the new master plan for

LA’s iconic Union Station was asked to envision the site’s surroundings

in the Year 2050, they came up with a “visioning board”

depicting the historic Mission-revival-style station building (see

Figure 1) dwarfed by modern high-rises and enhanced by abundant

green spaces along the freeway and the river (see Figure

2) — certainly a far cry from the much humbler, more concretefilled

reality of Union Station’s surroundings today (see Figure 3).

Meant of course to be more inspirational than realistic, the architects’

vision is indicative of the new generation of images of Los

Angeles as a transformed metropolis, complete with a strong rail

Urban development


80 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Jamie McGregor Smith | Borrow, Build, Abandon


Large-scale events





and the 2014 Winter

Olympics in Sochi

Martin Müller


Mega-events are frequently desired by politicians, city planners, business lobbies

and property owners alike. They are coveted for their ability to expedite largescale

transformations and bring into host cities money that would otherwise not

flow there. Hosting a mega-event allows cities and countries to temporarily suspend

regular planning and due legal process and introduce a state of exception

(Coaffee 2014; Sánchez and Broudehoux 2013). The event’s immutable deadline,

the world’s attention turning to the host location, and the contractual requirements

for hosting the event force consensus and speed upon cities instead of disagreement

and slack.

The self-induced shock of mega-events makes it possible to push large projects

through — airport expansions, sweeping redevelopments of whole neighborhoods,

new train and bus lines, waterfront redevelopments — that would

have dragged on or languished in the drawers of planning offices (cf. Grabher

118 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

and Thiel 2014; Häußermann and Siebel 1993). To do so, the selfinduced

shock often suspends regular checks and balances on

government actions. Environmental impact assessments, project

tenders, referenda, quality assurance, social cost-benefit analyses

— many of these are considered expendable under the tight

deadlines of mega-events or they are sidestepped when preparations

fall behind schedule.

Authoritarian regimes are often thought to be the better hosts

for mega-events. Both the IOC (International Olympic Committee)

and FIFA (Fédération Internationale du Football Association) have

underscored the benefits of authoritarian regimes, for example,

providing security more easily (Pound 2004) and doing away with

the long-winded process of decision-making (Reuters 2013). Authoritarian

regimes can more easily bend or bypass existing rules

and regulations and raise and deploy large sums of money and

construction workers without quibbling. Democratic legitimation

is weak in authoritarian countries, where politicians do not depend

on voters to re-elect them; thus mega-events are not subject

to the same degree of public accountability. In other words, government

fiat replaces the vox populi.

This contribution looks at how well authoritarian regimes are

indeed able to organize mega-events — and with what potential

impacts. It does so by examining the case of the 2014 Winter

Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. 1 One of the biggest events in 2014,

not just in Russia but in the world, the Sochi Games broke a series

of records. They had the highest number of participating nations

(88), the highest number of athletes (2,873), and the highest number

of events (98) of any Winter Games. At USD 1.26 billion, they

also produced the highest revenue from broadcasting rights ever

(IOC 2014). Less than three decades earlier, the 1988 Winter Games

in Calgary were barely half as large, which exemplifies the tremendous

growth of the event. But the one record that Sochi will

be remembered for is a more dubious one: the most expensive

Olympic Games ever — Summer or Winter. The figure most frequently

cited for total costs is USD 51 billion (RUB 1,526 billion), although,

as we will see below, the actual costs are at least USD 55

billion. This mind-boggling figure underscores the transformative

potential of the Winter Games in Sochi.

The Olympic Games in Sochi were more than a mere sports

event. The large amount of funds spent on it and the priority it

enjoyed in Russia were meant to expedite regional development

in one big push, building state-of-the-art infrastructure and

1 This paper draws in part on Müller, M.

(2014).“After Sochi 2014: Costs and

Impacts of Russia’s Olympic Games.”

Eurasian Geography and Economics

55.6: pp. 628–55.

A Swiss National Science Foundation

Professorship (PP00P1_144699)

supported this work.

Large-scale events









(nominal) Funding Source After-Use

USD million

TOTAL 12,287 54,914 347% -- --

Operational Costs 1,648 4,249 158% -- --

Organizing Committee 1,391 2,327 67% ca. 75% private --

Security 257 1,922* 647% public --

Capital Costs 10,638 50,665 376% mostly public --

Sports-Related Capital Costs n/a 11,894 n/a

Direct Sports-Related Capital Costs 1,052 7,532 585% mostly public --

Coastal Cluster

Olympic Stadium 51 631 1131% public concerts, World Cup 2018

Large Hockey Stadium 164 336 105% public multi-purpose stadium

Small Hockey Stadium 24 116 382% private national sports center for


Curling Arena 11 24 113% state-secured loan multi-purpose stadium

Speed Skating Oval 28 246 790% state company tennis academy

Figure Skating Stadium 38 270 610% public velodrome?

Main Olympic Village 66 772 1061% state-secured loan apartments

Main Media Center 246 1,274 417% public exhibition center

Olympic Park 328 n/a public recreation, Formula 1

Mountain Cluster

Biathlon and Cross-Country


12 2,478 20759% state company training center

Bobsleigh Track 120 249 107% public training center

Ski Jumps 29 298 922% state-secured loan training center

Snowboard and Freestyle Park 21 113 430% state-secured loan training center

Alpine Skiing 240 396 65% state-secured loan ski resort (Roza Khutor)

Main Mountain Village 44 599 1251% state-secured loan hotel, apartments

Sports-Related Supporting


n/a 4,362 n/a mostly public --

Non-Sports-Related Capital Costs n/a 38,771 n/a mostly public --

Combined Railroad Link n/a 10,546 n/a public severely reduced rail service

Other Projects n/a 28,225 n/a mostly public --

122 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

This categorization makes it possible to distinguish between direct

costs (operational and sports-related capital costs) and indirect

costs (non-sports-related capital cost).

Adding up these costs produces a figure higher than the frequently

reported USD 51 billion: the total costs linked to the 2014

Sochi Olympics were just under USD 55 billion (RUB 1,652 billion)

(see Table 1). 2 More than 90% of the costs were capital costs, indicating

the large share of construction for these Olympics (see Figure

1 for an overview of the most important construction projects).

Indeed, such a high proportion of capital costs as a share of

total investments was previously only reached by Tokyo for the

Summer Games of 1964 (Liao and Pitts 2006). Even in Beijing,

which spent about USD 40 billion for the Summer Games in 2008

to effect major urban transformations (Smith and Himmelfarb

2007), this ratio was only about 65%. It is these capital costs of

USD 51 billion that have been reported as total costs, ignoring operational

costs, which add more than USD 4 billion to the total.

But are all costs of Table 1 attributable to the Olympics? Organizers

and state officials have maintained that not all expenditures

were occasioned by the event. According to them, the true cost of

the event was USD 7.1 billion (RUB 214 billion), which is meant to include

just the sports-related venues (Channel One 2014; Russia

2 For conversion from rubles (RUB) into

US-Dollars (USD), the average exchange

rate from the date of awarding the

Winter Olympics (July 4, 2007) to their

conclusion (February 23, 2014) is used

for all conversions in this chapter,

except where indicated otherwise, so

as to smooth out exchange rate

fluctuations. This is USD 1 = RUB 30.08.

In all cases, the original ruble values are

also reported, to allow readers to apply

different exchange rates.

Table 1 (previous page): Breakdown of

total budget by type of cost (operational,

sports-related capital, sports-related

supporting infrastructure, non-sportsrelated

capital) [all costs in nominal USD

at average exchange rate of USD 1 = RUB

30.08] * Security costs are a minimum

estimate from 2011; no current data has

been published.

Figure 1: Map of post-Olympic Sochi with key infrastructure and coastal and mountain clusters

Large-scale events 123

150 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Marc Ohrem-Leclef | Olympic Favela



and Markets

154 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Complexity and


Problem or Asset in

Decision-Making of

Mega Infrastructure


Willem Salet/Luca Bertolini/Mendel Giezen


The planning of mega infrastructure projects epitomizes the tension

between current planning approaches and planning objects

that are subject to extreme complexity and uncertainty. The inadequacy

of current approaches to the planning of mega infrastructure

projects has been extensively documented in international

literature (for example, Altshuler and Luberoff 2003; Flyvbjerg et

al. 2003; Priemus 2007b; Priemus et al. 2008). However, there is

much less consensus on how to improve on this. The aim of this

chapter is to start to investigate and establish the features of a

planning approach more suited to the complexity and uncertainty

that characterize mega infrastructure projects. We begin by

drawing up a definition of mega infrastructure projects and by

identifying one particular sort of mega-project as the subject of

This chapter builds on empirical research

pursued in the framework of a global

research program on decision-making in

infrastructural mega-projects: the Omega

Centre for the Study of Mega-Projects in

Transport and Development (Bartlett

School of Planning at University College

London). The program is sponsored by

Volvo Research and Educational

Foundations (VREF). It was originally

published as a journal article in the

International Journal of Urban and

Regional Research 37.6

© 2012 Urban Research Publications

Limited. Published by Blackwell

Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road,

Oxford OX42DQ, UK and 350 Main St,

Malden, MA 02148, USA

Management and Markets


is highly problematic (Kreiner 1995; Söderlund 2013; Engwall 2003). Academics coming

from sociology, public administration, psychology, and anthropology have introduced

perspectives in which mega-projects are perceived as temporal, organizational,

and social arrangements that should be studied in terms of their context,

culture, conceptions, and relevance (Kreiner 1995; Packendorff 1995; Lundin and Söderholm

1995). In these studies, mega-projects are perceived as non-routine — requiring

special authorizing, funding, revenues, land acquisition — and regulatory

actions carried out by two or more levels of government. Furthermore, they are initially

controversial, proceeding slowly and passing different electoral and business

cycles for which public-private cooperation is needed (Altshuler and Luberoff 2003).

Such projects generally require complex construction integration and technology

and resource and material management characterized by a long time frame and

numerous interfaces among multiple contractors and third parties (Greiman 2013).

While contractual arrangements seek to address the many interests at stake,

they do not fully capture the complexity of the multiple fragmented subcultures at

work as mega-projects are politically sensitive and involve a large number of partners,

interest groups, citizens, and other stakeholders (Hodgson and Cicmil 2006,

Bresnen et al. 2005). Therefore, mega-projects cannot be delivered with closed governance

systems; instead, it is necessary to pay explicit attention to the context as

an interpretive framework for the environment(s) of organizational actors in mega-projects

(Eng wall 2003). Context is important as humans manifest an immense

flexibility in their responses to the environmental forces they encounter, enact, and

transform (Geertz 1973). It concerns specific aspects and circumstances such as history,

ideology, fields of action, and technical infrastructures, within which cultural

patterns are developed and reproduced, that is, which drive or legitimize an assignation

of meaning (Van Marrewijk et al. 2008).

Old versus New Urban Mega-Projects

Leher and Laidley (2008a) make a distinction between so-called old and new urban

mega-projects in urban development. In the “great mega-project era” of the nineteen-fifties

and nineteen-sixties (Altshuler and Luberoff 2003, p. 8), urban megaprojects

were monolithic constructions, such as the Big Dig in Boston (Greiman

2013). This old generation of urban mega-projects has received strong criticism

(Merrow et al. 1988) for paying little attention to citizen participation and for exceeding

planned costs, falling behind schedule, and failing to deliver in the terms

used (Flyvbjerg et al. 2003).

Since their post-World War Two beginnings new urban mega-projects have

evolved (Fainstein 2008). These new urban mega-projects take the form of vast

complexes characterized by a mix of uses, a variety of financing techniques, and a

combination of public- and private-sector initiators (Lehrer and Laidley 2008).

The construction of new transportation infrastructures or the extension of existing

ones are examples of new mega-projects (Diaz Orueta and Fainstein 2008).

180 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

These urban mega-projects involve transforming urban space — its built form

and its specific land use(s) — with the intention of changing social practices in

these urban landscapes (Van Marrewijk and Yanow 2010; Lehrer and Laidley 2008;

Del Cerro Santamaría 2013).

Importantly, new urban mega-projects are often undertaken by state actors

operating in collaboration with private interests in the pursuit of developing city

regions within a competitive global system (Lehrer and Laidley 2008; Del Cerro

Santamaría 2013). A distinction has to be made between US and European cities,

as US city development is more driven by for-profit investments, while European

city development is driven by public money (Altshuler and Luberoff 2003). A study

of thirteen large-scale urban development projects in twelve European Union

countries showed that urban mega-projects are almost all state led and often

state financed (Moulaert et al. 2003). Contractually, however, these mega-projects

are often defined in terms of public-private partnerships, in which there is structural

cooperation between public and private parties to deliver an agreed outcome

(Van Marrewijk et al. 2008). While these contractual arrangements seek to

address the many interests at stake in complex mega-projects, they do not fully

capture the complexity of the multiple, fragmented subcultures at work in a project’s

culture (Van Marrewijk et al. 2008).

Participation of Citizens in Urban Mega-Projects

Protests and resistance have forced project implementers to change implementation

processes. In Europe, mega-project implementers have learned to expect and

respect citizen opposition and to increasingly adapt their interventions and decisionmaking

processes to preempt or defuse claims against their proposals (Dewey and

Davis 2013; Diaz Orueta and Fainstein 2008). Planners and politicians now adopt an

“everyone gains” rhetoric of both economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability

and the paradigm of “do no harm,” which represents the idea that mega-projects

should only proceed if their negative side effects are negligible or significantly

mitigated (Altshuler and Luberoff 2003; Lehrer and Laidley 2008).

Increasingly, participation in urban mega-projects is organized by new forms of

real-time monitoring and of distributed participation in planning and decisionmaking;

utilizing diffusion of information and communication technology also

plays a role (Whyte 2003). Although interactive and communicative methods have

been introduced in the planning practice (Healey 2010), less attention has been

paid to their role in the execution practices. Differing patterns or rhythms of visual

practice are important in the evolution of knowledge and in structuring social relations

for ideal communication. Hence, to improve their performance, practitioners

should not only consider the types of media they use, but also reflect on the pace

and style of their interactions (Whyte et al. 2007).

In the organizing of urban mega-projects, issues of power, politics and conflicting

interests are prevalent (Clegg and Kreiner 2013). Given the interdependency

Management and Markets


The Economist (March 21, 2009) to call Dongtan the “City of Dreams.”

In contrast, the Masdar project designed by Foster and Partners, a

leading architectural practice, has moved from planning to construction

and initial operation.

This chapter describes Arup’s efforts to develop an ecologically

and economically sustainable design for Dongtan. Regarded

as an experiment to create a carbon-neutral city from scratch

and a prototype for the future of all cities in China, the Dongtan

project aimed to deliver long-term ecological sustainability,

economic vitality, and prosperity. Dongan is situated just north

of Shanghai in sensitive wetlands on Chongming Island at the

mouth of the Yangtze River. Its first phase of development, a marina

village of 20,000 inhabitants, should have been completed

in time for the 2010 World EXPO in Shanghai. Under the original

plan, 80,000 people would inhabit the city’s environmentally

sustainable neighborhoods by 2020 and 500,000 by 2050. The

planned city covered 630 hectares, about the size of New York’s

Manhattan Island, included a transportation bridge, tunnel,

and port to accommodate fast ferries from the mainland and

Figure 1: Compact City: Arup’s Vision of

Dongtan (Source: Arup)

202 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

the new Shanghai airport, a leisure facility, an education complex, space for

high-tech industry, and housing (see Figure 1). Two major ecological goals of the

project were to generate zero carbon emissions and cut average energy demands

by two thirds by creating a unique city layout, energy infrastructure, and building


The Dongtan project was taking place in a unique context [see Box 1: The Dongtan

Project Context]. China was undergoing the most rapid urbanization experienced

in history. In 2009, McKinsey Global Institute forecasted that by 2025 an additional

350 million people would become urban residents in China, and the country

recognized that a new form of urbanization that ensured smart and environmentally

sustainable growth would be crucial in the coming years. According to one

study, in 2009 there were thirty sustainable urbanization projects at various stages

of development throughout China (Joss 2010). As Peter Head, Arup’s former Director

of the Planning and Integrated Urbanism group, emphasized in an interview,

“China is moving in the direction of eco-cities because it sees this as a route to create

a sustainable economic future” (Brenhouse 2010).

Designing the world’s first eco-city involved an intense process of exploratory

learning to discover how to achieve a client’s ecological, social, and economic

sustainability targets. Arup created a large multidisciplinary, geographically

dispersed, collaborative project team to develop the radically new urban design,

integrate new or proven technologies, and address diverse user requirements

from residents, businesses, and government bodies. The master plan for the

Dongtan project, developed between 2005 and 2009, was a launch pad for Arup

to develop design and project capabilities that would be required if they were

to move quickly into the emerging eco-city market in their overall striving toward

world leadership in sustainable urban planning. Initiated in 2005, the

Dongtan project involved a combination of public transportation, waste recycling,

and renewable energy. While the Dongtan project was underway, Arup

used the knowledge gained to develop a portfolio of integrated eco-city design

solutions, ranging from new sustainable urban development to mixed-use urban

interventions in existing city developments. Participating in Dongtan and

the early eco-city projects in China provided Arup with an opportunity to experiment

with new technological combinations, gain a leading position in sustainability,

and actively shape the emerging global market for sustainable urban


This chapter focuses on how Arup addressed the challenges of establishing the

Dongtan project and developed the resources and capabilities to develop a radically

new design and planning approach. Despite the delay, Arup was able to use the

lessons learned on the Dongtan project to build an eco-city design business. We

describe how Arup’s efforts to win new projects for eco-city clients around the

world were underpinned by institutional efforts to gain legitimacy as the market

leader by actively defining and shaping the new market.

Management and Markets



Luca Bertolini is a Professor of urban and regional planning at

the University of Amsterdam. His research and teaching

focus on the integration of transport and land-use planning,

on methods for supporting option-generation in the

planning process, on concepts for coping with uncertainty

in planning, and on ways of enhancing the interaction

of theory and practice. Main publication topics include

planning for sustainable accessibility in urban regions,

conceptualizing urbanism in a network society, and applying

evolutionary theories to planning.

Andrew Davies is a Professor in the management of projects in

the School of Construction and Project Management, the

Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, University College

London. Previously he held positions at the Science Policy

Research Unit (SPRU) within the University of Sussex at the

University of Amsterdam, and Imperial College Business

School. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian Business

School, Oslo and a Visiting Professor at LUISS Business

School, Rome. Currently, he is conducting research on how

complex and high-risk mega-projects are organized and

managed, and on how capabilities are created and applied

to generate innovation and flexibility in mega-projects.

Constanze Engelbrecht is a researcher in urban and regional

economic studies at HafenCity University Hamburg

(HCU). Previously, she worked as a concept developer

at the School for Digital Transformation in Hamburg,

managed an EU-funded project on innovative policies for

urban regeneration, and was a Research Assistant at the

Institute of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technical

University of Berlin. Her current research is concerned

with new forms of knowledge production and addresses

open knowledge ecologies and collaborative knowledge

production in virtual communities.

Lars Frederiksen is a Professor (mso) in the department of

business administration at Aarhus University, Denmark

where he leads the Innovation Management Group. He

was awarded his PhD from Copenhagen Business School,

Denmark and then worked for more than four years at

the Imperial College Business School, London. Frederiksen

specializes in the management of innovation and technology

with particular emphasis on innovation strategies,

knowledge creation and search, user innovation in communities,

and innovation in project-based organizations.

More recently, Frederiksen has ventured into studying the

mobility of entrepreneurs and the growth and survival of

new venture teams. Empirically, Frederiksen focuses on

industries such as software, roads and water, engineering

consulting, and entertainment (music and film).

Mendel Giezen is an Assistant Professor in urban environmental

governance at Utrecht University. Within this field, he

currently is involved in projects on adaptive decision-making

and the planning of spatial interventions, the up-scaling of a

low-carbon urban development, and international municipal

climate networks. He also works on smart city governance,

looking at how new technologies can be applied for urban

environmental governance, and on the implementation in

the Dutch Caribbean municipalities of a decision-support

system for the management of invasive species.

Gernot Grabher directs the research unit urban and regional

economic studies at the HafenCity University Hamburg

(HCU). Previously he held positions at the University of

Bonn, King’s College London, and the WZB Social Science

Center Berlin. Currently, he is conducting research that explores

how social networking sites reshape socializing and

innovation, how the sharing economy transforms urban

life, and how cities can learn from rare events.

Oliver Ibert is the head of the research unit on dynamics of

economic spaces at the Leibniz Institute of Regional

Development and Structural Planning (IRS) Erkner; he is also

a Professor of economic geography at the Freie Universität

Berlin. He held previous positions at the Universities of Bonn

and Oldenburg. His current research interests encompass

different forms and practices of organizing creative processes,

the geography of user-led innovation, and time-spatial

dynamics of innovation processes in different sectors of the

economy and in urban and regional planning.

222 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

Martin Müller is the Swiss National Science Foundation Professor

in the department of geography at the University

of Zurich and a Senior Research Fellow at the University

of Birmingham. His research focuses on the planning and

impacts of mega-events and on natural disturbances, such

as insect infestations, in protected areas. He has just completed

a major project on the Sochi 2014 Winter Games

and is now looking at the World Cup 2018 in Russia.

Joachim Thiel is a Senior Lecturer and postdoctoral researcher

in urban and regional economic studies at the HafenCity

University of Hamburg. His main research interests include

large-scale projects in urban development, particularly with

regard to learning processes, as well as geographies of labor

markets in creative industries. Prior to his current job, Thiel

worked as head of the strategic development unit in the

presidential office of HCU for four years.

Deike Peters teaches environmental planning and practice at

the Soka University of America. Immediately before that,

she taught comparative urbanization at USC’s Price School

of Policy and directed the DFG Emmy Noether Group on

Urban Megaprojects at the Technical University Berlin.

Educated as an urban planner in Dortmund, Hamburg, and

New York City, Peters’s recent core research focus has been

on the complex decision-making around large transport

infrastructures, particularly rail stations.

Willem Salet is a Professor of urban and regional planning at

the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of

Amsterdam. From 1998–2003, he was the scientific director

of the Amsterdam Research Institute of the Metropolitan

Environment. Salet has chaired the program group in urban

planning since 1998. He has held various functions in the

Association of European Schools of Planning and was

the President of AESOP from 2011–2013. Salet specializes

in urban studies, institutional planning theory, urban

governance, and cultural and legal institutions. He has

coordinated many studies in national and internationally

comparative research.

Walter Siebel is an Emeritus Professor of sociology at the

Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. His research

focuses on urban and regional studies, particularly on the

sociology of housing, social integration, and the culture

of cities. Siebel is author, co-author, and editor of numerous

publications related to these research areas. Together

with Hartmut Häußermann, for example, he edited the

volume Festivalisierung der Stadtpolitik (Festivalization

of Urban Policies) and contributed to the book with a

programmatic chapter.

Leonore van den Ende is a PhD student of organizational

anthropology in the department of organization sciences

of the VU University Amsterdam. Her PhD research

focuses on the practice and meaning of transition rituals

in the context of complex infrastructure (mega-)projects.

She has published in the International Journal of Project


Alfons van Marrewijk is a Professor in business anthropology

in the department of organization sciences at the VU

University Amsterdam. His academic work focuses on the

everyday life of complex mega-projects. He is the editor of

Inside Mega-Projects: Understanding Cultural Practices in

Project Management (CBS Press, forthcoming) and co-editor

of the International Journal of Business Anthropology.

Van Marrewijk has published extensively in international

journals including the Scandinavian Journal of Management,

International Journal of Project Management, and Culture

and Organization. He currently runs a research program that

aims to provide in-depth understanding of mega-projects.

Yijiang Wu is a Research Associate in business model innovation

in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, Imperial

College Business School. He also holds management and

consultancy positions in several private businesses. Wu has

a hybrid academic background at the intersection of

engineering, business, and innovation. Previously his

research focused on how professional service firms develop

capabilities and institutionalize new practices in emerging

markets. Currently he is conducting research on business

model innovation in the context of ICT innovation, fostering

smart city initiatives across health, transportation, and built

environment sectors in the UK.




Andrea Bosio is an Italian architect and professional freelance photographer

specializing in buildings and urban landscapes reportage. He has gained

experience in diverse fields through commissioned work (for architects and

magazines) as well as through personal projects on urban research. His work has

been published in several international magazines, including, among others, AA,

Area, Domus, Arca, Wallpaper,* and Vice Magazine, and also featured in various

locations, such as Paris, Grenoble, Berlin, Barcelona, and Milan. He recently took

part in the Biennale di Venezia in collaboration with the Space Caviar group.

Jamie McGregor Smith is a contemporary documentary photographer based in

London. His work explores themes of social and industrial change, often

exploring the detritus of industry left behind by the social and political impact

of shifting modern economies. Among others, his personal projects have

recorded the remains of the once global Stoke-on-Trent potteries industry, the

site of human exodus and industrially defunct city of Detroit, and man-altered

landscapes in “Ironopolis,” which explores what remains of the once industrial

powerhouse of Middlesborough, England. McGregor Smith’s professional

commissions see him documenting architecture, design, and development for

global publications and agencies.

Marc Ohrem-Leclef was born in Dusseldorf, Germany. After studying Communication

Design at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences in Germany he

relocated to New York City in 1998, founding a commercial photography

business. Concurrently, Ohrem-Leclef has created immersive photographic

portraits of communities—whether they are formed by bloodlines, social

circumstance, or cultural movements. Ohrem-Leclef’s work has been exhibited

in Germany and the US and featured in numerous international publications,

among them AMERICAN PHOTO Magazine, DER SPIEGEL, Vogue, Die Zeit. Most

recently OLYMPIC FAVELA (2014), a hard-cover book of photographs from his

current project was published by Damiani, including a text by Luis Pérez-

Oramas (MoMA, New York), reviewed by ARTnews, Slate, BBC.

224 Perspectives in Metropolitan Research

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