This book investigates the iconic architectural cultural spaces of the contemporary cityscape as engines of regeneration. Promising much to their fading locales, these spaces locate culture in the space where production once ruled in order to revitalise post-industrial urban provinces. With close attention to four sites across the UK, Urban Constellations engages with the work of Walter Benjamin and Jean Baudrillard, to read these spaces and in so doing, offer a critical intervention into the theory and experience of contemporary cityscapes. Developing the notion of surface ethnography as a methodological approach to examining the form of cultural experience produced by urban cultural spaces, the author sheds light on the manner in which they transform cultural spectatorship, express wider political and ecological concerns and offer differing views to the ’native’ and the ’tourist’ in the construction of local history. The book also examines the decline of the idea that iconic projects can drive regeneration, in the failures and delays that can beset such undertakings. Offering a rich examination of the legacy of urban change in its most recent formulation - that of cultural regeneration - this book reveals the fragile potential of the spaces produced by contemporary ’dream houses’ and as such, will be of interest to scholars of cultural studies, sociology and social theory, urban studies, cultural geography and architecture.
’Nobody concerned with the contemporary city can afford to ignore Urban Constellations. Its analyses of the dreamscapes of regeneration are timely, exacting, and critical in the best sense of that term; they are also deeply moving.’ Ben Highmore, University of Sussex, UK ’Fizzing with ideas, this inspired analysis investigates the spectacular cultural temples erected in British post-industrial cities at the turn of the 20th century. Such flagship projects are often depicted as hollow shrines to superficial consumption, yet here, drawing on theories from Benjamin and Baudrillard, they are read against the grain. While ZoÃ« Thompson acknowledges the banal commodification of place and culture inherent in these grand designs, her sophisticated exploration reveals overlooked ecologies and histories, unexpected fragments of the past and unforeseen twists that disrupt dreams of seamlessness and offer alternative approaches for critical scrutiny.’ Tim Edensor, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK