Work Task 3

Representations and imaginaries of the residential high-rise: past, present and trajectories (2017- 2018)

Objectives: This task aims at making explicit residential high-rise representations and imaginaries that lie behind stakeholders’ behaviors and actions. We first investigate the evolution of theses representations in a long-term analysis assuming that they participate to collective or selective imaginaries that potentially influence the actions of stakeholders in making and experiencing residential high-rises. We postulate that imaginaries and representations of the high-rise residential tower are ambiguous: either associated with success, prestige, the sacred and human achievement, or linked to dystopian futures, it is a built form that can be seen as alienating people and dividing urban societies. The task is divided into two interrelated analyses, one diachronic and one synchronic, assuming that contemporary representations of residential high-rises cannot be understood without those images, as imaginaries indure or falter in the long run. Persons in charge: Loïc Bonneval (CMW, sociologist) + Aurélien Gentil (CMW, sociologist, post-doctoral student) + MA students (internships). Partners: Bianca Botea (CREA, anthropologist), Richard Nordier (Agence d’Urbanisme de Lyon, sociologist), Natalia Fillod-Barbarino (Agence d’Urbanisme de Lyon, geographer), Manoel Alves (IAU-USP), Ruy Sardinha (IAU-USP, philosopher), Marcel Fantin (IAU-USP), Cibele Rizek (IAU-USP), Maíra Daitx (Master student, IAU- USP).

Methods: Surveys, interviews, text and image analysis, press and municipal bulletin archives. Hypotheses: We assume a shift in the image of high-rise living, with the invention of new lifestyles by real- estate and “creative economy” actors, that draw from the imaginaries of success and prestige associated with the tall building. These positive representations conflict with those of council high-rises, often demonized, especially among planners and politicians, but less among its residents.

WT3.1. The changing narratives of residential high-rises

The aim is to provide background analyses of different types of discourses and narratives that have been produced in the past on residential high-rises. Past images still influence current representations, actions and planning strategies. We will consider narratives for “old” high-rises: council housing rise and fall in Lyon (1957-today), along with middle class high-rises (Garibaldi, 6th Borough). The narratives are very different in Sao Paulo where high-rise construction began in the 1940’s. These histories will include discussions about iconicity and heritage on the one hand (the case of Les Gratte-Ciel, Villeurbanne, 1934; and Edificio Copan, 1966, Sao Paulo) and about stigmatization on the other hand (the “grands ensembles”). Ambiguities in social values can be seen in old council housing with a combination of stigmatization and heritization (La Duchère). Methods: Case studies will be based on archival work (from council housing societies, municipal and press archives, to design proposals in architectural competition) completed by interviews of key actors.

Milestone WT3.1: historical analysis of distinct narratives (recurrent vocabulary, arguments, and models) on high-rise living, based on case studies in Sao Paulo and Lyon to contextualize WT3.2.

WT3.2. Contemporary narratives of residential high-rises 

This mission tests the new lifestyles hypothesis. We first explore how past representations are either which promoted, ignored or rejected in contemporary discourses on residential high-rises. To what extent do they refer to models (or counter-models) of the past? This will lead to discuss on whether current narratives are really new or if they adapt existing features to the contemporary context. The task will particularly address new lifestyles promoted by developers and sometimes also municipalities. These lifestyles are conceived as a set of discourses that create new norms and standards that in turn, create new needs and demands among potential buyers-citizens. This mission involves case studies using ethnographical approach in the 2 cities to assess the way high-rise living is valued by different stakeholders (practitioners, politicians, investors, real estate agents but also buyers and tenants). Social values are not the same for all stakeholders and can be linked to marketing strategies for instance. We analyze the differences between the discourses of planners and architects on the one hand, developers and real estate agents on the other hand. The observation of interactions between real estate actors and their customers is a good way to question the effectiveness of valuing discourses.

Milestone WT3.2: to gather knowledge on the production and reception of contemporary stakeholders’ discourses on high-rise living, and beyond, to understand their strategies.

Deliverables: Typology of the different types of valuing discourses and of their use by the main stakeholders. Risks: difficulty to access some interviewees (particularly developers). Possible fall-back solutions: getting the discourses of developers through architects and municipal staff, representatives of real estate actors (federations or associations) or through their written discourses (brochure, leaflets…).

At the end of the first 3 missions, the research community will be provided with a more comprehensive analysis of high-rise living in terms of locations, dynamics, building process and imaginaries. This knowledge will form the background of the last task, which deals with the experience of high-rise living.

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