Setting station locations in their urban context

Context II: in which city?

Until the 1960s, Christaller's central place theory and Perroux's growth pole theory could be used in describing the two fundamental types of city to be found in Europe: regional centres and industrial cities respectively (Zoete, 1997, pp. 31-33). In the ensuing 30 years, the impacts of economic change have undermined the two basic assumptions that both theories have in common. These are the assumptions that (a) proximity is a fundamental variable, and (b) cities are about the valorization and commercialization of local resources. Today, relationships of complementarity and competition between cities have become more important than relationships between a city and its hinterland. Behind this transformation lies a combination of factors that can be summarized in the notion of globalization of the economy (Borja and Castells, 1997). Increasingly, world macro-regions participate in a global space of international finance and technological innovation. Within macro-regions (of which Europe is one), cities tend to be either nodes of specialized technological and/or financial networks, or bridgeheads for international capital in a specific regional/world market (Bonneville et al., 1994). In Europe, this evolution appears to have brought about more sectoral specialization. For instance, it has led to the concentration of financial services in Frankfurt, of international insurance companies in Amsterdam, of modern industry in Stuttgart, of retail and distribution in Lyon, and of research and development in Grenoble (Bonneville et al., 1994).

Globalization processes have intervened in Europe on a macro-regional urban structure that, because of its long and rich history, is not expected to experience major changes (Bonneville et al., 1994; Kunzmann, 1996). Yet there are developments that have a potential spatial influence within this framework. They include (Kunzmann, 1996) the completion of the trans-European high-speed rail network, the growth of international airport complexes, the spatial implications of new telecommunication technologies, the removal of inner European borders, and urban and regional competition. Furthermore, a spatial impact could also have more hypothetical processes such as immigration and integration, a paradigm shift of European agricultural policies, and the emergence of regionalism.

The combination of global and local factors with the developments cited above results in a set of emerging urban types in Europe. These include, again following Kunzmann (1996), international finance and service centres, modern R&D spaces (technopoles), traditional industrial complexes, modern production complexes ('just in time' regions), inter-regional distribution centres, urbanized transportation corridors, urban backwater spaces, rural industrial complexes, marginalized rural regions, gentrified rural areas, aerovilles (airport cities), and leisure worlds (Disney worlds). Not all of these urban types are equally relevant to station area development, but each type has specific implications for the station area(s) it contains, and this is the point. For instance, most demand-driven station area projects in Europe are currently to be found in the category of international finance and service centres. By contrast, supply-driven projects are often promoted in evolving traditional industrial complexes, while railway stations may have an important complementary function in both aerovilles and leisure worlds. In the other emerging urban types, passenger station locations tend to play a more marginal role.

Context II: where in the city?

At the intra-urban level, globalization has meant an increase in the functional division of space. Next to an ongoing decentralization of activities towards ever more distant metropolitan 'rings', a selective (re)concentration is being observed in both core and peripheral areas. While production globalizes and segments, abandoning the traditional regional logic, and consumer services follow the suburbanization of homes, control and command activities, representative functions, cultural institutions, and specific areas of consumption show a tendency to concentrate within a diminishing number of central locations. Most importantly, both decentralization and concentration have a markedly selective character. These processes tend to gravitate toward locations that offer the best access to (tele)communication networks and new kinds of agglomeration effect.

Such shifts cannot be accounted for by traditional centre-periphery opposition. Simply equating decentralization to suburbanization and (re)concentration to (re)urbanization would not only be misleading; it would also make it difficult to explain their coexistence. Current developments may be better understood within the framework of a network spatial paradigm. According to this interpretation of the metropolitan space (see, among others, Dematteis, 1988; Castells, 1989; Borja and Castells, 1997) systems of specialized integrated nodes are emerging, connected with each other and with nodes in other metropolitan areas by both material (e.g. transport) and immaterial (e.g. information) networks. What has also changed is the scale of the urban phenomenon, which is now increasingly that of '100-mile cities' (Sudjic, 1992), where locations have to be placed in the context of vast multinodal, dynamic, functionally rather than physically determined 'urban fields' (Friedmann and Miller, 1965). Differences are still marked, but they are thus less (at least in tendency) between urban centres and urban peripheries and more between high-value geographical clusters (be they peripheral or central: edge cities or downtowns) and the 'rest' (be it peripheral or central: peripheral estates or inner cities) (Dematteis, 1988; Castells, 1989; Borja and Castells, 1997).

Invariably, the most dynamic station locations from a property perspective are those in the former category. The transformations of station areas in the Amsterdam region are a striking example in this respect, with both central and peripheral stations increasingly anchoring specialized and integrated clusters of activities interconnected on a metropolitan or regional scale (see case study in Chapter 6). Dynamic station areas are among the places where both global connection and local disconnection are expressed in their most radical forms. Both extremes of the social spectrum (as typified by the global businessperson and the local homeless) are to be found here. This may offer a unique chance of 'interaction among differents', but can also only reinforce indifference and even generate destructive conflict (Bertolini, 1996a; Bertolini, 1996c)

The position of a station location within the emerging urban networks is, as the case studies will show, a crucial ingredient of its property development potential. But, besides their urban context as sketched above, is there something specific to station areas? What are some of their striking competitive advantages and disadvantages from a property development perspective? To answer these questions, we turn to the following sections.

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