Places on Becoming An Ethnographic Case Study of a Changing City and its Emerging Residential Environments

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Sammanfattning: Some places which once were celebrated by many slowly become places of desolation and social problem while others built with similar intentions and forms continue to flourish. This is typically true of a number of large residential neighbourhoods of Post-World War II Europe and many cities of the global South. Large residential environments have been extensively studied since their emergence in the early 20th century, but often from disciplinary perspectives. Moreover, studies have often focused on singular aspects of these environments. Thus, knowledge of how large residential environments develop as places once created, and what the residents’ role in this process is, remains fragmented and hardly usable for effective urban design/planning interventions. Studies, particularly in the last decade, have begun to show the usefulness of the notion of place as an integrative conceptin housing research. This thesis aims to contribute to interdisciplinarydiscussions on large residential environments by drawing upon theories of space and place from vast fields of social and human sciences, and using anthropological and historical research methods. It explores the multiple ways and means that large residential environments gain their material and social identity as places. The main interest is to understand how the residents perceive, receive and appropriate living environment, and how that contributes to the becoming of the places. Based on such a notion of place, the study presents a critical review of the current transformation of Addis Ababa and its ongoing large-scale housing development. Residents’ ways of articulating their needs, desires, and values are investigated ethnographically and in relation to the socio-political, historical and spatial contexts within which they are taking place.The findings of the study are presented in four academic articles, and in an introductory essay. Each article addresses the main research question (i.e. “how residential places become”) from different angles: Article I (History, Modernity and the Making of an African Spatiality) explores place as a construction of historical and socio-political processes; ArticleII (Socio-SpatialTensions and Interactions: An Ethnography of Condominium Housing of Addis Ababa) and Article III (Home-looseness in Large Residential Environments?) explores place as an assemblage of multiple spatial practices and experiences. Article IV (Sustainable Urbanism: Moving Past Neo- Modernist & Neo-Traditionalist Housing Strategies) explores place as a product of particular urban design/planning paradigm.The findings of the thesis show that the key processes that shape spaces into places are highly embedded in the dialectical relationship between larger structures (i.e. social, economic, political and physical) and the everyday practices of people within the built environment. The findings also show that this relationship is highly mediated by local experiences of modernity. Thus, for example, when modernity is sought as an end, as in the case of the condominium housing of Addis Ababa, a fragile and often paradoxical relationship develops between people and their places as could be seen by the weak senses of place or attachment among condominium residents. One implication for urban design/planning practice is the recognition that place (or the home-place) is predominantly a process, and in the context of modernity, placemaking is highly contested because the process is evaded and people’s relationships with place overridden. Based on the findings, the limits and potentials of the urban design or planning are highlighted. It is recommended that theories of place- becoming – implying understanding of a place as an open-ended process and spatial experiences of ordinary people as the fundamental aspect of place – should be the integral basis of placemaking understanding and practice. Design ethnography is suggested as a possible way to promote placemaking practices closer to the multiple experiences of ordinary people / residents.