Intensive Urbanisation: Levels, Networks and Central Places Stephen Read

Abstract: Urbanisation is one of the defining issues of our time, shaping a fast-changing world, with our urban economies and societies and urban places produced in the process itself. However the ways we conceive urbanisation leaves a lot of this process extremely unclear. Urbanisation is more than the transition of people from rural to urban modes of production and ways of life. It is an historical process in which the urban world emerges as a tightly structured path-dependant but also non-linear process. The product of this process is a space, or layering of spaces that challenges the way we think not just of the city but also of our social grounding in it. Space syntax has gone part of the way to opening a way to our understanding of this process and space. It has done this through the way it has represented urban fabrics and their centralities at a fine grain. However space syntax has become a specialist discipline at this fine scale, while most discourse on the city and urbanisation considers much larger scales. Here I bring together critical interpretations of Peter Taylor’s world-city network, sociotechnical systems and space syntax in order to propose an interpretation of urban space and scale and a model of urbanisation that crosses these scale differences. Key words: urbanisation; world-city networks; space syntax; central places; space; scale.

urban cultures (Zukin) and ‘the compulsion of proximity’ (Boden & Molotch). 1997). It recognises for example the non-intuitive fact that urbanisation can be rather diffuse. This is a definition intended to emphasise a qualitative. the association of urbanisation with concentration is still heavily implicated in urban thinking through notions of ‘agglomeration’ in spatial economics (Fujita and Thisse. In fact in many urban fabrics clear boundary definitions of districts or neighbourhoods or of the city itself are . We experience an urban world in which the translocal is as pervasive and everyday and almost as accessible as the paving beneath our feet. at least to some extent. 2002) and in new economic geography (see Storper. urban places with clear boundaries in which the local is the only place present to us. The association of density with intensity. places become economically active. While cities are sometimes considered the “jetsam of another age. Centrality cannot be simply attributed to patterns of density. as we see in suburban and exurban development in Europe today (Stanilov 2007). But. or qualitative attributes or human or social capital can be poured into the places they are located. we don’t experience the city through the characteristics of absolute space – through area-defined. They both work by imagining that urban mass. cultural aspect of cities and overcome a ‘physical’ bias associating urbanisation with the material sizes or densities of cities. people are living urban lives. culture or preference. incorporating logics of what David Harvey calls ‘absolute space’ (Harvey 1969). or in the deltas of China in the 18th and 19th centuries (Pomeranz). lives imbued with the qualities and cultures of what Louis Wirth called Urbanism. In fact centrality itself forms. does not drop out of the discussion. and in all manner of places.Urbanisation: a relational process Urbanisation is perhaps most often defined today as a process of transition from a rural to an urban way of life (Wirth 1938). vertical settlements in a horizontal world. We don’t appear to have the instruments to find or explain how. or imbued with the culture of urbanism or with the creative potentials and human capital Jacobs. vitality and creativity plays a part in this in celebrations of the creative potentials of cities (Jacobs 1969). or amenities. It could be that the first problem is one ‘cultural’ urbanisation shares with an urbanisation considered in terms of densities or agglomerations or proximities. mirrored in social and economic differentiations and that the choices city users and builders make refer and even defer to these patterns. at a large range of different ‘levels’. We know from space syntax that the fabrics of inner cities display fine-grain differentiations of centrality. artefacts of a time before distance died” (Storper & Manville 1248). It appears the association we have had between urbanisation and concentration may need to be modified and the causes of urbanisation better specified (Storper & Manville). We see as well that the ‘absolute’ spatialisation of the city misses qualities of the urban that are recognisable in everyday experience and everyday action and activity. Both treat the space of the city as a ‘container’. patterns of density and behaviour in cities. scales and scopes. Zukin and Boden and Molotch point to. in very different conditions of material and social density. concentration. in one form or other. or that these will be shifted around and located according to logics of preference or choice (Storper & Manville). Meanwhile today.

A strong underlying theme here is the relative autonomy of cities and city-networks as ‘architectures’ (Sassen 1991:xxx) of larger geo-political regions. which follows on from another (Read. Our contemporary understanding of and discourse on cities and their development is lead by ideas of global and world cities (Sassen 1991. seeing cities as themselves actors in the drama of human change. 1999). This relational space will be the main focus of this paper. scopes and levels. Better understanding implies better thinking and strategy when it comes to planning and otherwise intervening in and guiding this process. The model proposed will suggest the beginnings of a simple typology of the urban patterns resulting from urbanisation. Beaverstock et al. It is an idea that is strongly connected today to notions of globalisation. and will provoke new ways of understanding (and new questions about) vitality. This will leading to the beginnings of a model of the form of urbanisation. agglomerating not just the skills and energy of people but also the exponentially increasing numbers of proximate relations between people in a . Putting cities first I want to begin by introducing and gently critiquing contemporary ideas of city networks. He combines notions of ‘agglomeration’ and his own network theory. These will become the basic frame on which I will build the rest of my account of urbanisation processes. but also more difficult to define analytically. a city. xxxx) in ‘putting cities first’ and focusing on how cities are implicated in the huge advancements humans have made since such settlements first appeared about six or seven thousand years ago. Part of the discussion will be about the nature and character of these ‘levels’. The present paper will start with methods of understanding centrality at much larger scales than space syntax clarify these in turn and to join them up with what I have previously called the ‘space of space syntax’ (Read 2013 forthcoming). and of the formation of ‘central places’ at different ranges. as the logistic heart of its activity” (Braudel 1984:27). the emergence of a different sort of global economy and network society and the rise of new global regions and actors to join with nation states in influencing international and global affairs. 1995. It leads also however back to an older and better historicised idea of a ‘worldeconomy’ that “always has an urban centre of gravity. 2013 forthcoming) which dealt with space syntax directly as an analytical method in order to articulate in terms less opaque than in space syntax the structures and spaces already there in urban fabric – the ones that are the reason space syntax works (Hillier 1999). centrality and public space and how we can make these at a wide variety of levels and scales. Peter Taylor has followed Jane Jacobs (Jacobs. Harvey’s ‘relational’ space will perhaps be less abstract.rather hard to find and we already understand that the way things relate to each other is important for the way the city is known and used. Friedmann 1986. economic and environmental developments. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of a process that is at the centre of contemporary social.

could usher in explosive economic expansion based on the creation of new work in new urban centres. According to Taylor. from an early state of ‘domestic modes of production’ (Sahlins 2004) in which households participated relatively independently in emerging economies of new work. exchange of different categories. Town-ness is “a relatively simple flow of people to the ‘town’ to access public goods or buy private goods. . which has been termed ‘central flow theory’” (Taylor 2012:419). innovations and inventions” (Taylor. skills and social relations. However Taylor also understands people and relations agglomerating and concentrating in bounded territorial spaces. I’m going to argue that rather than cities being simply local repositories of knowledge. The ‘central place’ model is a ‘supplyled’ evolutionary model of urban origination in surpluses of agricultural production. He uses central place theory and networks to distinguish local and global ‘levels’. I would argue that Taylor has tended to reduce cities themselves to rather passive containers of ‘agglomeration’. very often routine. commodities and information between cities. the innovative potentials to start fulfilling these. deals with non-local flows of people. He uses Ian Hodder’s excavation of Çatalhöyük to argue for an increasing internal complexity in these nodes. xxxx:xx). One result has been a neglect of the detailed local conditions – glossed here as ‘clustering’ or separated from material conditions as ‘immaterial’ knowledge or creativity attributes. It is already apparent in Taylor’s account that ‘agglomeration’ is way too crude an idea and asks for methods better capable of dealing with at least the spatial aspects of this organised complexity. Proto-cities created spiralling demands and. according to him. City-ness. Taylor characterises these potentials as a “combination of cluster/agglomeration processes within cities and network/connectivity processes between cities. Taylor suggests. they are themselves organised for an effective. several such nodes. These processes create unprecedented communication potentials that make cosmopolitan cities the crucibles of new ideas. 2012). domains and ‘levels’ of networked knowledge and practice. The reliance on a central place model for what is an urban organisation at the local level also seems crude. through increasing levels of urban and social organisation in terms of divisions of labour and urban spaces of internal exchanges of skills and materials. the notion of ‘communication’ seems to be pitched here at the local and relies on territorial clustering. repeating territorial suppositions of a bounding space. It is through this exponential increase in embedded potential relations. in a strong and permanent trading network. I would suggest that what cities do is organise people and societies rather than simply gather them in dense little clusters. But.‘communication theory’ of the growth of social and urban complexity (Taylor. on the other hand. associating central place theory with towns rather than cities and drawing a distinction between ‘town-ness’ and ‘city-ness’. while the ‘central flow’ model is ‘demand-led’ seeing cities originating in trading networks and economic specialisation and the unprecedented population concentrations these stimulated. that cities can be represented as qualitatively different to what came before and “completely new social worlds of human experience” (Taylor 2012:418).

historically enlarging. Each of these ‘modernities’ represents a “massive historical shift of forces” (Braudel 1984:32) with concomitant shifts in the ‘centre’ of the world-economy from Amsterdam to London to New York. Fujita et al. to reemphasise history and variations in structure in the past and present of the global city (Slater 2004:605). Moscow. Peter Taylor has characterised this sequence in terms of three ‘prime modernities’ that have represented transitions of world hegemony from a 17th-18th century mercantile Dutch modernity to an 18th-19th Century industrial British modernity and a 20th century consumerist modernity (Taylor. each with a new urban centre concentrating flows of economic life and progressing to (near) hegemony before being overturned by the next (Slater 2004:593). outlined by Braudel.and global city networks it is ‘the system’ that dominates the discourse . Randstad-Holland. Only with the rise of Amsterdam did capitalism become a reasonably coherent series of world-economies. Eric Slater reminds us the possibility of bi.Modern worlds. (1972) there has been a tendency towards more economic systematisations (for example. Articulating this is a succession of world-city networks. Peter Hall (1966) has also emphasised the multivalency of world-cities with different attributes of politics. 2002) about what is included and not included in the system. Venetian hegemony was a result of commercial and naval power. 1966). and geographically shifting core and its always less advanced. Nevertheless with the ‘economic turn’ (Hymer. while Genoa’s was based on finance.or multi-polarity of world-city networks was already established with world-city networks that preceded Taylor’s three ‘prime modernities’ being divided between centres in Antwerp and Genoa. where. These ‘world-economies’ are progressively more global. technology and higher education placing different world-cities of London. disproportionately enlarging. to multiple and sequences of modernities and world-economies (and presumably multiple societies). of shifting cores of the capitalist world-economy. finance. 1999). New York and Tokyo at the top of world-city hierarchies (Hall. in the network. Slater goes on to argue against a strict global systematicity of Sassen’s model of a trinity of powerful global cities formed in response to a global hegemony. Paris. in world. communications. S. have a unified division and integration of labour and accumulation processes stretched “between its always more advanced. Rhine-Ruhr.” Hopkins (1982:11). and geographically shifting periphery. trade. Although there is some discussion. world-cities The state of cities today is consequent on a centuries-old sequence. 1999). and Antwerp was a market for merchants from different networks (Slater 2004:593). Also already established is the multivalency of these processes where even earlier. culture. ‘world’ and ‘city’ stand in mutually constitutive relations with one another. especially from critics (for example Robinson. While discussions about systems tend to deemphasise the multiplicity and contingency of these processes. With this we move beyond the conflation of the idea of modernity with industrial society.

. at something approaching what was to become the national scale. but. but knowledge. I want to take forward this emphasis on contingency. The United Provinces lacked many of the attributes of a modern state. adjustment. invention and other assets developed in cities like Leyden and Haarlem for example. and perhaps in another. ‘Systematisation’ here implies partiality because it is not the whole of human affairs that is systematised in any one network but only that part related to the business and scope of the network itself. What I will suggest later is that hierarchy. This complicates the world-city argument in an interesting way. normally understood as a product of a centre to periphery gradient within networks. economy and culture have existed at all levels of urban life and progressed historically to (near) hegemony in their turn. Jonathan Israel has argued that while Amsterdam was building its hegemonic world-economy it was simultaneously drawing on the dynamism of a slightly earlier construction of a coherent system of waterways covering most of the cities in Holland. most important is that attention to the systematicity and structure of networks has kept attention away from the ‘structural’ effects of the relations between different networks. We could think of these systematisations as being built into a fragmented world in order to establish coherence across particular regional ranges and scopes of human activity. politicking and negotiation over time. according to Braudel “it certainly cannot be said that the Dutch government was non-existent” (Braudel 1984. This is true in the world-city discourse where peripheralisation for example is an effect of the network and what is lost is the peripheralisation that is not a network effect so much as a effect simply of being out of the network. could be a seen as a relation between networks and ‘levels’.rather than the patterns of being in or out of it that I will highlight later. crossscalar relations at the point of intersection. While there is no argument that urban networks are systems.193-5.205). Zeeland and Friesland. and that these internalise (and systematise) systemic logics. I will talk later about how these may interconnect to effectuate the complex interpenetration of different ‘systemic logics’. multivalency and multiplicity because I want to argue that networks integrating processes of society. This network interlinked different urban economies and facilitated the rapid circulation of goods and passengers between cities (Israel. 2002:xxx). But. but as a node at the intersection of two networks. There were considerable organisational structures set up in these early modern networks of economy and government and where Peter Taylor talks of the ‘creativity’ of relations contained within urban walls what these sorts of structures emphasise are the crossing of different economies and cross-valency. one of them a network of Dutch cities more coordinated and coherent than there was to be found anywhere else in Europe (Israel 2002:16). Amsterdam was no longer acting simply as a city at the centre of its world-city network. Lost also is the way interrelationships between different networks may be a systematic means to bring different logics together necessary for a complex productive systems that can never be reduced to one system or one network. what I will be emphasising is that these systems are historical – they and their logics are products of construction. Israel argues for the ‘creativity’ of this intersection between a proto-national state and a world-city network as across this intersection flowed not just money and people.

and near-ubiquitous accessibility” (Edwards. as “those systems without which contemporary societies cannot function” (Edwards. He points out at the same time that it becomes quickly naturalised and how today television. general acceptance and reliance. basketry. with different networks. The ‘system’ or ‘infrastructure’ I am developing here is exactly one of those pervasive. The ‘simplicity’ I am referring to concerns the establishment here. Amsterdam’s urbanisation and development could be seen as a creative product of this intersection. Infrastructural knowledge is “a condition of contextuality in which . and. We can start to treat the intersection of ‘world network’ and ‘nation network’ in Amsterdam as an issue of the simplicity of the intersection of two intelligible levels of human geography leading to opportunities and a demand for complex work and divisions of labour in the emerging nation as well as in the city. xxxx:187). technologies and infrastructures are sociotechnical in nature and deliver social organisation. Paul Edwards points out that technology is pervasive in modern lives. and paper. According to Star and Ruhleder (1996) infrastructure has five properties: it is embedded in other structures. it shapes and is shaped by the conventions of that ‘community’. of ‘levels’ built for intelligibility as much as for anything else. while this knowledge is by extension a prerequisite to membership. societywide control over the variability inherent in the natural environment” (Edwards. These ‘levels’ have a ‘metageographic’ (Lewis & Wigen. Infrastructures are ‘material culture’. services. establishing geographic and geo-political entities like ‘world’ and ‘nation’ in the example above. This construction of levels is itself historical and a construction and a ‘system’ in terms I will develop further in the next section. xxxx:xxx).But in order to articulate this idea of network organisation and the articulation of different valencies it will also be necessary to distinguish the ‘simplicity’ of different ‘generic’ networks – themselves built and converging historically to a state of being (near) generic ‘levels’ – and the ‘complexity’ of the differences contained in different networks. This organisation consists of “socially communicated background knowledge. xxxx) character. xxxx:xxx) they also organise things into a distinct ‘modern world’. and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society” but also makes the point that infrastructure is best defined negatively. indoor plumbing. Infrastructure is not just ‘hardware’. it has reach or scope. while “ceramics. Edwards defines infrastructures as “the basic facilities. and telephony are hardly mentioned in relation to modernity. it is learned as part of membership of a ‘community of practice’. xxxx:185). Spatial technologies The sort of networks Taylor talks of have long been associated with technology. no longer even count as ‘technology’” (Edwards. it is transparent. Infrastructures don’t just give us “systemic. relatively low-tech systems without which urban societies throughout history could not have functioned. learned as part of membership in communities. delivering capacities that have themselves become naturalised and standards of comfort unknown outside such a world. screws. naturalised.

“Building infrastructures has been constitutive of the modern condition. as a set of practices (and associated material elements) that bind a ‘community of practice’ (Kuhn).understanding any part requires a grasp of the whole that comes only through experience” (Edwards). This indicates as well that infrastructures are not simply ‘technology expanded’ and it is not simply railway engines or motor cars that change the course of modern life. interlocking infrastructures of modern societies is to know one’s place in gigantic systems that both enable and constrain us” (). These integrations have real presences in the world. but not limited to the world-economy. transparency or intelligibility. Here we understand the notion of paradigm in the relational sense Thomas Kuhn uses it. ranges. “To live within the multiple. and many more at levels above . in which the different elements and practices in the network make sense by virtue of their mutual interrelationships in a sort of cultural or life ‘paradigm’. a Wittgensteinian “form of life” (Wittgenstein 1958). It is with the reverse salients in system building that much of the research we do concerned. Infrastructures are tightly organised integrations of multiple social. economic and technical factors and components. scopes. All these components and factors will be unlikely to be developed at the same rate and those that drag behind form a ‘reverse salient’ in the advance of the ‘front’ of the whole system. goals. with distributions. many at urban levels. System or infrastructure builders like Thomas Edison require multiple technical components as well as social. In other words. The idea of sociotechnical infrastructures can start to explain the relation between the ‘prime modernities’ of Taylor and the ‘systems’ they depend on. the co-construction of technology and modernity can be seen with exceptional clarity in the case of infrastructure” (). 2012) which operate at every level of urban societies including. or they may redirect development along alternative lines. We can account for example for the simultaneous invention and mutual coordination of different parts of ‘systems’ using Thomas Hughes concept of the ‘reverse salient’ (Hughes 1987). Solutions to problems may get progress in system building going again. These problems hold up the progress of system building so that wherever they occur they focus attention and “command extraordinary theoretical. In this sense infrastructures integrate the practices and elements of a community or society and become environment to them. public access points. ideologies and discourses of modernism have helped define the purposes. in almost every conceivable sense. World or global infrastructures are not the only ones operative in any prime modernity. At the same time. there are also infrastructures at national levels. supporting basic daily patterns and relations of our cities. Infrastructural knowledge is an internally related self-contextualising whole. protected ‘technical’ zones and designed and undesigned or colateral effects. practical (engineering). cultural and economic factors to work together for a complex system to work. and economic interest” (Edwards). as happened for example with the introduction of alternative current to overcome the problems direct current electrical grids were experiencing (Hughes 1983). and characteristics of those infrastructures. We could understand them as sociotechnical spaces (Read. cultural.

supporting. meter reading and billing systems. their spaces reinforce these legible spaces and make them even more legible. What we learn from space syntax .and below this. consumption and other processes that animate modern life become operational. or set of infrastructures. multiple technologies are enrolled in creating spaces which connect with and enable social lives. The kinds of infrastructures that embed places also embed. This other network logic supported and shaped other ‘revolutions’ before this one. stations and modern highways. Their spaces merge with spaces already existing. network of known and named places we could think of as ‘metageographical’ has preceded the contemporary mobility and information ‘revolutions’ and it is through this other network logic that new network logics of modern travel and communication and social and business organisation is still mediated. These levels also interrelate in order that the whole complexity of production. systems join up with already existing systems in our real and practical worlds. These spaces don’t just equip us to do things. that I will begin to outline here and. An ‘industrial revolution’ reshaped cities previously by adding the European urban neighbourhood to this basic network logic and I will describe this in the next section. They incorporate and embed the places and the logics of the relations of places to enable us to see the world better at different levels or scales and to act in it at these levels and scales. national. cultures and societies. These levels give ranges and scopes to economies. with space syntax. existing in. cultures and societies. in the next section. from those of world-economies. They are themselves spatial. cultures and societies. there are a multiplicity of infrastructures supporting modern economies. railway engines or motor cars transforming lives. as networks organised in levels. the logics of places’ relations with each other. itself an infrastructure. In many cases. In fact. a multiplicity of geographical ‘levels’ that could also be understood as relating to different ‘ways of life’ and ‘communities of practice’. and supported and even shaped by. It is this multiplicity of levels and their intersections. Rather than particular technologies like light bulbs. but they also link with the cities and neighbourhoods of houses which preceded them and into which they were initially installed. certainly when it comes to railways and highway systems. telephones. Not only do technical and social aspects join up in the system itself. but they connect also with the networks of cities that preceded them. These spaces must and do join up. to others at regional. urban and other levels. they equip us in a world already legible and distributed in networks. Light bulbs and telephones connect with electric reticulation and telephone lines. Railway engines and motor cars connect with railway tracks. socio-tech. frictionless preexisting or absolute space. A relatively low-tech. But these infrastructures also don’t simply exist in a transparent. Through them we understand our territories and our places in them and through them other sociotechnical networks are woven.

In space syntax axial maps the supergrid stands out as a joinedup network of generally longer axial lines at a grid scale several times larger than that of the regular grid. The significance of this grid for space syntax is considerable because while space syntax gets a lot of its legitimacy from the fact that its measures correlate with movement rates in urban streets. This ‘supergrid’ can be identified as the network of main streets (as opposed the neighbourhood or back streets) overlaying the more general street and block grid of European urban fabric. I argued that the structure of industrial city fabric could be characterised as an effect of a grid characteristic of industrial city fabrics. I argued that this pre-war mode of urbanisation was structured differently to car-based urbanisation and that this distinction corresponds with that between Taylor’s second (industrial) and third (consumer) modes of modernity. as that grid of very significantly higher traffic that overlays the basic street and block grid of urban fabric. because of the way the fabric is structured. and the specific transportation networks associated with this mass transportation mode began to be systematically built (Schipper 2008. on the basis of empirical measurements of movement rate distributions in Dutch cities. and oriented towards. Although the motor car was a feature of urban life before the middle of the twentieth century. those built after the war were distributed on and oriented towards inter-city commuter highways and railways. mainly public transportation networks within the industrial city. I argued we should be looking at the supergrid as a structuring entity in its own right and a mode of social and technical organisation rather than finding it more indirectly through the graph theoretical manipulation of a mass of axial lines. that this structure is historical and a product of a specific phase of the reconstruction of the Western European city in the 19th and early 20th centuries. it was not until after the second world war that it became a mode of everyday mass transportation. especially in its earlier and formative phases. I argued that what this urbanisation consisted of was a ‘structuration’ of neighbourhoods and centres around ‘grids’ of new transportation networks consisting of trams. times and conditions. Space syntax has been involved. . if there is a pattern of streets strategically constructed for very significantly higher levels of traffic that are also likely. Whereas the neighbourhoods and centres of industrial urbanisation were distributed on. with fabrics constructed in an industrial expansion of cities in Europe and I have argued that while there may be parallels with fabrics built in different regions. Berman 1982). The two urbanisation modes produced on the one hand the dense inner-city fabric characteristic of the industrial city and on the other the diffuse inter-city urbanisation of the post-industrial city (Read 2013 forthcoming). then the fact there is a correlation between high syntax values and high traffic rates locally should not be a surprise.I have argued before that space syntax reveals a structure embedded in the urban fabric. metros and so on. we should see them all as historical constructions and that typologies and generalities in urban fabrics should be thought of in the first instance as an empirical rather than a theoretical matter (Read 2013 forthcoming). I have defined the supergrid before. to have very significantly higher space syntax measures.

while the street and block grid connects parts at the level of houses or shops into a whole of the neighbourhood. The supergrid connects neighbourhoods as parts into a whole of the city. Structure is a form of knowledge and knowledge being enacted here is that of what city and neighbourhood are how they relate to one . In multiplying these networks and relating them to each other we have a construction in which different ‘contexts’ and systemic logics – of neighbourhood and city – may be interrelated at their points of contact or intersection. though they may make sense in entirely different networks. creative urbanising consequences. The experience of being in the city is delivered by the supergrid while the experience of being in the neighbourhood is delivered by the regular grid. the stimulus of difference captured in this intersection could be seen as creatively producing urbanisation and development. A structure of ‘insideness’ may be understood in relation to the logic or sense internalised as ‘context’ in the network and things outside the network will not join in this sense-making logic. while the street and block grid has another. The ‘diagram’ of this is in principle identical to the case I described earlier where the world-city network met the nation-city network in early modern Amsterdam. Whereas inside and outside are understood in figure 1 in a background space divided into insides and outsides by boundaries. In the network we have a construction in which system logic and ‘context’ are internalised. The supergrid has one structural role in the industrial city.The supergrid connects urban main-streets – which also centre neighbourhoods – while the regular street and block grid connects buildings and other facilities within neighbourhoods. Figure 1. Amsterdam became a place where what happens in the worldcity network is brought into relation and reconciled with what happens in the nation-city network with. being in or out of a network is another way of understanding these terms. These respective roles are to define and enact the ‘space’ of the city on the one hand and the ‘space’ of the neighbourhood on the other. Figure 2. according to Israel and in the spirit of Jane Jacobs. Again. The main street itself is the place where one is in the city and in the neighbourhood simultaneously and where the ‘creative’ consequences of this intersection are encountered. This is a description of a nested hierarchical structure. but the diagram in which this hierarchy is constructed is not that of the familiar bounded areas and circles within circles (figure 1) but rather that of grids laid over grids (figure 2). Being in the city or in the neighbourhood become conditions defined in grids and without boundaries. In order to understand what structure means here we need to clarify certain urban relations and relational terms like ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.

it was actually networks that were first. functionally and intelligibly. all will have moments of origination where they are less defined and defining and may even be surprising to the people experiencing them. Looked at from this perspective. They enable the economic . community facilities. while the city is a condition of being in a network between neighbourhoods. The world is a condition of being in a network and between cities. This is so integral one could say the knowledge is in the physical fabric itself (Read 2013 forthcoming). like houses. contextualising structures of supergrid and regular grid. In fact the notion of ‘grid’ here clarifies an aspect of networks that Jacobs emphasised more than Taylor. connecting neighbourhood-level buildings and functions. where the strategy of driving a joined up network of boulevards through the urban fabric to open it to city-wide traffic was also used to connect emblematic public buildings and railway stations. All these products are emergent. The exemplary case is of course Haussmann’s Paris. The industrial period of the Western European city was also the time of the emergence of systematised public transportation and the fact public transportation uses the supergrid alerts us to the relatively higher ‘level’ of scale and ‘publicness’ of this network. This difference is reflected not just in the relatively higher rates and ranges of movement but also in a more public role of the grid. Of course many sociotechnical networks like that of air travel have nodes built into them but airports are also equipped with shuttle busses. express rail travel and other technical means to facilitate the intersection with regional and city networks. The senses of ‘world’ and ‘city’ implied in Peter Taylor’s world-city network concept is exactly analogous to the senses of ‘city’ and ‘neighbourhood’ I have developed here in city-neighbourhood and neighbourhood-house networks respectively. The condition of ‘node’ can disappear as we interpret concentrations of urban mass. connecting this metageographical ‘city’ with neighbourhoods as well as city-level buildings and functions. and the neighbourhood is a condition of being in a network between houses. and all of them will tend to become naturalised and real with time so that today the fact we cannot draw a boundary around the functional radius of a city or neighbourhood does not make us doubt the realities of these things. people and the urbanisation process itself as produced in the creative potentials in the intersections of grids. These metageographical levels are factors of economy. local shops and so on.another formally. society and governance. Cities grew oriented to networks – as the elements like neighbourhoods and houses are oriented to the grids in the sense-making. that rather than cities coming first. the city is an effect of the world network. This city-level network defined a new public face of the city and stood in contrast to the quiet streets joined directly with it defining a more intimate neighbourly realm. The street and block grid establishes the neighbourhood level. In Amsterdam the supergrid establishes the city level. while the neighbourhood is an effect of the city network and houses are effects of neighbourhood networks.

From an infrastructural perspective Wal-Mart’s global operations depend on a tightly coordinated sociotechnical organisation. . In fact. What I have described however is clearly something more than ‘level of analysis’. Prytherch still suggests however that hierarchies of scale “may inhere more in a territorialized imaginary in political geography than scale itself” (Prytherch) suggesting to me that at least a part of the ‘scale problem’ concerns a difficulty we have understanding how our sociotechnically constructed worlds are at the same time objective and epistemological – both real and constructions that incorporate knowledge about that world. administrative and technical operatives who enact complex sequences and interconnections and guarantee the material and informational transactions that flow across it. and must be. David Prytherch contributes a reality check. in which goods. but in urban thinking it has also been used to distinguish what we could call ‘levels of analysis’.1 The construction I have described is clearly not a “nested hierarchy of bounded spaces of differing size. Like any strategic construction. We can add these levels to the ‘world network’ and the ‘nation network’ I mentioned earlier. It is this more generic geography that world-city networks and supergrids have pointed us to. regional. people and machines are distributed and scheduled. the scale in Wal-Mart’s ‘geography of big things’ is something this sociotechnical system inherits from another more generic network metageography into which Wal-Mart’s global operations are. national and global” (Delaney & Leitner 1997:93). ‘abstraction’ or ‘metaphor’. Our historical construction of levels now consists of ‘world-city’ network. pointing to “Wal-Mart’s ‘geography of big things’ [given in] the outsized spatiality of the big box and the global commodity chains in which it is embedded” (Prytherch 2002:xxx). ‘city-neighbourhood’ network and ‘neighbourhood-house’ network. which is maintained by managerial. and any breakdown of this space-time is met by a remedial response. I showed how our conventional understanding of the spatialisation of cities and neighbourhoods by a diagram 1 I have tackled the ontology of ‘constructed realities’ from a perspective of the hermeneutical philosophy of science in Read 2012 and Read 2013. However. I would argue. ‘nation-city’ network. the ontological status of scales has been contested with many warning against their reification (Agnew 1993) and some believing they don’t exist as anything real at all (Marsden et al).and social levels that become important in the production machine that is the industrial city. I argued that these ‘levels’ are not abstract or metaphoric but perfectly real in the sense they realise the metageographic entities they enact as places. such as the local. Scale is often thought of as size. The space-time of this organisation is this distribution and scheduling. This reality is emphasised by the empirical fact of the infrastructural networks involved which are readily distinguishable and mappable. what these levels are is often not very clearly understood or articulated. At the same time they underpin distinct municipal and neighbourhood ‘community’ and governance regimes characteristic of the industrial city. fitted. Some implications for the discussion of ‘level’ and ‘scale’ are now clearer. But. this one is maintained.

These accretions are products of the creative potentials of the intersections of different realms of sense and context. so do processes of urbanisation. cultural. Levels and scales inhere in the grids themselves. The starting question of this paper was how we could elaborate the process of urbanisation so that we could better understand this process at scales and levels below that of cities. nations. A ‘diagram’ of urbanisation As knowledge attaches to the grids. as accretions of big things. medium-sized things and small things oriented to the grids in which these things make sense and are contextualised. noting that he invokes Jane Jacobs to give priority to cities. The basic diagram I have outlined suggests we should approach urbanisation and central place formation as one of a hierarchy of complex sociotechnical systems organised into simple metageographical levels. through the places enacted and known in them. or today at the intersection of the world and the city of commuter suburbs. and I began with Peter Taylor’s world-city network. I have outlined a sketch of the form of the urban as a superposition of a number of metageographical levels. Through these grids we can understand nested hierarchies of houses neighbourhoods. The intersections of the layers allows different domains and scales of our multivalent economic. The creativity she and her followers talk of starts with a process of urbanisation – with the creation of the city itself. complex work is done . In fact Jacobs gives priority to the networks and sees cities as products of those networks. cities.of nested areas needs to be supplemented by another diagram of overlaid grids. regions. social and human lives to be recombined in central places where differences and valencies meet. These include levels below that of the city or region so that we can track the emergence of centrality into the finer grained fabric of the city and city region. Space is no longer defined in bounded entities at all but in actual transportation infrastructures representing and enacting grids of metageographic levels and places. The shops spring up at the intersection of a neighbourhood realm and one of the city. In order to do this I have taken elements of Peter Taylor’s world-city network and replaced his association of the local with central place theory with what I have learned and deduced about urban networks and central place formation from space syntax and its working on industrial city fabric. The levels distinguish not just the simple and intelligible scales and identities of everyday human geographies but also the complex scale-dependent interests and logics embedded in the sociotechnical systems woven into and distributed with them. the city springs up at the intersection of the world and the nation – although also at the intersection of the world and the city of neighbourhoods. This enables us to track the formation of central places – or the potentials for these – as intensive emergent effects at each of the metageographical levels. and the world as given in these. This finer grain may also feed back into centres formed at higher levels and scales as networks at lower levels and local potentials promote the formation of centres at higher levels.

These ‘urbanisations’ ‘bloom’ around grids and in different levels and at different scales simultaneously. The central places formed in each level (or between levels each have different characters and different social and economic characteristics. the postindustrial or metropolitan city is formed around a grid that connects metropolitan region to city. . There is a great deal that is complex about what I have just written and needs to be explored further but the framework and the diagram are as clear as the world is most of the time to us in our patterns of everyday life. the industrial or inner city is formed around a grid that connects city to neighbourhood. The important contribution here is the proposal of a different relational space to guide our thinking about urban development or urbanisation. We could think of this layering as an artefact.and societies and economies are organised. nation and metropolitan region. an historically constructed ‘system’ and a sociotechnics of places – that has made the world systematically available to us while it has also defined the ‘growth points’ at the different levels it incorporates. Issues of energy use and efficiency can be related to industrial city modes of urbanisation versus consumer or post-industrial modes of urbanisation and this may lead to ideas about future strategies for development. Problems of fragmentation may become easier to theorise when we begin to distinguish what layer is fragmented and in relation to what. producing different effects both within each level and between levels. We could go on till we define the world as formed around a grid that connects world to city – while it also connects world to global region. The clear distinction of different types of central place – between that at the level of the neighbourhood main street in the industrial city fabric and that at the level of the metropolitan highway for example – begins to open certain problems of public space and its character to fresh analysis. We can propose a provisional typology of forms of urbanisation and types of central places based on this layering of levels: the neighbourhood is formed around a grid that connects neighbourhood to house.

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