A critical review of mega interventions as trendsetters of urban development practice

A critical review of mega interventions as trendsetters of urban development practice

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Urban transformation is increasingly determined by singular mega interventions. Some are outlined as mega developments from the outset, others are initiated with temporary character like Olympic games. The legacy of these projects, however, has become an integral part over the past two decades. Both have the capacity to change the image of their cities on a global stage and impact their urban development lastingly.
This contribution investigates, how the growing number of urban mega interventions has been shaping our cities and how they are oftentimes trendsetters for new development practices. I focus on three areas in which mega interventions are increasingly setting the tone for a particular mode of spatial production and defining new benchmarks for subsequent projects: governing strategies, sustainability standards and the integration of new technologies. While I will draw from a larger selection of case studies of urban megaprojects and Olympic games, I will focus on projects situated in Tokyo including the most recent Olympics games.
Mega interventions are spectacular moments of spatial commodification which allows to gather the resources necessary to realize such projects. All three areas listed above are facilitated by an accumulation of local and global investment putting the urban intervention on the top of the list of local and global agencies involved. While powerful catalysts to push urban development at a large scale they are causing a disruption of livelihoods, displacement of uses and residents and they are proliferating urban inequity and uneven distribution of power and resources.

Urban space is central in the making of mega interventions and impacted within and beyond the perimeter of intervention. Both interventions are comprehensively planned and carried out over several years. They are governed by specially created bodies which help to mobilize the necessary resources and capacities and which enables new or exceptional practices.

Corresponding Author

Naomi C. Hanakata


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Naomi C. Hanakata


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Preferred Track

1. Mega-events and mega-projects: trends and demands

Second Preferred Track

6. Urban policies

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