White Elephants in Southern Europe: Grand Projects, Urban Development and Social Change in the context of the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic.

White Elephants in Southern Europe: Grand Projects, Urban Development and Social Change in the context of the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic.

Submission ID:

99

Until the early 2000s, the Mediterranean urban landscapes were praised as best examples of successful urban transformation and inclusive growth. The example of Barcelona was considered a “Model” that combined urban competitiveness, social cohesion, and participatory governance mechanisms. Other cases, like Athens, although lacking behind in terms of urban transformation, were commented on for its low segregation and informal urbanization.

Mega-Projects and Mega-Events as a starting point for wider urban interventions were at the core of Southern European success stories, along with a governance model that promotes city competitiveness and urban boosterism.

However, we argue that this condition changed rapidly since the breakout of the economic crisis of 2008. Cities were not only lacking the financial resources to continue such urban initiatives; they didn’t even have the means to support existing large-scale urban interventions. Along with that came a change in policy priorities. The impacts of the economic recession, the rapid increase of social exclusion and urban poverty, the lack of affordable housing, etc brought increasing pressures to local administrations to act in a different direction. Furthermore, climate change transition policies, handling emergent conditions like the Covid-19 pandemic changed, even more, the debate, moving in our view even further from urban boosterism ideas of the past decades.

Does this mean that we are in point were Mega-Projects and Mega-Events have become part of urban history? How this affects our understanding of Urban and Social Change? In this paper, we support the view that we are at a breaking point where social and environmental demands confront and challenges our common understanding of urban competitiveness. Based on our field study in the cities of Barcelona and Athens we elaborate more on these issues.

Corresponding Author

Dimitris Poulios

National Technical University of Athens

Author #1:

Dimitris Poulios

National Technical University of Athens

Author #2:

Author #3:

Author #4:

Preferred Track

7. Urban competitiveness and social challenges

Second Preferred Track

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

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Contacts

DINÂMIA'CET-Iscte

Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies

Avenida das Forças Armadas | Edifício ISCTE

Sala D316 1649-026 Lisbon

grandprojects.2021@gmail.com

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