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Urban Regeration as City Branding, Gentrification and Enchantment Engineering. The Case of "Centrala Älvstaden" in Gothenburg, Sweden

Within a couple of decades Gothenburg will, according to plans, obtain a whole new centre where the industrial, harbour and warehouse areas around Götaälvbron will be transformed into housing and office areas. The new town centre – Centrala Älvstaden – will connect Hisingen and the mainland.

This extensive redevelopment project offers a unique opportunity for urban sociologists to study how this kind of change takes shape in a Swedish city context. Our point of departure is that most studies that deal with urban redevelopment tend to put their focus either on the micro, meso or macro level of analysis, which is why we want to look at how different levels of analysis interact. We study Centrala Älvstaden on three analytic levels: The city, The neighbourhood and The street – which empirically are constituted by Gothenburg, Centrala Älvstaden and the areas Kvillebäcken and Gullbergsvass.

Drawing from an ethnographic fieldwork, we discuss how the changing character of these areas can be understood in relation to the tension between the municipality’s ambitions to ‘put Gothenburg on the map’ and its ambition to reduce the ethnic and economic segregation within the city.

In post-industrial cities throughout the global north today, local authorities, building contractors, trade and industry co-operate in private and public partnership in order to attract capital, qualified labour and tourists. These partnerships often focus on upgrading the city centre and redeveloping central industrial and harbour sites.

Since these kinds of urban redevelopment projects cannot be analysed using only existing theory this has meant new challenges for urban scholars. With Centrala Älvstaden as its empirical case, our study aims at developing an analytical model that connects research on city marketing, gentrification and urban place making. Firstly we analyse how the tension between the usage of Centrala Älvstaden as a strategic development area in the marketing of Gothenburg and the local political aim to reduce the segregation within the city is handled in the planning process. Secondly, we analyse how ‘the old’ Kvillebäcken and Gullbergsvass transform into ‘the new’, economically and culturally. In the latter part of the study we collaborate with photographer Katarina Despotovic.

Central research questions are: Can the redevelopment of Centrala Älvstaden be understood in terms of gentrification, and if so how? What does the interplay/opposition between city politics that promote economic growth and local welfare politics look like in the case of Centrala Älvstaden? How are these processes materialized and negotiated at the street level?

Project leader: Catharina Thörn
Participant researchers at Cultural Sciences: Helena Holgersson
Project duration: 2010 - 2014
Funding: Vetenskapsrådet


Contact Information

Catharina Thörn

PO Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Visiting Address:
Renströmsgatan 6 , 41255 Göteborg

+46-(0)31-786 6175

Page Manager: Felicia Bigot Klinteberg|Last update: 9/26/2019

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