Cities on a grand scale

Instant urbanism at the start of the twenty-first century

Authored by: Martin J. Murray

The Routledge Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138890329
eBook ISBN: 9781315712468
Adobe ISBN:


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The unprecedented scale and scope of fast-track urbanism in the Persian Gulf and the Asia Pacific Rim at the start of the twenty-first century raises serious challenges to the traditional image of the modern metropolis – and even the very “idea of the city” (Marshall 2003: 191). These ‘instant cities’ defy the conventional understanding of urban growth and development as a slow process of layering and retrofitting, where creative destruction of the built environment, incremental re-building, and constant erasure and re-inscription produce an ever-evolving urban form that combines vastly different building typologies and architectural styles where the old and the new are cobbled together in uneven and hybrid configurations (Cuff 2002; Harvey 2006; Page 1999). The rapid transfers of capital, information technologies and expert advice (the so-called ‘travelling ideas’) have created the possibilities for ‘compressed’ or ‘telescoped’ urban development, enabling city builders to effectively start over by bypassing existing derelict environments and leapfrogging over the unwanted detritus of past experiments with modernity (Tomlinson 2007).

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