Making urban places : a social innovation transition through placemaking in Lund, Sweden
Abstract: Urban design and city planning have historically been a practice undertaken by distanced experts and funded by detached donors and political bodies. The result is often urban sprawl, transit domination, and streets deprioritizing pedestrians. While urban areas do support innovation and knowledge-intensive production, the occurrence of social and environmental urban vulnerabilities is increasing and negatively impacting urban growth. To harness more socially sustainable cityscapes, urban design and development must contribute to a socio-technical transition to social innovation. This thesis assesses, through the lens of the socio-technical transition theory, a case study conducted in Lund, Sweden. The case will analyze a top-down participatory placemaking project led by Lund Municipality in a new urban development. Placemaking is a social innovation niche experiment that integrates resident needs into urban design through methods of traditionally bottom-up community collaboration. Through the analysis of this case, this thesis provides insight into the municipality’s efforts to transition from niche social innovation to regime and if placemaking is able to harness this transition. To address this question, semi-structured interviews, action research based observation, and municipal document analysis is used to collect data, and is framed within a transition theory multi-level perspective (MLP) framework. The theory-guided research complemented by action research suggests that it is highly possible for a Swedish municipality to achieve a social innovation transition, yet unlikely. Social innovation can harness a socio-technical transition in a Swedish context but actors at the landscape level prevent methods such as placemaking from progressing to the regime level. The findings of this study imply that Lund Municipality has the tools to support social innovation niches, and furthermore can shape how sustainability is conceived in urban development. Through an illustration of the transition process, I suggest how the collaboration of the public and political spheres can contribute to a path toward sustainability in Lund.
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