(January 2010) From connected cities to connecting cities
My paper is concentrating on connected cities - a new type of border-crossing cities, emerging where long tunnels or bridges crossing straits have been built (Buursink, 2001). My main objective was to investigate how the bridge/or tunnel is used and perceived in the case of two city pairs. The results of this study form the basis of my current research that aims to suggest a more flexible approach towards planning and visioning border-crossing cities that would include the planning elites (city officials, local cooperation and governance networks) and the knowledge of the citizens, who in the end are the most valuable assets of the future success of the border-crossing city.
As a theoretical background, theories about cross-border cooperation in Europe, intertwining of cities across borders, de/reconstruction of boundaries, symbolic meanings and boundary narratives were used. Selected case studies were established cross-border region of Copenhagen-Malmö (Öresund Region) and Helsinki-Tallinn, a connected city in the making.
Using desk-research, qualitative media analysis and study of public internet commentaries as research methods, it was found that the success of the (future) border-crossing region very much depends on the communication between the planning elites and the inhabitants of the two cities, when a common image, identity and reputation is desired as the end result. This process has to be handled delicately, since rushing the integration process of the two cities and their citizens' trough the production of utopian slogans can produce unwanted results.
The tunnels and the bridges are in the centre of these processes, since they are perceived as the necessary precondition for the border-crossing region to emerge. They are thought to create both "hard" and "soft" infrastructure between the two cities. However, possibility of integration does not always lead to an actual connection and cities that are linked in this way are facing a rather new situation (Houtum & Strüver, 2002; Ehlers, Buursink & Boekema, 2001; Hospers, 2006). The research done about the tunnel, as an object of public discussion, showed that misconceptions emerge since the elites and the audiences think on different spatial scales.
Forming twin-regions/cities is not only complicated because of the wide range of business and research networks and infrastructure needed to become a successful example, but problems also emerge when trying to imagine a common public for the future twin-region/cities. Therefore, the last part of this paper discusses the topic of interactive planning tools being suitable for the governance and planning of territorially weakly bound cross-border regions. Could a planning tool in the form of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), especially interactive media tools, facilitate the integration of different spatial contexts of boundaries (especially the local boundaries) and sustain new forms of social networks, participative planning and decision making (both governance and inhabitants)? The concept of interactivity is always in relation to an environment - an entrance point to a different spatiality, sphere, or neighbourhood (Jong & Shcuilenburg, 2006). Could we imagine more flexible links instead of fixed ones?
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