Rosemary Wakeman (Fordham University)
This session will discuss (technological) transitions for a range of case studies.
The Techno-politics of Urban Transitions: Berlin 1920-2020
Timothy Moss (IRI THESys, Humboldt University of Berlin)
Urban Infrastructures, Transitions, Berlin
This paper brings scholarship on urban transitions and on sociotechnical transitions into a constructive dialogue in order to generate a more nuanced understanding of transition in urban settings and historical contexts. It builds on the observation that existing historical research on sociotechnical transitions is often focussed on emblematic switches from one technology or energy source to another and insensitive towards the urban condition and, especially, urban politics. Scholarship on transitions within urban studies, meanwhile, is strong on spatial contextualisation, but generally weak on historical contingency and temporality in general. This paper uses the case of Berlin to explore the interface between urban and infrastructure transitions over the past century, from the creation of Greater Berlin in 1920 to the present day. Berlin lends itself admirably to this task by virtue of the multiple political transformations it has undergone during the past century, from Weimar democracy to Nazi rule, to division between state-socialist and capitalist systems to the reunified city of today. In addition, it has experienced massive socio-economic disruption at several times, notably the Depression of 1929-31, the war of 1939-45, the blockade of 1948/49, the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and reunification after 1990. Taking a long-term perspective on urban and infrastructure change and continuity, it is argued, challenges simplistic notions of transition as a switch from one condition to another and reveals it to be more multi-layered, relational and contingent than is widely assumed. Drawing on the concept of techno-politics, the paper demonstrates not just how urban infrastructures were subject to political appropriation and instrumentalization at different periods in Berlin’s turbulent history, but also how the city’s sociotechnical systems have resisted, constrained and even guided political action. The conceptual argument will be substantiated with rich empirical illustrations of change (and continuity) to Berlin’s electricity, gas, water and sanitation systems from across the past century. These will relate, for instance, to the enrolment of infrastructures in strategies to unify the city in the 1920s and in the 1990s and the drive for autarky in electricity and gas provision in West Berlin during the Cold War.
Urban Electrification through Energy Crisis: a Case of Cherepovets, 1910 - 1940s
Anna Agafonova (Higher School of Economics University)
Energy Crisis, Soviet Russia, Urban Environmental History
The report is devoted to analysing the energy transition of Cherepovets, which was a typical provincial city of the Russian Empire and Soviet Russia. In the 1910 – the 1920s, there was made a transition from kerosene lighting to electric lighting of the town. The first power plant in Cherepovets was built in 1916, together with a running water supply system. Until 1918, the station served the needs of the water supply system, pumping water from the Sheksna river to the city. After the revolution of 1917, a new power plant was built for the town's lighting and the work of industrial enterprises. It was built during the period of the Civil war when the wood fuel crisis was in the country, and fossil fuel deposits were under the control of the White army. The technological choice of the electric system that was done for Cherepovets in such conditions, influenced the possibilities and velocity of the energy transition. The electric station worked on wood fuel and generated current with two electric motors and a dynamo machine. The availability of forest resources in the Russian North determined the choice of wood as a source of fuel. However, almost from the first years of work, this choice showed its inefficiency. There were problems with the delivery and storage of fuel. Next decades, the station operated only at 60% of the design capacity due to the fuel shortage and the rapid deterioration of equipment. It made the unsustainability of the work of Cherepovets plants and uncomfortable with everyday life for inhabitants.
The source base consists of materials of the funds of the state archives of the Russian Federation, materials of the local periodic press and statistics.
Urban Transitions in Dutch Modern Heritage Neighborhoods
Joost Tennekes (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving / Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) and Like Bijlsma (Netherlands Enironmental Asssesment Agency)
Residential Neighborhoods of the Period 1965-1980, The Netherlands, Historicity
This paper considers urban transitions in residential neighborhoods of the period 1965-1980 in Dutch cities. Many of these neighborhoods face both massive programs for restructuring due to planned large scale technical upgrades following the regular maintenance cycle of buildings, infrastructures and public (green) space as well as transformations following the policy of ' energy transition'.
Although these neighborhoods are still not very appreciated in public discourse, a discussion is starting on what should be considered 'historic' about them. Isn't 'modern heritage' at stake here? But what is that heritage? Is it the brick and mortar architecture or should the whole notion of planning (‘wijkgedachte’) inform our transition policy? The technological solutions that are being projected on these neighborhoods by government, do not take this question into account. , as they are considered just 'standard neighborhoods', not 'special heritage'.
In this way, 'historicity' itself becomes contested within the discussions on urban transition. What is to be considered 'heritage' becomes politically very important in a transition that potentially amounts to a make-over of these neighborhoods with their complex social agendas.
This paper aims to navigate the contested notion of historicity in recent heritage in four steps. First, it analyses what physical and social attributes of these neighborhoods can be considered representational for Post 65, and how these relate to the 'technologies' that are projected on them. Second, it constructs a conceptual framework in order to analyze what values are at stake when different conceptions of the 'historicity' of these neighborhoods are pitted against each other. Third, the conceptual framework is 'tested' on three Dutch neighborhoods as case-studies, in which energy transition plans based on different conceptualizations of the historicity of the neighborhood have been designed. Finally, conclusions are drawn about what can be learned how both 'hard physical structure' and conceptualizations of the historic character of the neighborhood shape the discussion on this particular urban transition.