Old social urbanism: Elizabeth Street, Manhattan
Photo by Richard Rosen

Bernd Upmeyer spoke with Sharon Zukin, an American professor emerita of sociology at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, City University of New York, who often writes about cities, culture, and gentrification. Her new book, The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy, examines the shaping of the tech ecosystem in New York. The interview took place via Zoom on April 13, 2023.

Intriguing but Mystifying

Bernd Upmeyer: We believe that there is a current shift in the way we use our spaces and environment socially that involves many aspects of our contemporary social urban life. That is why we think there is currently a unique chance and need to rethink what the term “social” means and should mean for cities today, whether it comes to working, living, playing, or other social urban activities and urbanism in general.
When I first contacted you for this interview you replied that you consider the topic of “New Social Urbanism” as intriguing but also mystifying. What intrigues you about it and what do you consider as mystifying?

Sharon Zukin: Urbanism is inherently and by definition social. So I do not really know what “New Social Urbanism” might mean. Maybe it means a change of attitude, and people feel more responsible for their fellow city residents. Or maybe it means that the elected representatives of the people are promoting new concepts about what urbanism means. Or it could mean something entirely different. I think what the term really suggests is spatial or “sociospatial” change, as geographers used to say: different physical arrangements in the city, from streets to housing to neighbourhoods, with new densities and new geographical concentrations, that reshapes the sense of place. Since the covid-19 pandemic, more people are thinking about these issues, from the design of public spaces to the spatial deconcentration of leisure and reconcentration of work…

… the complete interview was published in MONU #36 on the topic of New Social Urbanism on October 16, 2023.