10 October, 2013

Our Tour of the Glatt, Part I

On Monday afternoon, we toured the Glatt Valley with Marco Pütz (Eidgenössische Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft, WSL). Until now, getting to know the Glatt from afar has posed its challenges, so seeing the area with our own eyes brought some much appreciated clarity, even if the parts that we saw represented only a small fraction of the entire region. We are most grateful to Dr. Pütz, too, who was also able to highlight some of the features of, and bring some context to, all that we were seeing.

Peri-urban? Suburban? Urban?  We consider these definition questions, and we look forward to the final publications and thoughts on this very question from Christian Schmid and his colleagues. However, it is certainly clear that the area at and just beyond the borders of the City of Zurich are undergoing change, rendering it a nice example of an edge city in the making.  Oerlikon is getting a new train station to offset the regional traffic that otherwise bores into the Zurich's main-station in the city centre. Between there and the Fernsehstudio/WTC, a long string of new office spaces are springing up gleaming shiny across from older City-owned allotment gardens.  The Glattpark - with a K - is not a "parc" at all, rather a concrete jungle of middle class midrises in becoming, and overlooking this construction site as it encroaches on the nation's most expensive wildflower lawn, is the SRF weather station. Viewers from all over the country can view the development of the area as backdrop to the daily weather report. Sticking primarily to the route of the brand new Glattal Bahn that hugs the borders of Zurich North, we whizzed by the iconic cloverleaf-enclosed Glattzentrum (its a 'mall world after all), and then afterwards down towards the Zwicky Areal.  There we saw the second Kraftwerk, and indeed, low and behold, some water. (Was it the Glatt? Not.). The tour finished with a final No. 12 glide to the slick new Stettbach that lay back within the bounds of the City of Zurich.

In the light of the field trip and the visual experience of the Glattal, the discussion we went through both before and after the excursion raises another point, also in comparative perspective: is there chaos or order in space? And, regardless what the outcome is considered to be, does it correspond to planning? Why do the seemingly different Luxembourg and Suisse city-regions actually look comparable, given the high amount of perceived disorder and local (municipal) autonomy, which obviously resists to the desire that they adapt to overarching rationales of spatial planning. In this respect, scale seems to be an essential category. OK, this might not be a shocker for geographers and planning theorists. However, it remains heroic to achieve an appropriate, accepted (!) governance structure that effectively deals with the mismatch between ever larger spaces of socio-economic activity and territorially bound legal responsibility -- not to speak of horizontal power conflicts that make this sort of visionary, comprehensive planning hard to imagine (see below the post on port cities and their struggle for localising impact).

We are sure that we only scratched the surface. But here are some visual impressions:

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