High-Rises and Urban Specificity: Politics of Vertical Construction in Paris, London, and Vienna

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

High-Rises and Urban Specificity: Politics of Vertical Construction in Paris, London, and Vienna


  • Andrea Glauser Department of Cultural Management and Gender Studies, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria


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Abstract:  High-rise buildings have been experiencing a significant boom worldwide over the past two decades. This is true not least for European cities, where church steeples, town hall towers, and chimneys were the main vertical accents in city centers for a long time. This article focuses on the construction of high-rise buildings as a “glocal” phenomenon. The vertical building type has spread around the world, but approaches to it are site-specific and inextricably entangled with local problems, modes of action, and discourses. Construction strategies and discussions about tall buildings are quite diverse even in Europe alone. Presenting case studies of Paris, London, and Vienna, this article looks at three metropolises in which vertical building has caused particular unrest in recent years and reveals enlightening contrasts between them. In exploring the question of how distinctions are made in these cities between desirable and quasi-illegitimate buildings, or “possible” and “impossible” locations, I analyze city-specific patterns relating to vertical construction. Special attention is paid to urban planning—the activities of those actors who are responsible for developing strategies and implementing and concretizing legal regulations. The discussion draws on a larger research project and is based on the grounded theory research perspective. The data pool includes a large number of published and unpublished documents as well as interviews with actors from the fields of urban planning, architecture, and historic preservation. From a theoretical point of view, the article draws on reflections on the “specificity of cities” and “glocalization” in urban research.

Keywords:  cityscape; glocalization; high-rise building; sociology of architecture; specificity of cities; urban politics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i4.5691


© Andrea Glauser. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.