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A Bildungsroman for a waterfront development: Literary genre and the planning narratives of Jätkäsaari, Helsinki

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This article examines the narratives involved in the planning of Jätkäsaari (Helsinki), an industrial harbour environment currently being redeveloped. It starts out with an analysis of Hyvä jätkä/Good Chap (Hannu Mäkelä, 2009), a literary novel commissioned by the city to promote the area, arguing that this cultural product should not be seen merely as a piece of cultural branding. Rather, the novel’s fictional construction of the area’s past and future draws attention to the narrative characteristics of planning itself. Using the concepts of literary genre and metaphor, an examination of Jätkäsaari’s planning narratives shows the ambivalent and often contradictory planning visions of the area. This study aims at re-examining the considerable research tradition in urban and planning studies that sees urban planning as a form of storytelling, by applying concepts from literary and narrative theory to the analysis of planning narratives.
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Keywords: Bildungsroman; Helsinki; literature; narrative planning; urban regeneration; waterfront development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tampere

Publication date: 01 June 2016

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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