DS0802 -

High-rise living and the inclusive city (HIGHRISE) – HIGHRISE

High-Rise, Projet ANR-16-CE41-0010-01

Living high together in the globalized metropolis

Faced with the residential verticalization of metropolises inserted in globalization, how can we preserve social interactions?

The High-Rise project initially wished to analyze the capacity that remained to produce an inclusive city in the context of accelerating verticalization of today's metropolises. Most of the new vertical programs are indeed residential, with major consequences on the daily life of urban dwellers. <br />However, as the project progressed, the notion of inclusion appeared ill-suited to the results the team was achieving. Our research therefore focused on two interrelated dynamics. The first focuses on complex relationships to the financialization of real estate, revealing differences in the types of local-global negotiations in the making of the neoliberal city. The second, and most developed in our research, is the integration of residential verticalization into processes of socio-spatial differentiation in all the cities we have studied. These are generally referred to as gentrification in connection with urban renewal processes - in the centers in Brazil as well as around them in Europe - often linked to densification processes (central, pericentral or peripheral as in Australia). <br />From a transdisciplinary theoretical framework (architecture, geography, sociology, anthropology), we finally question in a critical way the inclusion of contemporary urban production, through the residential towers. The project is anchored in case studies the reinjection of which into theoretical discussions should help to deepen and anchor the notions of «living together in the contemporary city« and to characterize «living high«. It is particularly through the analysis of contemporary practices and uses of living in height that we proceeded.<br />The results of the project should contribute to the discussion on building and living in the contemporary metropolis under the pressures of globalization and verticalization, through scientific communications, actions in favor of scientific and technical culture, contribution to university programs and recommendations to urban planners of both cities.

The project is anchored in case studies, revealing different types of local-global negotiations in the making of the city. Lyon and Sao Paulo, the locations of the project partners (USP and Université Lyon2), are the basis of the study, with London as a reference case (we rely on the conclusions of the ANR Skyline, the work of which has been enlarged for this ANR). For political reasons, the collaboration with the urban planning agencies of the two cities did not allow for their involvement in the research as widely as hoped, with only the Lyon agency really collaborating in the project. To broaden the experiences, insights were provided on cities in other countries, Melbourne, Dallas, Brasov, Oran and Saigon. The aim was not to precisely compare, but rather to show how other socio-political and cultural configurations generate specific ways of living high and different relationships with the city, and the influence of their insertion, to varying degrees, in globalization processes.
The project being multidisciplinary, many methods were mobilized. The first was spatial analysis, based on the Emporis world high-rise census site, on Brazilian databases, and to elaborate an overview, an evolution and first elements of analysis of the return of residential towers in European cities, of their continuous rise in Brazil and of their advent in other countries (United States, Australia, Romania). Because of the incompleteness of the databases, a manual verification work by members of the project was carried out. On the other hand, the desire to use common indicators came up against the incompatibility of the available data, which does not allow for direct comparison, as the cases studied are too different (which is also a result of the research). The main method used on the French side (whether in the case of Lyon or in the other cities analyzed) was the ethnographic method, to characterize the contours of «living high« and the relationships of the inhabitants of these towers with their environment (other inhabitants, tower managers, the rest of the city). It mainly consisted of in-depth interviews, accompanied walks, photography campaigns on the French side and long observations on the Brazilian side. Complementary methods were implemented on the Brazilian side, financial analyses, narrative, and cartographic studies of high-rise districts.

The project has shown the overcoming of the production/reception of the towers split: residential verticalization is a system in which the modalities of production, whether political or technical, are intimately linked to the anticipated and reported uses, and conversely, the experience of living high up is a negotiation between personal trajectories and socio-technical conditions.
Instead of inclusion, gentrification is taking place or is being reinforced, because of regulatory capitalism and entrepreneurial municipalities that create conditions that favor the control of developers over urban space and the capture of financing (Sao Paulo), tending towards the commodification and financialization of housing (London in particular). However, their scope should not be exaggerated, as local developers still are major actors. Above all, the contemporary practices, and uses of living in high rises show the effects of verticalization through the tactics and strategies of residents: experience of the elevator, role played by the view, effects of the relationship between the vertical and the horizontal. The singularity of Sao Paulo was analyzed, where verticalization is old and almost ordinary, first exclusive, and now extended to the middle classes; new forms of verticalization are appearing in new places (the center), focused on small apartments for young executives and no longer on large family apartments. In other cities (Melbourne and Dallas), verticalization is also affecting peripheral areas in the process of densification, but not without resistance. France, seen particularly through Lyon, shows a verticalization that is still in its infancy (about a hundred completed or planned buildings) and that partly reproduces the rare attempts of the 1970s to offer «luxury towers« in city centers, never studied before. There is no globalized model, but rather hybridizations, local adaptations, and radically different scales of residential verticalization.
In terms of urban design, it emphasizes the basis of the tower as a public or private space, an interface between the city and the condominium, a space negotiated or even appropriated by individuals or developers.
The project finally illustrates new ways of producing inequality through residential verticalization. It brings a new dimension to the spatial distribution of populations (the vertical versus the horizontal) and reexamines the processes of segregation, fragmentation and even secession within the city.

On the the major approaches of the project analyzes the differences between countries in the “North” and countries in the “South”, where the processes of residential verticalization are older and on a much larger scale. The case studies from the «South« (São Paulo, Hanoi, Oran) have allowed us to propose the «de-Westernized« view that we wished to adopt (Robinson, 2006). This approach ca be furthered owing to the collaborations we inititated with Argentina and Australia, mirroring those with Australia.
Another way of enhancing this research is to continue to discuss it with practitioners (whether urban planning agencies - Lyon's has actively participated in the project -, architects or promoters) through, for example, workshops within the framework of major urban projects or in the setting up and operation of partnership chairs.

The project's outputs are of three kinds. First, those that have been carried out and controlled by the project leaders. First, the project's website, created in 2020-2021 (highriseproject.net), for which we designed both the architecture and the content. The members of the project wished to privilege this way of showcasing their work, which multiplies the types of narration, allows to use images, including animated ones, and to give an account of the plurality of the approaches reflecting the multidisciplinarity of the research team while preserving scientific rigor. A website also allows a wider diffusion than scientific journals and the interactivity of the navigation offers reading paths at different levels, references to parallel texts and definitions. English is the language of the site, for diffusion reasons but also because it was the common language of the members of the project.
Then there are audio recordings of the closing conference of the project, which took place by videoconference in April 2021 (access via the site or directly via youtube). The use of youtube also allows a wider diffusion.
However, we also embraced more traditional methods such as participation in conferences and symposia (8) or publication in peer-reviewed journals (8, see lists below). However, to maintain the unity of the project, we preferred that the main part of the scientific production take the form of a book gathering the contributions of the members of the project. This book is currently in preparation: it already includes the authors, titles and summaries of the chapters and we are looking for a publisher.
The third type of production is the work of students directly or indirectly linked to the project.
The work that we have produced from this project is useful for public policy and regulatory urban planning through a better understanding of the processes of residential verticalization and their impact on the evolution of the population, its relationship to the city, and often also on urban segregation or fragmentation.

What capacity is left to produce an inclusive city, in the context of an accelerated verticalization of contemporary metropolises? At first sight, promoting a denser city would accommodate further growth, provide housing for the people while limiting urban sprawl. That is how densification is justified in many cities across the world. But in a context where regulatory capitalism and entrepreneurial municipalities are participating in the creation of the most favorable conditions for developers to control the urban space, verticalization, and particularly residential verticalization is questionable. If office towers have gained attention recently, the vast majority of vertical developments is residential, a phenomenon having far reaching consequences on the daily life of residents and urban communities. Verticalization, if not new, is currently happening in a very different context than after 1945, when Charte d’Athènes and modernism where the dominant planning principles. Today, residential high-rises are more than architectural solutions, as much as office towers, they are commodities in a global market where capital flows are fixed by developers and municipalities. By shedding a light on the making and the experience of residential high-rises, we assess the contemporary transformation of the city and test it against inclusiveness. Aiming at the construction of a transdisciplinary theoretical framework (architecture, geography, sociology, anthropology), we intend to critically question the inclusiveness of contemporary urban production, through the residential high-rise phenomenon, in Lyon and Sao Paulo. Inclusiveness, as defined by the UN (economic; social; political; cultural and symbolical) is our benchmark, both a state and a process; it is a result and a condition for an egalitarian/equitable urban environment. It lies in the making and in the experience and imaginary of the city.
Framed by the above theoretical framework, the project is rooted in case studies, enabling to reveal different types of local-global negotiations in the making of the city. In order to deliver the most, Lyon and Sao Paulo where the partners of the project are based (USP and Université Lyon2, with collaborations with practitioners such as the Municipal Agencies of both cities), have been selected as the core case studies, because of their specific residential high-rise history. The project is thus both international (experts from abroad will be invited) and deeply locally rooted.
The project is divided in two sets of tasks, which will use methods never (or too seldom) applied to the study of residential high-rises: oral histories, interviews, house biographies and emotional cartography, long-term observation, and documentaries. Three transversal tasks: project coordination, 2 academic-practitioners workshops, and 3 theoretical workshops that build a transdisciplinary environment of analysis, give a common language, and prepare the final conference of the project. Re-injecting the case studies in the theoretical discussions would help deepen and root the analysis of inclusiveness, around the notions of democracy, accessibility, and “living together in the contemporary city”. Four work tasks. After an initial spatio-temporal contextualization of the two case studies (1), the tasks are ordered according to the two ways of apprehending inclusiveness: first, in the fabric of the high-rise residential building (2), then in the way stakeholders value them and construct their discourses and strategies through time (3). We then look beyond to investigate contemporary practices and usages in high-rise living (4).
HIGH-RISE intends to contribute to the discussion on the building and living of the contemporary metropolis in globalization and verticalization pressures, through: actions of scientific communication and in favor of scientific and technical culture, contributions to higher education curricula and recommendations for planners in the two cities.

Project coordination

Christian MONTES (UMR5600 Environnement-Ville-Société)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LEAUC (USP) LEAUC - Laboratorio de Estudios do Ambiente Urbano Contemporaneo, Instituto de Architectura e Urbanisme de Sao Carlos-Universidade de Sao Paulo
EVS UMR5600 Environnement-Ville-Société

Help of the ANR 193,507 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 36 Months

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