Urban Studies and Thinking Topologically

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Urban studies and thinking topologically. Territory, Politics, Governance. This paper explores how topological thinking may be a useful heuristic offering increased conceptual flexibility for those grappling with how best to make comparison and generalizations across geographical locations. We review the existing literature that has used topology as a means of thinking about connectivity, space and spatial relations. We argue that thinking topologically helps when thinking about relationships between elements rather than about the distance between them, such as how practices of creativity work in urban development and bind distinct places and practices together, producing similar urban forms. It also is useful for making generalizations and comparisons without appealing to universal truths or producing universalizing claims about the urban, whether forms, practices or elements. We draw on the relationships between two glass museums – in Tacoma, Washington in the US and Shanghai, China – to draw out these points about topological thinking. We examine how particular expressions and practices of creativity, specifically in the Kids Design Glass programme, have shaped the relationship as well as the materiality of each museum site and argue that it is through practices of creativity that these sites ‘hang together’ in a topological way. We conclude that thinking topologically raises additional questions about assumptions and categories embedded in urban studies.

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Territory, Politics, Governance

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