Clusters, technopoles, milieus of innovation, science parks, company towns, corporate campuses and all other silicon-“things” are based on one simple idea – the idea of agglomeration effects. The core belief behind this approach is that physical and social proximity of companies coupled with institutional influence – generates spillover effects that are a source of new innovation and value creation. The Re-birth of the Company Town book explores the ever-changing relationship between businesses, society and space, documents the historical, present and coming examples of corporate landscapes, and envisions a future, in which innovative and socially-responsible companies will create inspiring, lively and socially-just urban environments.
Company towns of the 19th Century, established to explore new unexplored and unexploited territories and deal with social problems stemming from large cities, have been normalised or demolished with the advent of the welfare state. Nevertheless, changes over the last decades have radically altered the conditions of contemporary urbanism and in many ways paved the way for the new political, social, economic and technological organisation of our cities.
Gaps in urban governance have given large companies the opportunity to fill them with their own interests, while the retrenchment of welfare state provisions and the liberalisation and deregulation of the economy have left the provision of social and public services to de- or less- regulated free markets. At the same time the rise of prosumerism is forcing companies to enable co-creation of their products/services, thus opening up the office and the factory.
Several companies are already responding to market failures with their own engagement and the provision of certain services to their employees and their families, while positive externalities of the urban environment, surrounding large employers, have provided untapped potential for increased innovation. All these changes are resulting in the emergence of contemporary company towns, a model of redefined relationships between society and businesses, in which the socially-aware and innovation-driven company plays the major role in urban life and urban development.
Based on a hypothesis-generating case study method of 12 different contemporary company towns, this research defines contemporary company towns with four deeply connected and overlapping elements:
- contemporary company town as an innovation milieu;
- contemporary company town as a labour force organiser;
- contemporary company town as a symbolic node;
- and contemporary company town as a political institution.
The book end with several suggestions for further research of this topic that challenges predominant contemporary theories in urban geography, urban economics, urban sociology, political science and urbanism.
The projects hasn’t yet ended as we have established an online magazine, the Corporate Landscapes Magazine which will continue the debate around the subject with regular articles analysing the shit of company interests towards the urban across the world.
The Re-birth of the Company Town book preview (download PDF version here):
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