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Revisiting the urban frontier through the case of New Kvillebäcken, Gothenburg

Journal article
Authors Catharina Thörn
Helena Holgersson
Published in City
Volume 20
Issue 5
Pages 663-684
ISSN 1360-4813
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 663-684
Language en
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


It has been 20 years since Neil Smith published his classic The New Urban Frontier. In this paper we argue for the continuing relevance of his concepts by analysing the development of a new exclusive residential area (New Kvillebäcken) in the Gustaf Dalén area, a re-purposed industrial site on the edge of the central city of Gothenburg, Sweden. We show how the early millennial plans to create a new city district—Älvstaden (River City)—involved a redrawing of the city map that changed the conditions for this former industrial area from symbolically peripheral (though geographically central) to attractive, but insufficiently exploited, central city land, thus producing a ‘rent gap’. In our reading of Neil Smith’s concept of the urban frontier, we emphasise the close relationship between the frontier mythology that rationalises redevelopment as inevitable through stigmatisation—and the movements of capital—how and where rent gaps are created. The urban frontier creates an analytical space to unravel how the joint forces of the elite (in our case, the close cooperation between private real estate owners and the municipality of Gothenburg) displace long-time inhabitants in urban spaces such as the Gustaf Dalén area to accomplish more financially profitable land use.

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