Beyond the Urban–Suburban Divide: Urbanization and the Production of the Urban in Zurich North


Starting from current debates on ‘global suburbanism’ and ‘postsuburbia’, this article explores the changes that the former ‘urban periphery’ of Zurich North has experienced in the last three decades. It mobilizes Henri Lefebvre’s triadic concept of conceived, perceived and lived space in aid of an analysis of the profound urban transformations that can be observed. The construction of a new tramline serves as a guideline for an analysis of the implementation of new governance arrangements strengthening cross-border cooperation between individual municipalities and new strategies of cooptation and expertise. This resulted in the production of new urban structures which led to a more densely woven and connected urban fabric primarily providing spaces for the headquarter economy and middle-class housing. Concomitantly, great efforts have been made to create new public spaces, an urban image and even an urban atmosphere. These have proved at least partially successful, thus promoting a symbolic redefinition of the former urban periphery as a distinctively ‘urban’ space. Conventional definitions and concepts no longer suffice to adequately understand such novel urban forms, leading to the conclusion that division into an ‘urban’ and a ‘suburban’ world is no longer a useful tool for urban analysis.