The Myth of Urban Densification: Tracing the Pathway of a Discourse on the Case of the Alpine Rhine Valley in Austria
Over the past several decades, urban densification has emerged as one of the predominant principles in spatial planning. Even though it is often portrayed in objective and quantitative ways, recent research concludes that urban densification is highly political and context specific. Therefore, this article explores how urban densification has emerged as a form of hegemony, utilising the case study of the Alpine Rhine Valley in western Austrian province of Vorarlberg. Long characterized by single-family-home-induced urban sprawl, urban densification has gained a prominent role in the region’s policies and politics. By means of discourse analysis and Ernesto Laclau’s conception of hegemony, this article retraces how urban densification emerged through two dislocatory crises, yet is still confronted with “rival articulations” from primarily conservative political actors. Urban densification is hence best described by Laclau’s term “myth”, which characterizes urban densification as an envisioned ideal state by a variety of social actors, but which fails to gain unequivocal support from civil society.