Denaturalising the compact city | Rethinking spatial justice

Ms Claire Collie1

1University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia


Distinct urban morphologies emerged in conjunction with an overriding shift to neoliberal urbanism. Melbourne’s compact city planning imaginary represents both a driver and a product of these urban transformations, with inequality becoming increasingly pronounced. Much has been written since the 1970s to analyse injustices characteristic to urban transformations, and yet cities continue to grapple with spectacular yet ethically gaunt landscapes. Contemporary Melbourne materialises the violence of neoliberal urbanism, exemplified by a plethora of urban pathologies associated with unrelenting scale, visible homelessness and the repeated and intentional destruction of urban heritage.

Saskia Sassen has been acute in responding to the variegated spatial justice outcomes of emerging urban morphologies. Rather than viewing them as simply ‘a bit more of this or that’, she urges that these ‘new logics of expulsion’ should be regarded as systemic ruptures requiring a different language. Urban theory is seemingly relentless in its generation of novel grammar to analyse emerging urban trends. Changing conceptualisations of spatial justice within urban theorising can be perceived as epistemic disruptions that deserve more scholarly attention. This paper asks, ‘If we change our conceptualisation of spatial justice will it affect the way we see the city? And how we denaturalise its planning imaginary?’.


Claire Collie is a landscape sociologist currently researching a critical historiography of the compact city planning imaginary. She is particularly interested in spatial justice, and gardening.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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