Thomas Hutton


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Industrial restructuring and the formation of creative industry clusters : the case of Shanghai's inner city (2010)

In the past two decades, Shanghai has seen a wrenching decline of its traditional industrial sector and then a proliferation of new economy spaces on its derelict industrial sites, the most notable of which are over seventy “Creative Industry Clusters” (CICs) accredited by the Municipal Government. Based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, including case studies, semi-structured in-depth interviews, questionnaire surveys, literature review, site visits and observation, photography and mapping, this research found that the vacant spaces resulting from state-triggered industrial restructuring initially accommodated the spontaneous concentration of avant-garde artists and creative workers, a process that was later superseded by local state's deliberate planning of creative clusters with the cooperative efforts of both property interests and restructured state-owned enterprises. The processes of inner city changes in Shanghai suggest that the city’s urban restructuring followed a post-socialist rather than post-Fordist trajectory, with the local state exerting significant influence on the outcomes of urban transformations. And in the whole process, the local state was not just dominating, but also remained flexible at certain point in time so that social learning could take place to help it guide future transformations. In addition, the formation of CICs in Shanghai also reveals major differences of China’s “pro-growth coalitions” from its western counterparts. In particular, the Chinese state plays a stronger role while local communities are largely absent from the scene or only temporarily visible. In addition, the dissertation also provides policy recommendations on four inter-woven aspects of Shanghai’s CIC formation, namely social justice, industrial agglomerations, land-use planning and the support for the arts and culture. These four aspects represent the social, economic, physical and cultural dimensions of Shanghai’s CICs respectively.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
The impact of transnational climate policy in Vancouver and Hong Kong (2017)

This thesis evaluates the impact of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership on two of its members, the City of Vancouver and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and suggests ways that policy-sharing between them can be made more effective. Through documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews, the research explores how the influence of the C40 operates in each case and what value they derive from their membership. While these findings only apply to two members, they suggest that C40 has both influence on and value for both cites, variously facilitating technical knowledge sharing, leverage in both global and local political contests, and acting as a source of inspiration to political and technical actors. Possible actions the C40 and its members could take to increase efficacy include: greater connectivity with national governments, trans-boundary regions, and between ‘Innovator City’ members.

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The new middle class and urban transformation in Africa : a case study of Accra, Ghana (2016)

The ascendance of the so-called global middle class—characterized as young, ambitious, highly-credentialed, well-paid, urban-based, professionals in the so-called emerging economies of the Global South—as a new socio-economic force has captured much international attention in the scholarly, business and media circles. For the most part, however, the discourse on this nascent social group has geographically focused on emerging Asia and thematically centered on their lifestyle characteristics and their related political and economic ramifications, locally and globally. In Africa, where the growth of the middle class has been paralleled by widespread socio-economic and urban transformation, little, if any, scholarly and policy effort have been made to understand the nature and ramifications of the nexus between the middle class expansion and the reconfigurations taking place in the urban form and space economies of cities. Seeking to tell the African version or story of the rise of the new middle class and their role in the on-going remaking of urban Africa, this thesis examines patterns of new economic activity and occupations, secondary service centres, housing, education and conspicuous consumption, including their broader spatial attributes and internal configurations, in one transitional African city, Accra, the capital of Ghana, as a case study. Drawing on a range of methods that include analyses of media coverage, policy briefs, scholarly works, plans and census data, the study unravels deep connections between the forces of globalization, structural change, class (re)production and new industrial and spatial formations in metropolitan Accra. The case study also highlights the different place-making strategies and tactics—covert and overt, direct and indirect, practical and ideological—employed by the new middle classes to reshape, territorialize and control urban space through the production and consumption of “privileged” landscapes that fits their vision and ideals of contemporary urban structure and social life. In addition to analyzing the impact and implications of these emergent middle-class landscapes for Accra’s spatial harmony and social cohesion, the research underscores the need for African urban governments to adopt innovative land use and social engineering approaches that encourage the mixing of diverse social groups in planned new residential communities, protect urban green space, and minimize the gentrifying effects of middle-class place-making.

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(Re)remembering the inner city : cultural production, reflexivity, and Vancouver's heritage areas (2013)

Cultural production constitutes a significant force in the reconstruction, reterritorialization, and reimaging of the postindustrial inner city, the privileged site of clustered production within a reconfigured metropolitan space economy. This has been best demonstrated within older precincts notably characterized by the adaptive reuse of heritage structures, often to the extent of the comprehensive restoration of entire blocks or subareas. The unique material characteristics of these enduring new industrial districts have led to an association of cultural production with a heritage built environment, generating an alluring and paradoxical aesthetic where the brick and iron of an older industrial vernacular mixes with the auras of technology, globalization, and modernity. Following the work of scholars who have introduced spatiality and materiality to the cultural industries research domain, this thesis addresses the reflexive relationship that cultural producers maintain with the unique material and semiotic characteristics of these enduring new industrial districts, in which heritage imageries and signifiers of collective memory inform creative personas, processes, and outputs. This ‘reflexive project of the self’ influences the maintenance of the built environment and has the capacity to alter imageries and collective memory wherever signifiers are re-associated or obscured. Drawing on interviews in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as on a broad literature review incorporating sources on cultural production, the aesthetics of residential gentrification, and the ‘city of collective memory’; this paper seeks to assess a range of responses to the history of Vancouver’s inner city landscapes. The analysis demonstrates how Vancouver’s historical imageries have been romanticized and reinterpreted to inform a mythology of cultural production in the city. Our conclusions will be of interest to geographers attempting to ‘place’ cultural production within their understanding of the changing landscapes of the twenty-first century city, as well as to planners in need of a more critical interpretation of the dynamics undergirding the insistent upgrading of production districts.

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New media in planning : a critical review (2013)

Planning practice is changing. New media, which can be understood as Internet-enableddigital communications technologies—online social networks, online surveys, and onlinemessage boards, as examples—are increasingly used in public engagement processes.These new tools have been said to make public engagement more inclusive and less costly,as well as improve communication among those involved. Research, in the form of keyinformant interviews and a broad literature review, does not fully support these claims.Moreover, the increased use of new media is accompanied by a number of unforeseennegative effects. For these reasons, it is from now on the responsibility of planners: tounderstand the limitations of the new tools at their disposal, and to further contribute tothis area of inquiry.

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Creative cities, creative spaces, and urban policy : the impacts of regulations on artist-run centres and independent arts spaces in Vancouver, British Columbia (2012)

Over the last decade, emergence and popularity of the creative city has generated considerable interest in the significance of arts and culture to economic and community development. In this context, artists and cultural facilities are considered essential assets contributing to creativity and innovation by attracting skilled workers and business investments, revitalizing inner city industrial areas, and discursively reimagining and rebranding the city through cultural events and large-scale cultural infrastructure projects. This research examines the effects of regulations on the creation and operation of artist-run centres and independent arts facilities as essential sources of cultural production and creativity in Vancouver, British Columbia. Drawing on a series of in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with the founding members, administrators, directors/curators, and/or primary operators of twelve artist-run facilities in Vancouver, research examines how artists and arts administrators experience the process of achieving bylaw and regulatory compliance to manage and sustain the operations of non-profit and independent arts spaces in a post-industrial context of policy implementation and urban redevelopment. Research addresses the strategies artists’ employ to achieve bylaw and regulatory compliance, as well as the contributions these spaces make to the cultural fabric of the creative city. Finally, research examines artists’ primary motivations for continuing their creative practices in increasingly challenging arts market and policy context. Research findings reveal that while non-profit and independent arts spaces contribute to both community revitalization and artistic development, issues pertaining to the urban planning and policy limit their community and economic development potential. As a result, this paper calls for a constructive and collaborative approach to enabling cultural facilities development within local government, and a re-conceptualization of the creative city planning agenda to include both the cultural products of creative industries and the diverse cultural experiences of non-profit and independent arts organizations beyond their economic and commercial development imperatives.

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The evolution of heritage conservation planning in theory and practice : a case study of Victoria, British Columbia (2011)

This research explores in the intersection of theory and practice in heritage conservation planning and its connections to broader urban planning considerations. In doing so, this research presents a case study of the evolution of heritage conservation projects, policies and implementation programs in the area of Old Town and Chinatown in the downtown core of Victoria, British Columbia. Community plans, policy documents and implementation tools concerning heritage conservation and planning for the Old Town and Chinatown area are analyzed in addition to newspaper articles, online discussion forums and books on the subject of such efforts. In addition, an analysis of how particular policies and implementation tools play out at the level of an individual conservation project is presented through an examination of the Morley’s Soda Factory, a recent rehabilitation and adaptive reuse project within Old Town. The research demonstrates that in both conservation theory and conservation practice there has been a broadening in the justifications for conservation, in its subject matter and in the range of social groups involved since its effective beginnings in the mid- to late-18th century. Once a narrowly defined discipline concerned with preserving a restricted set of supposedly architecturally beautiful or historically significant buildings, as defined by elite values, conservation is now recognized as having linkages to the property market, economic development, cultural values, social capital, land use planning, waste management and urban design. In addition, the case study suggests that, at the level of an individual city and district, the particular trajectory of heritage conservation policy is highly dependent on the social, political and economic context of the locality. In particular, it considers the roles of the public and private sectors as well as the general public in the conservation process and the implications of these roles on conservation and urban planning goals.

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Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

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