Urbanists have long held an interest in the design of spaces, objects and environments as a metaphorical expression of capitalist power. The processes of urbanization that build and tear up the capitalist city have often been treated as power-saturated, particularly by critical geographers and sociologists, and as a result the discourses and visual imagery that emerge in the production of the built environment have often been interpreted as "spatial inscriptions of social conflict" (Merrifield 1993: 1281).
Consequently, there has been a strong suspicion - certainly among Marxian scholars - of the work of various intermediary agents involved in the production of urban space. Henri Lefebvre, for example, famously draws attention to the importance of a "representation of space" in such processes, "a space envisioned and conceived by assorted professionals and technocrats: planners, engineers, developers, architects, urbanists, geographers, and others of a scientific bent" (Merrifield 2002: 89; Lefebvre 1991). Sharon Zukin, in Landscapes of Power (1991), argued that: "While most people want to enjoy the pleasures of fine buildings, good stores, and beautiful urban spaces, the practices that create them make the city more abstract, more dependent on international capital flows, and more responsive to the organization of consumption that the organization of production" (p.54). This themed issue is located within such a tradition and stems from a session at the 2008 Association of American Geographers Annual Conference in Boston.