Oil Spaces: The Global Petroleumscape in the Rotterdam/The Hague Area

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Corporate and public actors have built the physical and financial flows of petroleum into the very landscape. This article identifies different layers of those flows— physical, represented, and everyday practices—that combine into a palimpsestic global petroleumscape. It posits that these layers historically became essential parts of modern society and of citizens’ everyday lives. Resulting path dependencies and an energy culture help maintain the buildings and urban forms needed for physical and financial oil flows and celebrate oil as a heroic cultural agent, in a feedback loop that leads societies to consume more oil. Following a general analysis, the article uses the Rotterdam/The Hague area, part of the North West European petroleum hub, as a case study of this feedback loop. Only in appreciating the power and extent of oil can we engage with the complex emerging challenges of sustainable design, policy making, heritage, and future built environments beyond oil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-929
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • petroleum
  • urban history
  • global flows of oil
  • Rotterdam
  • The Hague


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