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After a long period of preparation, we finally got green light to start the new master ‘Metropolitan Analysis, Design and Engineering’ at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS institute). This institute is a collaboration between TU Delft, Wageningen University and MIT. Together with Dr. Bas van Vliet (Wageningen University), I am coordinating the starter course of this master:’Metropolitan Challenges’.

Profile of the course ‘Metropolitan Challenges’

In this course on metropolitan challenges, students are introduced to various typologies of metropoles throughout the world, with the city of Amsterdam as a real life example. The course covers all aspects of what makes a metropolis. It integrates technical systems and networks, from the point of view that each system is open, and influences the other. It gives an historical-critical overview, with reasons for the existence and emergence of cities, and the technological challenges they face today. The emergence of the metropolitan landscape forces us to rethink, redesign and plan the environments we live and work in. The metropolis is approached as a web of interrelated socio-technical systems in which professionals are challenged to integrate knowledge and analytical, design and engineering skills. The course presents a range of conceptual views on technologies and practices in the cycles and spheres of urban mobility, water, healthcare and well-being, food, waste, and energy. All of these processes are intertwined in chains and cycles: the metropolitan metabolism. We have come to understand most of the individual chains or cycles but we do not yet fully understand their interconnectedness, nor are we able to optimise these connections to ours and the planet’s benefit. By understanding cities  and urbanisation, and by putting together domain-specific knowledge on contemporary and future challenges in metropolitan areas, this course provides the basis for understanding the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dimensions of metropolitan challenges.

AMS Amsterdam Students discussing Metropolitan Challenges

AMS is located in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam (KIT), Mauritskade 62, Amsterdam.

For more info, see



My whole team visited the annual conference of the European Regional Science Association in Groningen, where we presented five papers in several special sessions. The papers were well-received and we had a fruitful discussion in each session. Congrats to the organisers of the conference for doing an excellent job! At the closing session, Marloes Hoogerbrugge and I received the Martin Beckmann Award for having published the best paper in Papers in Regional Science in 2016 (co-author Martijn Burger could not attend unfortunately). The award was handed over by Prof. Roberta Capello.

Happy with the Martin Beckmann award


Duco, Antoine and Rodrigo enjoying the conference dinner

Martin Beckmann RSAI Annual award


Today I was informed that my paper ‘Borrowing size in networks of cities: City size, network connectivity and metropolitan functions in Europe’, co-authored by Martijn Burger and Marloes Hoogerbrugge, was considered the best paper published in the journal ‘Papers in Regional Science’ in 2016!  As a result, we will receive the Martin Beckmann RSAI Annual Award, which will be presented to us at the annual conference of the European Regional Science Association in Groningen (early September).


The paper innovates in that it provides an entirely new perspective on the geographical dimension of agglomeration economies, showing that next to size and density, also network embeddedness of cities is crucial for agglomeration economies to develop (allowing them to ‘borrow size’).



The motivation given by the jury (Janice Madden, Carlos Azzoni and Erik Verhoef) is the following:

“Through an elegant scientific approach, the paper interprets the contrast that exists between the current dynamics in the Western European urban system and the bourgeoning literature stressing the importance of agglomeration for economic growth. The paper argues that rise of ‘city network economies’ leads to processes of borrowed size as well as the rise of agglomeration shadows in networks of cities, and finds that network connectivity positively enhances the presence of metropolitan functions, even if local size remains the most significant determinant for most types of functions. Based on the originality of the interest in the topic, and the important results achieved, the jury concluded that the paper was the best published one in 2016.”


The paper can be downloaded here.

Spatial Research and Planning

Mid-May the editorial board of the journal “Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning” gathered in Berlin, where I was welcomed as one of the new international members of the editorial board. The journal is a forum for topics and debates relevant to the field of spatial sciences. The interdisciplinary journal addresses issues of spatial development and planning. It focuses on urban and regional planning, demographic change and urban transition, landscape development, environmental planning, sustainable development, adaptation to climate change, mobility, economic geography, regional governance, and planning theory.


My appointment, and that of the other new members (all from other countries than Germany) reflects the ambition of the journal to move from a primary focus on German-speaking countries to a broader international focus. Several decisions to foster this internationalisation were taken. If you have an interesting paper that fits the aims and scope of the journal, then please consider submitting to this very old geography and planning journal!


Rodrigo Cardoso and I organised four sessions at the AAG (Association of American Geographers) conference in Boston, MA last week (5-9 April) – a kind of ‘conference within a conference’-format. The theme was: ‘The process of Metropolisation: Reconfiguring the city at the regional scale’. Over 50 different conference participants visited the sessions.

20 papers were submitted, looking at metropolisation from different angles and with different methods, and they were presented by scholars from a wide variety of countries. We are currently exploring opportunities for a follow-up. Below is the call for contributions that was circulated – it gives a good insight in what the session was about.

Rodrigo Cardoso speaking at the AAG

Topic of the sessions:

“A reconfiguration of cities at larger territorial scales is underway. Formerly separate urban centres expand or coalesce into vast and interconnected urban regions, in a process of restructuring of economic activity, spatial forms and flows that some researchers have tried to capture under the concept of ‘metropolisation’. The processes underlying this transformation are tripartite: spatial processes of coalescence, expansion and connection contribute to gradually integrate (functionally, institutionally and culturally) cities into larger entities; the socio-spatial qualities and features once attributed to the ‘city’ are reconstructed by citizens, firms and institutions at the scale of that urban region; and policymakers and planners develop strategies towards that goal. Such processes of urban region formation have become important for policy, not only to respond to the spatial transformations of the territory, but also because the alleged benefits of size and agglomeration can arguably be achieved through integration with larger territorial scales. Deeply integrated and networked urban regions can try to organise agglomeration economies comparable to single, large conurbations of comparable size. Therefore, we can understand metropolisation not so much as cities dissolving into loose urban regions, but rather urban regions consolidating as extensive cities.

But urban regions are not just constructed by functional or economic processes. They involve long-term historical processes of spatial and social change, which leave behind territorial and socioeconomic fault-lines. The complexity of urban regions and their integration processes demand a re-examination of issues of governance, metropolitan identity-building, inter-city cooperation, shapes and actors of formal and informal networks, inequality and segregation, infrastructural and functional configurations, among many others.

As we acknowledge new dimensions of metropolitan integration, more unanswered questions emerge. The purpose of this session is to start sketching answers to some of them.”


Research quality assessment

The final results of the 6-yearly research assessment have been published. This quality assessment of research in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is part of an assessment system as specified by the Association of Universities in The Netherlands (VSNU), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
An external review committee was asked to assess the quality and relevance to society of the research conducted by the faculty as a whole and the nine research programmes as well as its strategic targets and the extent to which it is equipped to achieve them, following a standard evaluation protocol.

Top scores for research quality and societal relevance

My research is part of the broader ‘Urban and Regional Studies’  research programme. We are very happy to learn that our programme achieved top scores. Allow me to proudly (and somewhat shamelessly) quote from the assessment report:

The URS programme is judged to be excellent with respect to the quality of the research conducted, the quantity of output, and its relevance to society. It is judged to be very good with respect to its viability. The key staff members are international leaders in the field who have made highly significant contributions to a number of areas of research.”

The ambition with regard to research quality is very high.”

The key staff members are internationally renowned scholars, who collaborate with other leading scholars from around the world. The research is well-integrated and articulate. Much of it is frequently cited in international outlets, leading to high H-indices of the key staff members. The group’s international network and academic reputation is outstanding, and can be considered as world-leading.

The programme was very successful in attracting external research funds (research grants and contract research), with funding from ERC, EU FP7, ESPON, Interreg, Marie Curie, NWO, and others.

Although productivity is no longer a SEP criteria, considering all measures of productivity along with the productivity strategy, the URS programme can be judged as outstanding.

The research themes are very socially and policy relevant, with large impacts at the national and international level.

The programme’s viability is considered to be good because of its internationally leading role, its involvement in cutting-edge research ideas, its flexibility in adjusting as new ideas and expertise emerge, and its competent leadership. The URS group received a strong boost from the ERC Consolidator Grant and NWO/VIDI Grant.

In addition, in the recently published QS ranking of universities by subject (architecture) we scored 4th place!


You see, enough reason to celebrate this with a giant cake for the group!


On Friday the 10th of March 2017, I organised a workshop for employees of the municipalities that constitute the Metropoolregio Rotterdam – Den Haag. We discussed several issues, such as ‘what is a metropolis?’, ‘what is metropolisation?’ (metropoolvorming in Dutch), ‘what are the advantages and disadvantages of metropolisation?’, and ‘how can one foster a process of metropolisation?’, for which I drew parallels with processes of metropolisation in polycentric metropolitan areas all over the world.


We ended with a pubquiz that explored what these civil servants actually know about their Metropoolregio. The best team scores 6 out of 10, not bad and a lot of fun!

My paper with Rodrigo Cardoso on metropolitan identity (seen through the lens of naming metropolitan entities) has been published by Environment & Planning A. Here is the abstract and the main figure explaining different pathways of place naming leading to different names for emerging metropolitan regions. You can use this figure to predict what name is most likely to surface in your emerging metropolitan region.

The full paper is available here



The metropolitan name game: The pathways to place naming shaping metropolitan regions

The centrality of metropolitan regions in policy and research does not mean they are perceived by their population as having a meaningful identity. This affects their political legitimacy, economic development prospects and place qualities. However, the ongoing scalar expansion of our spatial attachments creates the potential for a metropolitan identity, which can contribute to a stronger metropolitan region vision. As a component of identity formation, place naming becomes relevant both to represent and construct this scale. This article evaluates the geographical, institutional and social factors that shape naming processes in metropolitan regions undergoing integration. We consider historical examples representing different modes of name formation: New York, Stoke-on-Trent, Budapest, Charleville-Mézières, Metroplex and Thunder Bay. We find that metropolitan toponyms emerge from a nexus of interdependent factors, some of which decisively push naming processes into specific paths, and that such processes reflect the socio-political and cultural contexts shaping metropolitan regions. This provides a framework of questions that metropolitan institutions can consider to envision the names they are more likely to develop.

TU Delft, Leiden University and the Erasmus University co-operate in a new postdoc programme, with opportunities for 90 new 2-year postdocs.
We would welcome applicants and are willing to support their application process. You have the chance to also spend part of your time at one of the other universities, which we can facilitate given our good connections with several research groups.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss opportunities.
All information can be accessed here:

While already available ‘online first’ for some time, my paper ‘Stretching the concept of ‘borrowed size’ has now been officially published by Urban Studies!



‘Borrowed size’ is an emerging policy concept in several European countries, presenting theoretical potential to explain contemporary urban dynamics unaddressed through conventional urban growth theories that emphasise the role of agglomeration economies. In its original conceptualisation by Alonso, the concept describes and explains the situation that especially smaller cities that are located in a larger ‘megapolitan complex’ do perform better because they have access to agglomeration benefits of larger neighbouring cities. This paper scrutinises the concept of borrowed size, thereby focusing on its conceptualisation and reviewing its empirical justification thus far. Our empirical analyses show that the concept must be stretched in terms of scale and scope to enhance its policy value. Borrowed size occurs when a city possesses urban functions and/or performance levels normally associated with larger cities. This is enabled through interactions in networks of cities across multiple spatial scales. These networks serve as a substitute for the benefits of agglomeration. Theoretically, the borrowed size concept demands a recasting of the geographical foundations of agglomeration theory.



Agglomeration economies; Network externalities; Agglomeration spillovers; Urban system; Territorial development.


Below is a figure showing our interpretation of borrowed size and its different dimensions.

The full paper can be accessed here.

Hope you enjoy the paper!

Evert Meijers and Martijn Burger (co-author)