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Of course, any excuse to visit the beautiful city of Florence is always welcome, but last week I even had two. First I gave a talk Wednesday at the IRPET institute (Regional Institute for Economic Planning of Tuscany), which is located in the beautiful Villa La Quiete (see picture below). My talk was about ‘Small and medium-sized cities in the age of the ‘urban triumph’. I had the honour of having Prof. Roberto Camagni as discussant. Roberto Camagni’s work has been a true source of inspiration in my research for a long time.

On Thursday and Friday, I joined the conference ‘New Sciences and Actions for Complex Cities: Social and institutional innovation in self-organising systems‘. This conference was organised by several institutes, with Dr. Camilla Perrone taking a leading role. The conference brought together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines – economic geography; planning; big data science; complexity theories; etc. – providing for a very fruitful exchange of knowledge. I was invited to discuss the lessons learnt these days in the final wrap-up round table. Also this conference was organised in a magnificent place: the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Needless to say that the evenings were well spent in great company!

Villa La Quieta where IRPET is located
The conference room in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Wow!
Friday evening dinner company: Chiara, Chiara and David
Unfortunately no time to visit the interior of the Duomo…




It took some time, but my article in Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie has finally been published online. It is co-authored by Marloes Hoogerbrugge (Erasmus University Rotterdam, but at TU Delft previously) and Rodrigo Cardoso (TU Delft). The title is Beyond Polycentricity: Does stronger integration between cities in Polycentric Urban Regions improve performance? and I am glad to say that it is open access! I think the paper really innovates, by identifying all PURs in Europe and by presenting the first cross-sectional quantitative analysis of PURs in Europe. We are able to statistically demonstrate the importance of functional integration and institutional cooperation between cities. If you like to continue doing research on PURs in Europe, then I am happy to share the dataset, just send me an email in that case.

Here’s the abstract:

A quarter of the European population lives in ‘polycentric urban regions’ (PURs): clusters of historically and administratively distinct but proximate and well-connected cities of relatively similar size. This paper explores whether tighter integration can increase agglomeration benefits at the PUR-level. We provide the first comprehensive list of European PURs (117 in total), establish their level of functional, institutional and cultural integration and measure whether this affects their performance. ‘Performance’ is defined as the extent to which urbanisation economies have developed, proxied by the presence of metropolitan functions. In this first-ever cross-sectional analysis of PURs we find that while there is evidence for all dimensions of integration having a positive effect, particularly functional integration has great significance. Regarding institutional integration, it appears that having some form of metropolitan co-operation is more important than its exact shape. Theoretically, our results substantiate the assumption that networks may substitute for proximity.

New journal article out! Together with my colleague Dr. Rodrigo Cardoso I published an article in Planning Theory & Practice. The title is “Secondary Yet Metropolitan? The Challenges of Metropolitan Integration for Second-Tier Cities”. It is open access and can be found by clicking here.


This paper discusses whether the areas where metropolitan integration can be beneficial for cities in general corresponds to the typical areas of disadvantage of many second-tier cities in Europe, and explores the implications of that convergence. Metropolitan integration entails functional, institutional and symbolic dimensions, whose potential advantages include exploiting the agglomeration benefits emerging from the metropolitan scale, efficiently deploying shared metropolitan resources, and acquiring political-institutional influence over higher-level policymaking. Research shows that many European second-tier cities face persistent disadvantages in comparison to first-tier cities in these areas, and this article contributes to the discussion of new strategies of second-tier city development by exploring the potential effect of metropolitan integration in overcoming these setbacks. We empirically assess the gains in demographic and functional mass experienced by second-tier cities by aggregating the metropolitan scale, and draw from various examples to illustrate their interest in increasing institutional and political capacity. Metropolitan region formation seems indeed a promising strategy for many second-tier cities, especially those embedded in large and dense urban territories, and located in countries with a dominant first-tier city. To mobilise this potential, the paper further discusses the planning and governance strategies that can best manage the opportunities and hurdles of a metropolitan integration process.

Wow! A publication reaching 1000 citations is absolutely exceptional, but the report  and derived congress paper I co-authored with Rudolf Giffinger, Christian Fertner, Hans Kramar (all at TU Vienna) and Nataša Pichler-Milanović (University of Ljubljana) back in 2007 managed to do just that. Reason: it was one of the very first documents conceptually discussing and measuring the concept of ‘smart cities’ that became hugely popular in the scientific and policy domain in the last decade. Great to see that it inspired the work of so many others after us!

The website we launched in 2007 is still online and updated by the TU Vienna team:

My google scholar profile with citations can be found here.

Smart city model




Yesterday, upon invitation by the European Committee of the Regions, I presented my views on the ‘Metropolitan phenomenon of the 21st Century’ during a workshop in Brussels, as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels. This workshop focused on the theme of ‘Towards the 2030 Agenda: a territorial foresight approach’ and together with other panelists, we tried to sketch the challenges for European cities and regions in the coming decades. In my talk, I stressed that a further concentration of urbanisation in a handful of large metropolises is an unlikely future, and that the European metropolis of the future will be a ‘networked metropolis’ because agglomeration economies are increasingly substituted/complemented by network externalities.

European week of cities and regions 2017


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.”