Journal Article

Cities, systems and sustainability: status and perspective of research on urban transformations

We do live on an urban planet. But does research catch up with the phenomenon? Our new publication showcases the emerging and fast growing field of urban sustainability transitions taking shape by building upon concepts from sustainability transitions, resilience approach, urban studies and urban systems’ thinking.

Current urban transformation research is an emergent, interdisciplinary field with open boundaries that combines complex system studies and urban studies. It explores patterns and dynamics of change linking cities and diverse sociotechnical and social-ecological systems across levels and scales, and develops new forms of intervention to foster their sustainability.

This paper reviews state-of-the-art research and recognizes seven key factors co-shaping urban transformations (agency, politics, capacity, policy, experiments, foresight and geography). Moreover, we propose future directions for the field, that point at understanding agency as the connector for cross-scale interactions and dynamics; deeper and broader exploration on patterns for urban transformation that capture nexus systems’ dynamics; and formulation of governance tools that go beyond single system or single issue considerations and address transformative urban capacities.



Wolfram, M., Frantzeskaki, N., and Maschmeyer, S., (2016)



Cities, Systems and sustainability: status and perspective of research on urban transformations, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 22, 18-25.


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June 1, 2017