Cities locked in physical space

4. Do physical characteristics affect the conditions for sustainable urban development?

Gro Sandkjær Hanssen (NIBR, Oslo,
Mirosław Grochowski (University of Warsaw,

Even in the era of virtual connections and de-localized communities, each city remains located in a particular physical space, constituting limitations and opportunities for sustainable urban and regional development. The development of the information technology allowed citizens to work remotely and act politically on virtual arenas of public debate, but still physical distance, natural barriers and degradation of urban tissue influence the development of urban spaces and cities’ manageability.

In this track we will discuss how the physical characteristics of cities affect the conditions for sustainable urban development.Physical space influences the development of cities and city regions, bringing limitations as well as opportunities related to available resources, vulnerability for natural hazards (and climate changes), physical conditions for infrastructure-development and location of functions. Specifically we will focus on three main issues:

Firstly, how do the specific physical characteristics of cities constitute limitations and opportunities for sustainable urban development, and how are these addressed by policy makers and planners? What urban and regional planning instruments are used to shape physical space, and how effective are these instruments? How are other instruments used, for example public-private partnerships, networks, incentives, public investments?

Secondly, how is the broader context of physical space shaping functional and spatial structures of cities and city regions, constituting conditions for sustainable infrastructure-development?

Thirdly, how does physical space influence social development processes? Has information technology made contemporary cities less dependent on the physical distance and physical public space? If so, does this vary due to social stratification? What physical space features contributes to social segregation and exclusion, and what measures can be used to stop these processes? What is the role of public investments in making new areas available for human activities through urban regeneration?

Pre-organised panel

Reshaping the skylines of historic cities
Igal Charney

This panel engages in the discussion of tensions between development and preservation of skylines in historic cities. Demographic transformations, increased movement into the hearts of metropolitan areas, and rising economic pressures to accommodate growth and facilitate competition between cities, work together to restructure urban environments. These processes are likely to pose a major dilemma to many cities of historic significance: how to accommodate growth and development while preserving much renowned cityscapes? Facing such pressures, the push for developing tall buildings often collides with the desire to preserve unique architectural history and sustain much appreciated human-scale environments. Recently, rising demand for office, commercial and residential space in inner-city locations has been subject to broad public debate, fierce political struggles, and driven by inter-city economic competition. Considering the growing tendency towards the relaxation of height limits in many historic cities, this panel explores different attitudes, discourses, policies, and responses to the profound changes in spatial regulation. Cities such as Paris, London, Washington DC and Jerusalem, provide a comparative platform for analyzing such processes.