State of play - Polycentric metropolitan areas
Knowledge and Research Agenda Polycentric Metropolitan Areas
Even after a century of suburbanization, the process of spatial expansion is continuing. The geographical scope of social and economic processes (such as commuting, leisure and social trips, inter-firm relations, and business to consumer relations) has continued to increase. This has not only led to increasingly complex urban-rural relations, but has also culminated in new functional linkages at higher spatial scales between historically distinct and once relatively independent cities.
The rise of polycentric metropolitan areas is widely recognized in the national and European debates on regional development. Almost all larger cities in Europe are faced with this growing tendency of creating (varying forms of) polycentric metropolitan areas. The tendency towards the formation of polycentric metropolitan areas results from either an ‘incorporation mode’, when dominant cities extend their sphere of influence over ever larger territories thereby incorporating once independent smaller cities, or from a ‘fusion’ mode when close-by rather similar-sized cities merge into a balanced metropolitan urban system. In terms of both spatial organization and performance there may be important differences between both types of regions.
The EMI approach: Research-based, practice-led
EMI aims to bridge the gap between research and practice by developing a Knowledge and Research Agenda on polycentric metropolitan areas, which confronts the scientific state of the art with an inventory of knowledge questions shared by urban practitioners across Europe by means of:
a Europe-wide questionnaire to gauge the current polycentricism realities facing urban practitioners
several in-depth case studies of polycentric metropolitan areas across Europe1
an overview of ‘best practices’ relating to the integration within the metropolitan area to be used as inspiration for other metropolitan areas
This agenda is unique in combining practical elements put forward by city practitioners with fundamental research questions. The aim is to form coalitions of urban practitioners and researchers to further address these ‘research-based, practice-led’ knowledge questions. Project results will be disseminated by means of various publications, contributions to scientific articles and reports (such as the paper in the recent Committee of the Regions report ‘Metropolitan Governance in Europe’2) and presentations at relevant conferences3.
Focusing on current challenges
Polycentric metropolitan areas pose great challenges for researchers and urban practitioners alike. Traditional ‘urban’ theories need to be reframed to and adopted on the larger scale of polycentric metropolitan areas and new empirical evidence regarding spatial-functional, cultural, economic and governance dynamics must be gathered.
From a series of interviews with urban practitioners across Europe and results from the questionnaire, the EMI team learned that urban practitioners are often well aware of the need to think beyond their own administrative domain, but are confronted by challenging institutional, cultural and political barriers.
Urban practitioners are often uncertain about the significant role other cities play in the metropolitan area and the effects these other cities have on the performance of their own city. They often have difficulties in assessing which inter-city relationships are most beneficial for further development.
It is hard for city officials to identify the exact benefit of co-operation with other cities in the larger metropolitan areas. There is a huge demand for insight into (spatial and financial) instruments that allow trade-offs to be made for the greater regional good, while, at the same time, accounting for the fact that benefits and costs of such coordinated decisions are not balanced over the various actors involved and are often also not balanced in time.
Finally, there is strong demand for practical examples showing the fostering of integration between cities in functional, cultural and administrative terms.
For more information or requests for participation, please contact EMI’s research team on Polycentric Metropolitan Areas:
-Dr. Evert Meijers: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Marloes Hoogerbrugge MSc: email@example.com
-Koen Hollander MSc: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit our website: www.emi-network.eu
1 On-site visits Linköping-Norrköping (SE), Metropolregion Mitteldeutschland (DE; including Leipzig, Halle and Dresden), Rotterdam-The Hague (NL), Tri-City Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot (PL), Øresund (DK-SE) (all ‘fusion type’) and the Porto (PT) and Milan (IT) metropolitan areas (both ‘incorporation type’)
2 Committee of the
Regions report via
Regional Studies Association Delft 2012 European conference ‘Networked regions and cities in times of fragmentation: Developing smart, sustainable and inclusive places’ (13-16 May 2012)