What Makes a Compact City? Differences Between Urban Research in the Global North and the Global South

Jaan-Henrik Kain, Jenny Stenberg, Marco Adelfio, Michael Oloko, Liane Thuvander, Patrik Zapata, María José Zapata Campos

Abstract


Compact cities are promoted in policy as a response to current societal challenges, but it is unclear or ambiguous what qualities or benefits a compact city is supposed to deliver. The concept of the compact city is widely debated in the research literature, and there are numerous arguments both for and against compact cities. However, many studies or reviews tend to apply a delimited approach, discussing a confined number of qualities or basing the assessment on fairly narrow empirical material. Research is also carried out from within a number of separate disciplines or “discourses”. This paper aims to provide a clearer and more consolidated understanding of the wide spectrum of qualities that make up the compact city in support of better planning, governance and management of cities in the Global South. The objective is to present a review of current articles discussing the compact city in order to capture similarities and differences in the academic discourse between Global North and Global South contexts, and to outline a comprehensive compact city taxonomy. This is achieved by answering three questions: (1) What types of urban qualities are discussed in scientific articles studying urban compactness? (2) (How) do articles focusing on Global North and Global South contexts differ when it comes to exploring compact city qualities? and (3) Do the findings indicate areas of research withing the broader scope of urban compactness where research should be initiated or strengthened? The analysis is based on literature searches in the Scopus database for 2012-2015 using the search term “compact city”. A quantitative assessment was carried out, sifting out what terms are used to label purported (or debated) qualities of compact cities. Papers are sorted into different categories according to geoeconomic context (i.e. Global North, BRICS, Global South). The outcome is an extended taxonomy of compact city qualities, including twelve categories. Weaknesses in compact city research aimed at cities in the Global South were identified, linked in particular to nature, health, environmental issues, quality of life, sociocultural aspects, justice and economy, as well as a significant lack of compact city research linked to urban adaptability and resilience.

The analysis is based on literature searches in the Scopus database for 2012-2015, using the search term “compact city”. A quantitative assessment was carried out, sifting out what terms are used to label purported (or debated) qualities of compact cities. Papers are sorted into different categories according to geoeconomic context (i.e., Global North, BRICS, Global South). The outcome is an extended taxonomy of compact city qualities, including twelve categories. Weaknesses in compact city research aimed at cities in the Global South were identified, especially linked to nature, health, environment issues, quality of life, sociocultural aspects, justice and economy, as well as a significant lack of compact city research linked to urban adaptability and resilience.


Full Text: PDF

Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413