by Franco Archibugi

Studies in Green Research

Ashgate Publishing - 1997

[also availble in italian]



In the current debate on the “sustainable city”, and overall on its political and mediatic fall-out, people continue to enlighten the technical means existent to implement in facing city pollution and congestion. “Environmentalism” also has paid attention only indirectly to the city and to the urban environment. In general, consciousness of the relationship between environmental degradation and inadequate urban and land planning is still to become manifest.

According to the Author, short term technological interventions implemented without taking into account the conditions and constraints of urban planning are destined to failure. Profiting from methods and conceptual instruments refined throughout years and years of research at the european and world scales, the Author proposes an approach hinged on the urban eco-systems concept, in order to implement a conjunction between urban planning and ecology.

The book selects and unifies the contributions of the Author over the last few years in a unique sequential opus, so as to discuss the “urban foundations of an ecological policy” from a methodological viewpoint. Such urban foundations have conditions and basic requirements which must be taken into account in the implementation of interventions oriented to the protection and improvement of urban quality in the long term.

The wide debate on the “sustainable city” in the last few years has emphasised the existing or future “technical” possibilities to combat pollution and congestion. However it has neglected the urban planning conditions which are a sine qua non:  a pre-condition of success for any improving intervention. This book deeply examines and outlines these preconditions.


 [Initial praise for  “The Ecological City: City Effect and Sustainability”, published (in English) by Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Aldershot (London) (1997) and (in Italian) by Bollati-Boringhieri Turin (2001)] :

“The book has a very interesting and topical theme which would be interesting to planners and associated academics / students, etc.”

Phil Cooke

Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Social Science, University of Wales, Cardiff


“Franco Archibugi’s book on the Ecological City and the City Effect was written at the right moment, in the appropriate historical circumstances. As the myth of the “invincible city” fades, as already admitted by Gottman himself who launched it, from Europe has re-emerged the reasonable aspiration for a “liveable” or “sustainable” city, which potentiates and develops its unavoidable functional values, while trying at the same time to maintain and restore the environmental ones (urban greenery, clean air, pedestrian protection) Archibugi’s work clearly aims in this direction, conscious of the obstacles which can be encountered, but capable of organizing all the instruments to overcome them, determined to use such instruments in the most rational way.”

Berardo Cori

Professor of Geography, Department of the Science of Man and the Environment

University of Pisa


“The critical role of Ecology and sustainability in the planning of cities is now widely accepted. But there translation into the theory and practice of urban planning are not so readily achieved. It is clear that we owe a debt to Professor Archibugi for his significant contribution, based on his Polymath knowledge and experience. Having worked with him in this field I urge its wide acquaintance.”

Nathaniel Lichfield

Professor Emeritus of the Economics of Environmental Planning, University of London


“The ‘opus’ on the ecological city contains a wealth of new ideas and it opens up many horizons from a non-conventional perspective. It calls for an entirely different view on city life and city politics. It has become a fascinating document . . . A magnificent piece of post-modern thinking.”

Peter Nijkamp

Faculty of Economics and Econometrics, Free University Amsterdam


“This is a complex book, which reflects familiarity not only with the latest moments (and therefore with a long scientific tradition) with these fields of studies. It is also a text which, instead of limiting itself to pleading for transformation in contemporary society (and in the city), suggests global guidelines joined to a decisive criticism on self-referential lines of research, indicating the need for an urban policy on a national level, aimed at extending the higher level of the city effect and of sustainability to the entire urbanized territory. A text, in sum, which doesn’t limit itself to telling us how things are going, but pushes to explain how they should go : what in our time is a beautiful testimony of faith.”

Giorgio Piccinato

Professor of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture

University of Rome Three

Past AESOP President, Association of European Schools of Planning


“The book by Franco Archibugi is dedicated to the perspective of urban sustainability and represents a contribution that cannot be disregarded for its serious reflection on the themes of problems which are under the lights on the scenarios of urban studies. Among the several advanced approaches, that of Franco Archibugi has the value of starting from far in the past,always taking into account the less ephemeral roots of urban planning,. But it must also be added, at least from my perspective as a geographer, that the text is qualified by a solid anchorage in the concreteness of the ongoing processes.”

Franco Salvatori

President of the Italian Geographic Society

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities  and Philosophy

University of Rome II]








Essays on the Urban Planning Requirements of the Sustainable City



The ecological city: reality and mystification


Chapter One

A Strategy for the Modern City: Research Lines Aimed at the identification

of "Optimal Centrality"

1. The Definition of the Current Urban Problem

      1.1 The Terms of the Modern Urban Question

      1.2 The Current Debate on the Urban Environment

      1.3 The Role of the City-effect

2. Two Situation Typologies in Western Urban Geography

      2.1 Large Cities and Medium-Small Cities

      2.2 Various Problems in the Two Types of Urban Situations

3. The Potential Alternative Solutions 

      3.1 The Two Goals of Urban Policy: The City-Effect and Liveability

      3.2 The Interdipendency between the two Policies              

      3.3 The Typical Strategy for the Larger Cities (LC Type)

      3.4 The Typical Strategy for Medium and Small-sized cities (SMC type)

4. The Dossier of Parameters to be Transferred in Terms of Reference

    4.1 The Need to Provide the Two Policies with Greater Cognitive Instruments

    4.2 The Necessary Cognitive Instruments Postulated

5. The Suggested Approach: Searching for the Optimal Centrality  

6. The Research for the Optimal Centrality and the Abstract Theories of Urban Economics

    6.1 The "Ballet" of Assumptions

    6.2 The Standard Theories of the Urban Aggragation and Size

    6.3 A Planological Approach to the Definition of the Optimal Size of  the City

7. The Principal Research Operations to be Implemented

8. The Definition of Optimal Centrality and its Constituent Parameters

    8.1 The Demographic Component

    8.2 The Frequency of Use of Superior Urban Services

    8.3 The Accessibility to Superior Urban Services

    8.4 Public Spaces

    8.5 A Mix of Fundamental Special Functions

    8.6 The Urban Sturcture and Morphology

    8.7 The Communications Network

9. The Components of Centrality as Found in the Current Western Urban Situation

10. A First Attempt to Configure an Articulation of Optimal Centralities

11. Conclusion


Chapter Two

The degradation of the urban Environment: The planological approach

1. General Considerations on the Degradation of the Urban Environment

2. The Degradation of the Urban Enviroment in Relation to its Factors     (or Causes)

      2.1 Physical Pollution

      2.2 Vehicular Traffic

      2.3 Congestion of Activities and Paralysis of Functions

      2.4 Loss of the Urban Landscape

      2.5 The Breakdown of Interpersonal Communication

3. The Urban Degradation in Relation to the City Typology

4. The Urban Degradation in Relation to the Stage of Urbanization

5. The Urban Degradation from the point of view of the Objectives for  "Environmental Welfare"

6. The Evaluation of the Urban Eco-system

      6.1 The Urban Eco-system Model

      6.2 The Urban Eco-system and Networks

7. The Planological Approach:  Program structure and Urban Indicators



Chapter Three

Centralities and peripheries: A New Policy for Public Spaces and Centralities

1. The City and its Public Spaces

2. The Decline of Public Spaces and the Load Disequilibrium

3. Two Typical Inappropriate Responses: Zoning and Traffic Engineering

3.1 The Old-Fashioned Method of "Zoning"

3.2  Traffic Engineering 

4. The Loss of Centrality in Small and Medium-Sized Towns 

5. Oulines of a New Policy for the Recovery of the Urban Environment

5.1 Changes in Centrality and "Critical Mass" for "Urban Effect"

5.2 The "De-Polarizazion of Large Cities and Towns, and the Integration of Small and Medium- Sized Towns into Poles

6.  The "Modernity Question" in Town Planning

6.1 The Proper Way to Request More Public Spaces

6.2 The Risk of an Outmoded Model for Urban Life

6.3 A suitable Approach to Modernity


Chapter Four

Urban Planning and Ecology: What Relationship?

1. Urban Planning and Ecology: a Promise of Marriage Never  Kept or Alternatively a Case of Hermaphroditism?

2. Planning and Ecology: Postulates

2.1 The Exogenous Nature of the (Technological, Geo-morphological, Economic, etc.) Conditions 

2.2 The Exogenous Nature of the Objective that Constitute the Preference Function

3. The Methodological Prerequisites in the Planning of the Ecological City

3.1 The Appropriate Spatial Unit of Evaluation and Planning

3.2 The Land-use Matrix

3.3 The Definition of Loading Capacity Indicators and Parameters

4. Application to a Case of a Policy of Urban "Sustainability"

4.1 Implications of the Use of Assumable Postulates

4.2 The Effects of the Adoption of the Prejudicial Instruments of   Analysis


Chapter Five

The "Urban Mobility Integrated Basin": A Pre-requisite of rational Planning

1. The "Urban Mobility Integrated Basin" (UMIB)

2. The Policy-oriented Demand for Urban Transport

3. General Approach to the Definition of Urban Planning Objectives

4. The UMIB Accessibility System

4.1 Supply of Accessibility

4.2 Demand for Accessibility

4.3 Costs (or Prices) of Accessibility

4.4 Relations Between the Components of the Accessibility System

5. Operational Specification of Objectives: The Use of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

6. Concluding Remarks


Chapter Six

The Labor-Market Basin: Misleading Approaches

1. An Interpretative Definition of the Labour Market Basin

2. An Operational Definition of the Labour Basin 

3. A Definition of the Labour Basin on the Basis of an Integrated Approach

4. The Measurement of the Integrated Objective Function

4.1 Opportunities

4.2 Accessibility

5. The Optimal Dimension of the Labour Basin

5.1 Services that Maximise Opportunities

5.2 Distance (Travelling Time) that Constitutes the Accessibility Constraint

5.3 Other Contents to Define the Opportunities

6. The Labour Basin Functional to Labour Management


Chapter Seven

The Land-Use Resources Matrix: An Instrument for Environmental Planning

1. Why a Land-Use Resources Matrix (LURM)?

2. Nature and Characteristics of the Land-use Resources Matrix 

3. The Land-Use Balance

4. The "Economic" Evaluation of Land-Use

5. The Utilisation of the LURM

6. Other Instruments of Evaluation Interlinked with the LURM


Chapter Eight

Ecological Equilibrium and Land-use Planning:  the Italian Case

1. The Foundation of Ecological Equilibrium between Human Activities and Land-Use

2. The Urban System as a more Appropriate Place of Eco-systemic  Measurement, Evaluation and Management

3. A Reorganization by "Urban Ecosystems" of the Italian Territory: the "Quadroter" research Project

4. The Nature and Limits of the "Quadroter" Project as an Instrument of Land-Use Policy


Chapter Nine

The "Urban Environment Programme" of the Italian Government Ten-Year Plan for the Environment (Decamb)

1. The Ten-Year Plan for the Environment (Decamb) of the Italian Ministry of the Environment

2. The Cultural and Scientific Premises of the Decamb Urban Environment Programme

2.1 Identity of the Environmental Policy and Land-Use Policy

2.2 An Analysis of Urban Decay in Italy

3. The Decamb Urban Environment Programme

3.1 General Objectives

3.2 The Action Programmes

4. A short Description Of the Action Programmes

4.1. The Design of Alternative Centres to the Single Historic Centre of the Area

4.2. Design Aimed at the Requalification of the Metropolitan Peripheral Areas

4.3. The Planning and Management of Urban Transport with Respect to the Depolarisation Strategy of the "Historic" Centres in the Metropolitan Areas

4.4. The Urban Recovery and Restoration of the "Historic" Centres in the Metropolitan Areas

4.5. The Design of New "Systems of Cities", in the Non-Metropolitan Areas as "Urban Eco-Systems"

4.6 The Restoration of the Historic Centres of the Intermediate Cities and in the New Systems of Cities

4.7. Qualification of the Non-Urban Areas : the Utras ("Territorial Units of Historical-Cultural and Environmental Recovery" UTRAS)

5. Conclusions