POINT (18.068581 59.329324)
  • SmartImpact


    Kick-off meeting in June (Dublin). Transnational meeting in October (Stockholm).
    Transnational meetings in February (Miskolc), April (Zagreb), June (Porto) and October (Guadalajara).
    Final event in March (Manchester).

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

    Keep following our social media channels as we develop Tech Revolution 2.0 as part of the second wave of URBACT ||| Programme. 

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    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    The focus of this Action Planning network was less about technology solutions per se, but more about governance structures, process and business models. The partner cities are specifically worked together to: develop models of how organisations can adapt their structures to deliver smart cities; effectively finance smart solutions and creating new ways of understanding value with co-investment strategies; develop and support innovation ecosystems within cities; explore the role of regulations and incentives, e.g. the carrot and stick approach; better understand how data integration and urban data platforms can support the smart city.

    Cities, people and the promotion of smart, sustainable development
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  • Gender sensitive public space? Placemaking and spatial justice through the perspective of gender

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    Women walking on the street

    Take a trip down memory lane with us. Re-discover stories and reflections that we've captured over the last years. This article was first published in 2018 and, yet, is more relevant than ever. 



    What do we mean by the ‘gendered nature’ of urban space? How can a better awareness of gender create safer and more inclusive cities?  


    These questions were explored back in the very first URBACT Gender Equal Cities workshop in Stockholm (SE), back in 2018. The session took place within the framework of the inaugural European Placemaking Conference.  Over 2 days 170 participants from 20 countries came together to consider how cities, civil society and professionals can meet the challenges of displacement and loss of affordability in urban centres across Europe. How can we as placemakers strengthen spatial justice, to build the cities for all, aspired to in Sustainable Development Goal 11.? The call to action, in line with URBACT’s mission, was to be aware of the bigger picture: to understand the political, cultural and economic dynamics of the city and to boost cohesion by involving all communities, stakeholders and voices in a meaningful way.


    Gender Equal Cities, URBACT’s new initiative, seeks to highlight ways in which cities are driving change to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. As this was the first ever consultation for us specifically on this topic, we were keen to get the ball rolling and start the debate. Through presentations and discussion a number of strong messages emerged.


    • Involve women and girls more in every stage of urban design
    • Pay more attention to all women’s voices to ensure we feel relaxed and safe in public spaces
    • Plug the knowledge gap on what makes public space more inclusive, what girls and women want
    • Collect, analyse and use disaggregated data about public space relating not only to gender, but age, ethnicity, disability, class
    • Understand how to integrate both women friendly spaces and women only spaces
    • Adapt participatory methods to be welcoming and appropriate



    The Gendered City



    To begin with, Linda Gustafsson, Gender Equality Officer, presented the URBACT Good Practice on gender mainstreaming in Umea, northern Sweden, where the city has committed to involving all citizens in co-creation. She stressed that:


    “A sustainable city can only be built together with those who will live in it. All planning should be permeated by openness, democracy and equality. We will develop the city and the public space so that everyone, women and men, children, young people and people with disability, can participate on equal terms. That leads to a city for everyone.”


    Crucially, Linda also explained the factors that contribute to how the city is experienced in a gendered way, which include the segregated labour market, modes of transport, different ways of moving around, gender based violence, responsibility for unpaid labour and caregiving, and use of free time.

    In order for policymakers to understand these differences in the way women and men experience the urban environment we need more training, awareness and better evidence of the specific challenges faced by women and marginalised groups.

    Cornelis Uittenbogaard of the Safer Sweden Foundation presented research results on perceptions and reality in relation to the key issue of safety.


    Even in a country like Sweden, seen as a beacon for equality, public space is not perceived equally between men and women. Fear of being a victim is generally 10-15 percentage points higher in women than men and 50% of women reported feeling unsafe in ‘vulnerable areas’. Gendered violence doesn’t just affect women: the reality is that men are in fact more often victims of violence and robbery in public space, but women are 540% more often victims of sexual abuse. One explanation for these differences is how women’s internalised fears affect their perceptions of and behaviour within public spaces. 


    The analysis from both Cornelis and Linda was that many inequalities stem from the fact that public space is often dominated and designed by men: it may not be accessible for all, it lacks the right kind of street life and effective lighting.  The simple solution- easier said than done- is to plan a good city, which includes a flow of activity, a mix of functions and the vibrancy born of daily interactions.


    The examples and views shared by participants, reported below, help us move in the right direction.



    Feminist Urban Planning


    In Sweden the concept of feminist urban planning is rapidly growing into mainstream practice. One element of Umea’s gender equality strategy is a bus tour which shows visitors and citizens around the city and invites them to look at it afresh from a gender perspective. They consider for instance how the sports facilities are used, who uses public transport, where the parking spaces are in relation to employment hubs and the hospital, as well as which parts of the city look uninviting and poorly lit.  This tour serves both as an awareness raising tool, and a means to develop better policy and practice through regular revisiting of the gendered city.


    In Husby, Sweden, an initiative was started by local women who felt unsafe and saw public places were dominated and controlled by men. Svenska Bostäder, a housing company owned by the city of Stockholm, developed the central area from a feminist perspective. The new measures include social activities welcoming to women, lighting, access to the metro, a new café to replace one that was only frequented by men, a playground, more commerce and a market.



    Universal Design, spaces for all and spaces for women



    The principles of good planning and universal design, taught in most urban disciplines, but maybe not with sufficient emphasis or resonance, can help to create places that are well-loved and well used by people of all walks of life, of a mix of ages, genders, religions, socio-economic classes and ethnicities. Jacqueline Bleicher of Global Urban Design reminded us "In a  truly inclusive, universal place women feel safe, children run and play, the elderly can sit and socialise, teenagers can chat with friends, and singles can read in comfort. Everyone can be their best self, feel comfortable and be at peace with their neighbour." So keeping these principles central to the process can help create more gender sensitive places.


    Minouche Besters of STIPO talked about the need to have different types of spaces in the city for inclusion generally, and gave examples from the Netherlands. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is an activity or space designed to make sure that it is accessible for all, such as Debuurt park camping: low cost, local, with the facility to rent equipment and no alcohol on sale to respect cultural values. The ‘special size for special fit’ are more customised, single sex initiatives aimed at creating a feeling of security and confidence. An example was the swimming pools that have specific women only times, when girls and women can happily swim in burkinis.








    This led us to the question: ‘How can the needs of women whose voices may be marginalised, who are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination be amplified and brought into the design and animation of public space? Examples were shared of initiatives that harnessed the entrepreneurial drive of migrant women and pride in their culture.

    Rozina Spinnoy, Director of BIDS Belgium reported on a project in Brussels established with Turkish women who wanted to run a Festival in her local park. The Flemish Government helped facilitate crowdfunding of 17,000 Euro to create a local community Summer cafe/bar for social and cultural gatherings, encouraging inclusive activities with entrepreneurial women from Moroccan, Turkish and many other origins. These events encourage a feeling of ‘safety’ as well as inclusivity, with activities running in late Summer evenings in the public spaces around the cafe. In Denmark, local Latin American women set up a neighbourhood movie club, in part driven by their desire to make sure their children knew their roots. Involving marginalised women has to be meaningful and bring benefit for them, which can also include better access to local authority staff and services.


    Knowledge Gap


    The absence of women and girls in the urban planning process creates a knowledge gap, resulting in public spaces that exclude. White Architect’s Places for Girls research project undertook the mission to find out how to create better places for girls in the city. Designed as an art project, a multi-disciplinary team – including girls from a Stockholm youth council – collaborated to answer questions around identity and equity.  A concrete example of the outcome was that the young women consulted stated a clear preference for public seating in formations opposite each other, rather than the usual single bench looking out in one direction asserting: “We want to look each other in the eye.



    Participatory processes

    Above all, better participatory dialogue and processes hold the key to more inclusive design. Rebecca Rubin of White Architect’s  reported how they had learnt from the girls who came into their studio how they preferred to work collaboratively, not competitively. The teenage girls become the experts, the professionals had their assumptions challenged and the co-design methods were improved as a result.


    Amplifying the conversation


    This first URBACT Gender Equal cities workshop concluded with the resounding consensus that education and awareness are vital. In particular there is a need to take the conversation about gender sensitive planning into traditionally male-dominated environments such as real estate, transport companies and architecture, for women to be change agents alongside male allies.  Our goal is to bring together local stakeholders and women's voices, not just once, but over the long-term to create the awareness that can lead to better designed, gender equal cities.  The vision of a gender equal city is everyone’s responsibility, and in everyone’s interest. When we strive for great places, with a heightened awareness of gender specific needs and the tools to include and co-design for all, we can start to make a difference.






    Are you interested in joining an Action Planning Network on the topic of gender equality? Share your project idea in the URBACT Partner Search Tool!

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  • France’s ÉcoQuartier label, an initiative to support communities for sustainable city planning

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    The concept of “écoquartier” - the term is a contraction of the two French words “quartier” and “écologique” (ecological neighbourhood) - was inspired by Northern European countries experiences of eco-districts.

    By creating a Label, delivered in four stages and according to urban sustainable development criteria, the French State wanted to push the approach one step further. The approach was successful in France, now also opened to other neighbourhoods and cities throughout the world.

    Eco-districts: historical background of the concept and first projects in Europe

    Carbon neutrality

    The Aalborg Charter, signed in 1994 by the participants of the European conference on sustainable cities, reinforces the commitment of European cities to deploy local urban development programmes in communities.

    The first eco-districts appeared at the same period. Pioneers include two eco-districts built on converted industrial wasteland:

    And one district, in which former military barracks were converted:

    Challenges of social mix and of standardisation of buildings

    Although the concept of eco-districts is a success, criticisms have been levelled at this “first generation” of projects. They are mainly accused of not being sufficiently mixed and some sociologists talk of neoliberalism and neo-communitarism that some say are nothing more than the early stages of a gentrification of these neighbourhoods (Béal V., Charvolin F., Morel Journel C., 2011). The standardisation of buildings, which meets precise environmental standards so as to make them more energy efficient, is also condemned. It may have contributed to create a standardisation of “model neighbourhoods” (Boutaud B., 2009) where the characteristics of a place, its local culture and its heritage become invisible.

    The French Ecoquartier label translates urban sustainable development principles

    France started to use the concept in the 2000s. After the Law following the ‘Grenelle de l’Environnement’ (2007), the approach was adapted and expanded to any new urbanisation project in every French town. In 2008, the government launched the « Sustainable City Plan », which comprises, among others, the ÉcoQuartier approach.

    This approach became the ÉcoQuartier label. Today over 800 French communities are members of the ‘Club EcoQuartier’. The label guarantees the quality of the projects according to fundamental criteria (on technical, governance, economical and ‘well-being’ dynamics). The approach is flexible and it allows the ÉcoQuartier frame of reference to be put in context and adapted whatever the territory and type of city, regardless of its size, context, history and culture.

    Translating the urban sustainable development principles without standardising the neighbourhoods, this is what the 20 ÉcoQuartier commitments want to ensure. These 20 commitments also highlight citizen involvement (commitment 4: “Take into account the practices of users and the constraints of all stakeholders in the options of design and conception”) and social diversity (commitment 7: “Implement the conditions of social and intergenerational diversity, living well together and solidarity”).

    The ÉcoQuartier label is delivered in four stages:

    • label stage 1 - project stage
    • label stage 2 - under construction
    • label stage 3 - delivered
    • label stage 4 – confirmed

    This approach with stages allows communities to benefit from a number of resources, expert support, dedicated training, and regional exchange days with other communities and partners. It also gives national visibility to their projects. This will soon give also European visibility thanks to the Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities.

    A tool to spread sustainable development that has similarities with URBACT

    In order to spread sustainable development across France, the ÉcoQuartier approach uses similar methods to that of the URBACT programme. The two approaches share the same objective of bringing together multiple actors and offering the possibility of working together so as to create resilient territories capable of adapting to face climate challenges. The two approaches also offer support to territories that want to become more welcoming and dynamic.

    Mouans-Sartoux: a city committed to becoming more sustainable

    Mouans-Sartoux, located in the South of France, provides an example of the benefits of being involved in initiatives such as URBACT and Ecoquartier in order to scale up and improve policy making. Involved in the AGRI-URBAN URBACT network (which supports urban agriculture), the city has also been awarded the URBACT Good Practice label for its experience in “healthy and locally produced collective school catering. Mouans-Sartoux also eventually decided to invest in the ÉcoQuartier approach. Mouans-Sartoux signed the ÉcoQuartier Charter in 2017, and achieved so far the label – stage 1 - for its Plaines Chapelle neighbourhood.

    Exchanging with other cities: a virtuous loop for Strasbourg Euro-metropole

    Sharing one’s experience is a crucial asset that both URBACT and ÉcoQuartier approaches provide. Regional events, national days, trainings, seminars, etc. are organised and allow different actors to network. Together, they participate in the dissemination of good practices and the creation of a virtuous loop.

    Strasbourg Eurométropole has been committed for a long time to the preservation of biodiversity. 2014 winner of the ‘Capitale Française de la Biodiversité’ (national French award for Biodiversity) and “Best city for biodiversity 2017”, the municipality is also a member of the Club ÉcoQuartier, with the ÉcoQuartier du Danube (label stage 2) and the ÉcoQuartier de la Brasserie (label stage 3). Alain Jund, Vice-president of Strasbourg Eurométropole and Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg, chairs the ÉcoQuartier national committee. Strasbourg Eurométropole has joined the URBACT EGTC network (development of trans border strategies of urban development) and was labelled URBACT Good Practice city’ for its Biodiversity Charter. The city is also a member of the BOOSTINNO network on social innovation.

    Shared governance and citizens’ involvement

    The URBACT and EcoQuartier approaches promote shared governance. URBACT Local Groups gather key stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Similarly, the ÉcoQuartier approach involves a wide range of internal partners (with a requirement to ensure a transversal approach in the services) and external partners (actors of the project: inhabitants, users, managers, planners, promoters, economic operators, associations, institutional partners, social housing).

    Successful engagement of local community in the renovation of the city

    Les Mureaux, Ile de France

    The municipality of Les Mureaux, located in the Ile-de-France region, was awarded the ÉcoQuartier label – stage 4 in 2017. As a partner between 2009 and 2013 of the URBACT CASH network on affordable housing, the municipality mobilised both experts and associations for its urban renovation project. The city emphasised an integrated and participative approach, in particular for the design of the Parc Molière, based on a widespread consultation of inhabitants, future users and managers. The kitchen gardens, the play areas and the sports fields were also imagined with the inhabitants, within a system of support and awareness.

    Morne à l’Eau, Guadeloupe

    The willingness to include local residents in the preparation and implementation of projects is omnipresent at Morne-à-l’Eau, a municipality involved both in the ÉcoQuartier approach and in the URBACT programme (CityMobilNet network).

    Located on the Island of Guadeloupe, in the West Indies, Morne-à-l’Eau organised discussion workshops between local residents and the consultancy office in charge of the urban development project for the ÉcoQuartier Cœur de Grippon. This bottom-up work reassured local residents, answered their questions throughout the process and ensured a better undertaking of their expectations.

    The Label Eco-quartier assesses the engagement of the community with its stage 4 label award process

    The fourth and final stage of the Ecoquartier label assesses the successful involvement of local actors throughout the project. Three years after achieving the ÉcoQuartier label - stage 3, a visit of the neighbourhood and a meeting with local stakeholders are organised by experts mandated by the ministry. This self-assessment approach combining local residents and users of the territory is designed to constantly improve and recognise actions taken on a long-term basis by the community.

    In 2017, five ÉcoQuartiers were awarded the stage 4 label. A film shows the improvements on those four neighbourhoods, voicing out the experience of its residents.

    An international future for the French Ecoquartier Label?

    In 2014, at the World Urban Forum, a number of Latin American cities got in touch with the services of the French ministry for support to implement the ÉcoQuartier label in their countries. Already, in Japan, the Morino neighbourhood in the city of Funabashi was awarded the label stage 3 in 2016.

    Why not in Europe? Would EcoQuartier be a good topic for an URBACT Network?


    An article written by Delphine Gaudart and Sarah Petrovitch, Master student in Cultural and Political Geography, at Paris-Sorbonne University, having written a research paper on smart cities and currently trainee within the Ministry of Territories Cohesion in the unit animating the French EcoQuartier label.

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  • Growing cities: How to Expand in a Sustainable and Integrated way?

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    Population growth contributes in many cases also to increase in financial resources. Cities where population and economic growth go hand in hand can be consideredto be in a fortunate position. But how can growing and rich cities be expanded in sustainable way? 

    Carbon neutrality

    Urban development challenges in growing cities

    European cities face serious challenges in the upcoming decades. These challenges are well summarized in the Cities of Tomorrow booklet (2011). On the basis of their population dynamism, however, European cities are in very different positions regarding the ways how they can tackle the challenges. Just to mention the two most extreme categories: some 165 million EU citizens live in cities which grow dynamically (mostly due to migration). On the other hand, some 25 million Europeans live in „dynamically shrinking” cities (Gerőházi et al, 2011).

    This article deals with the first category, i.e. with growing cities. Population growth contributes in many cases also to increase in financial resources. Let us concentrate now on this, fortunate category of cities where population and economic growth go hand in hand. How can growing cities be expanded in sustainable way? 

    In this article the main example will be the city of Vienna, while also the case of Stockholm and Munich will be mentioned. All the three cities belong to the happy category of cities which grow both in terms of the population and economy. Under these circumstances all three of the cities decided to create a large new residential area within their city borders: Aspern Seestadt in Vienna, Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm, and Freiham in Munich (the first is under construction, the second close to be finished while the third just about to start). The figures are similar and very impressive: in Aspern over 20 thousand persons will live in 10,5 thousand housing units within 20 years from now; Hammarby Sjöstad will soon reach 25 thousand residents in 11 thousand flats, while Freiham is planned to be home for 20 thousand persons.

    It is clear that to build large new residential areas is not the only solution in growing cities, there are also other options to accomodate the tens of thousands of newcomers to the city. To create new, compact residential neighbourhoods within the city is obviously better than to allow (or force, if no other options exist) the newly arriving people to spread out to the suburbs. There are cities, however, who aim to avoid the expansion of residential areas even within the city and opt for the (re-)densification of existing urbanized areas. Such integrated „re-use” interventions are discussed in the URBACT Use Act First Thematic Paper (Torbianelli, 2014) on the case of Rome, Dublin and Trieste.

    If a decision is taken to build a completely new residential district, this seems not to be a very difficult task – what could limit the phantasy of the planners…? However, the large number of mistakes committed in the past should make the city officials and planners cautious. There are many dangers to avoid when building completely new residential areas in cities. Some of these dangers are quite obvious on the examples of large new areas developed exclusively by the public sector or solely by the private sector.

    These dead-end pathways of urbanism, the large prefabricated housing estates and the endless monotonous suburbs, are well known and there are no cities (at least in Europe) which would like to commit now the same mistakes again.

    So it is clear what not to do and how not to do it. The main question, however, still has to be answered: how to achieve an integrated new development with a healthy combination of economic, environmental and social aspects? The difficulties are well illustrated in the following figure (taken over from Poldermans, 2005). 

    City planners and politicians in the three case study cities are all aware about these conflicts and try to handle them carefully in lengthy planning processes, including all types of present and future stakeholders.

    The example of Vienna Aspern Seestadt

    As an example to illustrate the planning process below some milestones are listed from the long history of planning of the Aspern area:

    • Aspern airport was opened in 1912 and it served until 1977 when it was closed down.
    • 2003: the start of the planning process for a new residential area.
    • 2005: start of masterplanning, announcing in the winner – the Swedish architect Johannes Tovatt brought the idea to create a lake in the middle of the future residential area.
    • 2008-2009: first detailed competition about public space.
    • 2009: start of the construction of underground line access (as extension of the U2 line).
    • 2011: planning competitions for residential buildings, allowing also for co-housing projects.
    • 2012: the infopoint, Flederhaus has been opened and the first paths were built at the airfield (which was not accessible for 100 years).
    • 2012: IQ is the first completed (office) building, as a plus energy building.
    • 2013 October: public transport links opened (underground to city centre and several bus lines) before the first residents arrived.
    • 2014: at the beginning of the year the neighbourhood management office has been opened, growing to an office with 15 staff members.
    • 2009-2016: the first phase of development has an area of 415000 sq m, for 6500 people.
    • The pace of further development: 2017-2023: net development area 470000 sq m; 2024-2029: net development area 197000 sq m.

    For the Aspern Seestadt project a specific development agency has been established to develop the technical infrastructure (roads, sewer network, etc.), construct the central lake, lay out the green spaces and deal with the developers of the residential and other functions in the area. 







    With the commissioning of the Aspern/Essling geothermal plant and the connection of Aspern Seestadt to the district heating grid of Vienna there is a far-reachig self-supply with renewable energy achieved. The link to the district heating grid also allows to fed in heat that would otherwise get lost.

    Currently 14 developers (and one co-housing organization) are active in residential development in Aspern. From the 2500 flats in the first phase 1/3 are subsidised while 2/3 follow the rules of subsidized housing with no subsidy (allowing for some public control). The size of the new flats ranges between 35 and 110 square meters.

    The ground floor level of the new buildings is built with higher ceiling to allow for office, shop, art-workshop functions and the renting out of these places follows a specific process, through a dedicated company. Instead of building a shopping centre local supply will be assured in walking distance with appropriate shopping mix.

    In connection with the high level of public transport, car parking supply is seriously limited to 0,7 car/flat norm (much lower than the 1-3 car/flat ratio in the surrounding areas…) Developers do not have to build many parking spaces but have to contribute with 1000 eur/flat to a Mobility Fund from which biking (rental bike system, e-bikes and cargo bikes) and car-sharing systems are supported.

    This short summary shows a series of new, innovative methods in Vienna urban planning: dedicated development company, high importance devoted to public space and mobility, ground-floor planning, co-housing, strong emphasis on neighbourhood management… In fact in Vienna the Aspern area is considered as a Living Lab in the Smart City agenda.

    Dilemmas and trade-offs to achieve balance between environmental, economic and social goals of development

    The short summary above shows that in the planning process of Aspern Seestadt all principles of sustainable urban development have been applied. More or less similar is the case with Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm and the same is foreseen for Freiham in Munich.

    Thus the three rich and environmentally conscious cities build their new housing areas along the best known principles of sustainable and integrated development. But is this enough to avoid future problems? Is it totally sure that neither of these brave large new urban developments will prove to be in a few decades dead-end pathways of urbanism?

    Integrated urban development is a complex process with many dilemmas and trade-offs. Despite the best will of the planners and local politicians we can not be sure about the long-term outcomes of these large-scale projects. Although it is not easy to make neutral judgements and evaluations, the first signs of worry can already be seen in the Vienna and Stockholm cases.

    The non-(or only part-) fulfilment of the original ecological aims

    According to Poldermans (2005) in Hammarby Sjöstad the original parking norm was between 0,4 and 0,55 car/apartment, which has been increased to 0,7 when the political leadership of the city has changed. This might have been contributing to the fact that the aimed very high value of 80-90% share of public transport in work-related travel has never been reached – the maximum was 70% (which is also relatively high).

    Similar problems might arise in Aspern where already now large debates are going on about the lack of parking places and there are also arguments to speed up the development of access roads – despite the excellent public transport connection to the city centre.

    The originally planned goal of carbon-neutrality has been given up in Aspern (some of the planned power plants was not built). Thus instead of carbon-neutral it will only be low-energy area, well behind the best examples in this field.

    The ambitious plans in Aspern for mixed shops and also culture-oriented use of the groundfloor structures seem only partly realizing: the groundfloor zone is unaffordable on market prices for artists and there is also a discussion going on to turn some of the groundfloor areas into flats.

    The trade-off between environmental and social goals

    As Rutherford (2013) points out in his critical evaluation, in Hammarby Sjöstad originally 50% share was aimed for social rental flats but this was not achieved as building costs increased and social subsidies were gradually removed since the 1980s, resulting in a push towards privately owned properties. In that way the new housing area could not fight – as originally expected – the existing socio-spatial segregation of Stockholm city, rather adopted to it (Gaffney, 2007).

    The sharpest critics has been formulated by Rutherford (2013) in the following way „… the Hammarby project constitutes a clear case of (at least partial) gentrification with the selling off of public land to developers and then to relatively wealthy households. The City imposed environmental measures on developers who pushed their prices up so that only wealthier households can now afford to buy an apartment in the district, resembling a form of ‘bourgeois environmentalism’.”

    Regarding Aspern it is too early to talk about the social outcomes. First signs are quite different from the case of gentrifying Hammarby: the real estate value in Aspern is relatively low, even compared to some working class inner city areas of Vienna, as Aspern is considered to be too far out from the city. Thus there is a danger that instead of the aimed social mix an unbalanced social structure might develop with the dominance of lower income families. This would not be an unique case: in the Munich Riem area (similar new residential development) there were many planning efforts to create a mixed area both regarding offices and residential and regarding different income groups. Recent analysis, however, shows the dominance of low income people.

    Trade-off between building extraordinary new areas and regenerating the existing deteriorating housing stock of the city

    It is always a big question, where to concentrate public efforts to improve the sustainability of the city in an integrated way. Not even the richest cities can afford to create new eco-friendly areas and regenerate their existing outdated and/or deprived neighbourhoods at once.  

    There are a number of interesting examples in Europe with sustainable regeneration efforts concentrating on existing urban areas. The case of Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg is one of such examples, where a 7 year long IBA process has been established with the explicit aim of energy-led improvement of the existing low prestige neighbourhood (see Czischke et al, 2015). Also the earlier URBACT publication on building energy efficiency (Borghi et al, 2013) includes interesting information about interventions into old neighbourhoods of cities.

    The importance of the sustainable regeneration of existing urban areas has also been shown by the 2014 Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. In the competition of European cities one of the leading topics was to find innovative approaches to tackle the growing problems of outdated multi-family building areas. Very different technological innovations were suggested (e.g. to use drones to discover heat losses of buildings, or to introduce user-friendly IT systems with detailed data) to boost the interest of the population towards energy efficient renovation.  


    Vienna is one of the most liveable and sustainable cities of the world, with strong traditions also for social equality. The case of Aspern Seestadt illustrates well, how much efforts the city takes to develop the new residential area for the expanding population in sustainable and integrated way.

    Yet there are serious dangers in such projects – it is not at all easy to plan future housing areas of such a big size, achieving environmental, economic and social goals at once. There are already now examples on modifications of the originally aimed targets. The financial crisis has reached also the richest cities which also have to decrease subsidies and give up some of their most ambitious plans.

    When the economic and financial circumstances deteriorate, changes, adaptations to the new circumstances are unavoidable. Such changes do not create huge problems if they only mean modifications of priorities within the same principle – e.g. the less ambitious carbon standards are partly compensated by the still high priority for public transport. Larger problems emerge, however, if the changes lead to the rearrangement of priorities between the basic principles. This is the lesson which can be learnt from Hammarby Sjöstad: insisting to the highest environmental qualities leads to irreversible losses in the social targets as with the decrease of public subsidies only the richer families are able to pay for the increasingly expensive (because environmentally high quality) apartments.

    Vienna (and also Munich with the Freiham area) can learn from this lesson. The balance between the economic-environmental-inclusive principles has to be checked time to time during the whole period of the development of the new neighbourhood. It is not enough to determine the balance at the beginning – this balance has to be kept also when unavoidable financial restrictions have to be applied, public contributions have to be decreased. The well established neighbourhood management team might be a good basis to discover early signs of emerging unbalances and call the attention of politicians and planners to intervene.

    Large-scale new residential areas may contribute to achieve better balance between the different aspects of sustainable and integrated urban development. But this is not easy at all, it needs continuous monitoring of development and flexibility in setting the targets – to avoid the disruption of the balance between the economic, environmental and social aspects.



    Borghi, A – Hogain, S – Lewis, J, 2013: Building energy efficiency in European cities. Cities of Tomorrow – Action Today. URBACT II Capitalisation, May 2013

    Campbell, S. 1996: Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities? Urban Planning and the Contradictions of Sustainable Development. In: Campbell, S. & S. S. Fainstein (2003), Readings in Planning Theory. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.

    Czischke, D – Jonauskis, T – Moloney, C – Scheffler, N – Turcu, C, 2015: Sustainable Regeneration in Urban Areas. URBACT II Capitalisation, May 2015

    Cities of Tomorrow. European Commission – DG Regional Policy. January 2011

    Gaffney, A – Huang, V – Maravilla, K – Soubotin, N, 2007: Hammarby Sjostad Case Study | CP 249 Urban Design in Planning.

    Gerőházi, É – Hegedüs, J – Szemző, H – Tosics, I – Tomay, K – Gere, L (2011) The impact of European demographic trends on regional and urban development. Synthesis report. Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Budapest, April 2011.

    2015 WS4 Sustainable regeneration (Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg)

    Poldermans, C, 2005 Sustainable Urban Development. The Case of Hammarby Sjöstad. Stockholms Universitet

    Rutherford, J, 2013: Hammarby Sjöstad and the rebundling of infrastructure systems in Stockholm. discussion paper for the Chaire Ville seminar, Paris, 12 December 2013. LATTS (Ecole des Ponts ParisTech)

    Torbianelli, V (ed) Planning tools and planning governance for Urban Growth Management and reusing urban areas. URBACT Use Act First Thematic Paper 2014.

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    Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe focuses on the development of integrated, sustainable strategies and dynamic leadership techniques for cities to promote the use of electric vehicles.

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