Dissertation Abstracts

Territorial dispersion patterns of residential areas. Urban sprawl as an outcome of multi-scalar territorial governance processes of land bargaining in the Barcelona and Milan metropolitan regions.

Author: Pagliarin, Sofia , pagliarin.sofia@gmail.com
Department: Social Sciences and Research; Architecture, Urban Design, Regional Planning
University: Bicocca University of Milan; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Joint Phd Diploma), Italy
Supervisor: Prof. Matteo Colleoni, Prof. Frank Moulaert
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: urban sprawl , territorial governance , land use transformations , Barcelona Milan
Areas of Research: Regional and Urban Development , Housing and Built Environment


This research deals with the territorial dispersion patterns in the expansion of residential areas, i.e. urban sprawl, conceived as an outcome of governance processes.
Urban sprawl, as a type of land use transformation, originates from the decisions over land management carried out by certain actors. An appropriate theoretical framework is proposed, and empirically implemented, to analyze actors’ governance dynamics of land management. Such effort is particularly relevant because, in the international literature on urban sprawl, political and planning factors are only limitedly focused on. The attempt to address this lacuna is performed by combining a territorial, multi-scalar and multi-actor governance perspective with the bargaining context model.
Urban sprawl is defined as a predominantly residential phenomenon, and two case studies are considered, namely the metropolitan areas of Barcelona and Milan. In both case studies, urban sprawl is measured through different spatial scales (administrative boundaries, metropolitan delimitations, Larger Urban Zones, Urban Morphological Zones and NUTS 3 level or provinces) for a period of approximately 50 years, employing both local data, for the 1950s-2000s timespan, and the Corine Land Cover (CLC) surveys for 1990, 2000 and 2006.
The analysis shows that there has been a decentralization of urban functions (industries, services, housing) in both Barcelona and Milan, facilitated by the growth of transport infrastructures (hypothesis 1). However, evidence has shown that the built-up forms in Barcelona are less territorially dispersed in terms of residential areas than in the case of Milan.
Through the analysis of demographic data (1981-2011), demographic de-concentration processes from the city center to the metropolitan areas and regions of both cities have been identified; however, in the Barcelona case the population remains more concentrated, while in the Milan case it is more dispersed.
Barcelona province is less fragmented than Milan: hence, in general, less administrative fragmentation (number of municipalities per province) can be a sufficient condition to observe a lesser spatially dispersed pattern of residential areas.
With regard to governance processes, the analysis of qualitative data (interviews, documents and planning regulations) reveals that municipalities (the local scale) hold the wider competences over local urban planning (hypothesis 2). Within their relative metropolitan area, local governments take localized planning decisions over urban development in order to compete for attracting resources as compared to the adjacent municipalities (hypothesis 3). Hence, urban sprawl consists of land use micro-transformations carried out by local authorities to obtain a competitive edge with regard to the other municipalities located within the metropolitan boundaries.
The different territorial dispersion patterns of residential areas observed in Barcelona and Milan are explained by the decisive role that the metropolitan and regional governments play(ed) with regard to land management. From the performed analysis it can be concluded that, for urban sprawl containment, not only the metropolitan scale is relevant (hypothesis 4), but in turn the cooperation between actors at the metropolitan and regional authorities is crucial. In particular, the predominant position of the regional government is key for land containment.