It’s not about compact cities

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Herburger, J. (2023). It’s not about compact cities. Dialogues in Human Geography, 13(1), 1-6.


Beitrag in wissenschaftlicher Fachzeitschrift


While the compact city has become a major element for sustainable urban development and one of the most controversially discussed issues in contemporary urban studies, I argue that compactness has been a central element of various models of urban development for over 100 years. When we talk about a ‘renewed agenda’ for the compact city, we need to consider how historic settlement patterns, shaped by specific socio-historical conditions and ideas of compactness are re-structured through the contemporary conception of the compact city. My main argument is that the compact city in its current conception is mainly treating symptoms of unsustainable urban development but does not go deep enough to change existing patterns of uneven social geographies. By integrating the compact city with Henri Lefebvre’s conception of centrality I discuss four socio–material relations to demonstrate how centrality affects the social unevenness of spatial development and can lead us towards an understanding of compact cities as multiscalar fields of relations today.



  • Liechtenstein School of Architecture