Modelling urban networks at mega-regional scale: Are increasingly complex urban systems sustainable?by Joan Marull, Carme Font, Rafael Boix

Land Use Policy


Land Use Policy 43 (2015) 15–27

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Land Use Policy j o ur na l ho me page: www.elsev ier .com/ locate / landusepol

Modell cal comple

Joan Mar a Barcelona Ins 193 Be b Department o ain c Department o pain a r t i c l

Article history:

Received 10 Ja

Received in re

Accepted 20 O



Urban system

Network modelling



Efficiency stain dema cien mega the D e nod indic se in use of graphs and small-world networks that other authors have carried out to explain similar structures.

In the article we apply the structural indicators to 12 European mega-regions. The main conclusion is that mega-regional urban systems respond to increasing complexity by adapting their relational structures to become more efficient and stable, and become more sustainable forms of organization. Consequently,


Over the constantly the real forc ing effect of are not con which are a scale transThe develo of the dens resulting in point of vie be accelera huge amoun with higher 2008; Ross, received les ∗ Correspon

E-mail add http://dx.doi.o 0264-8377/© it could be necessary to re-direct land use policies towards improving sustainability at the level of the mega-region. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. n last two centuries the boundaries of the city have been redefined. Trullén et al. (2013) recently explained that e behind the city’s change of scale has been the liberatso called “spatially mobile external economies” which strained to a single place by agglomeration forces and ble to create what Lang and Nelson (2009) call “largemetropolitan urban structures”, such as mega-regions. pment of the mega-region is cause and consequence ification and acceleration of socio-economic processes, increasing levels of complexity. From an economic w, the mega-region scale of organization appears to ting global change (Grazi et al., 2008), concentrating a t of world production and innovation, and is associated levels of per capita income and creativity (Florida et al., 2009; Marull et al., 2013). However, an issue that has s attention in the literature (exceptions are Wheeler, ding author. Tel.: +34 93 586 8880; fax: +34 93 581 4433. ress: (J. Marull). 2009 and Campbell, 2009) is that once formed mega-regions also become huge consumers of resources.

The question we raise is whether, once formed, the subsequent dynamics of mega-regions are sustainable or not. This question is relevant. A positive expectation of the sustainability of existing mega-regions is a reason to facilitate the conditions for the formation of new ones. On the other hand, evidence that existing mega-regions are evolving towards positions of reduced sustainability provides arguments for preventing new ones being formed, while for existing mega-regions although it could be difficult to dissolve them there could nevertheless be attempts to manage them through pro-active policy.

To shed some light on this question, we propose an isomorphism, where mega-regions are defined as “complex open systems” made of “urban networks” (Wilson, 2009; Changizi and Destefano, 2009). This isomorphism brings together two approaches: network theory and thermodynamics. The metaphors of “system”, “network” and “assemblage” (Dematteis, 1991; Camagi and Salone, 1993; De Landa, 2006) can be drawn on to facilitate a conceptual transition across several scales of “the city”: from the idea of “the nodal city” to that of “the local labour market”; then from this to the notion of “the metropolitan area”; and finally thereon to transmetropolitan scales such as “the mega-region” (Florida et al., 2007, rg/10.1016/j.landusepol.2014.10.014 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights urban networks at mega-regional s x urban systems sustainable? ull a,∗, Carme Fonta,b, Rafael Boixc titute of Regional and Metropolitan Studies, Autonomous University of Barcelona, E-08 f Mathematics, Autonomous University of Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Sp f Economic Structure, University of Valencia, Avda. dels Tarongers, E-46022 Valencia, S e i n f o nuary 2014 vised form 10 October 2014 ctober 2014 a b s t r a c t

Are the dynamics of mega-regions su plexity in mega-regions implies less thereby making the systems more effi for measuring urban networks at the band near-visible infrared channel of the urban networks as graphs, wher represent the edges. We propose four and stability of networks of cities. Thee: Are increasingly llaterra, Barcelona, Spain able or not? We explore the hypothesis that increasing comnds on resources needed to generate organized information, t and stable. This article aims to identify structural indicators -regional scale. We use night-time light data from the broad

MSP-OLS to monitor the dynamics of urbanization. We study es are cities, and the main road and railway infrastructures ators for measuring the complexity, polycentricity, efficiency dicators are derived from studies and approaches such as the 16 J. Marull et al. / Land Use Policy 43 (2015) 15–27 2008; Trullén et al., 2013). All of them can be considered as particular cases of a general theory of urban networks. By means of network theory we can: a) move fro the areal of as a ne tion of n in contra work of c b) analyze t tem”. In three ch features but also be define a large n between

Complex by dissipati namics, “co internal ex information a collective flows) with flows are “a cess whereb serves to or of the syste nization” (C perturbatio

Kondepudi absorb an u increasing c trol over, th limit energ and stabilit ple explana complex str also provide might be fi region in fa organizing efficient an

In order focuses on 12 Europea cle is struct provides an procedures three intro world grap polycentric acterization