Urban geographies of housing densification: exploring design, real estate and sustainability agendas in practice (1)

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Organizers: Nicola Livingstone, Catalina Turcu, Michael Short
Chairs: Nicola Livingstone

Call for Submissions

We would like to invite papers which:

• consider variegated approaches to densification and critically assess the (lack of) cohesiveness between real estate, sustainability and urban design actors in ways which may contribute to potential best practice strategies;
• reflect on active market influences (widely defined, from communities, to institutions, government and policy makers) and whether these can facilitate the creation of successful residential and mixed-used developments;
• explore impacts of residential densifcation as an experiential process for those embedded in the development process itself, which can be approached from the perspectives of real estate, urban design and sustainability experts;
• critically examine ways in which urban design processes not only seek to mediate the balance between sustainability concerns and the real estate investment cycle, but additionally mediate the existing character of places with the aspirations of densification strategies;
• evaluate outcomes and perceptions of housing densification from a more longitudinal or historic perspective, and from those who have ‘lived experiences’ of the development;
• conceptualise approaches to the how we can better understand landscapes of residential densification, from the locally specific to broad, more global perspectives.

Please email enquiries and abstracts (250-300 words) to both Nicola Livingstone (n.livingstone@ucl.ac.uk) and Michael Short (michael.short@ucl.ac.uk) by Friday October 26th. Authors will be notified by November 2nd, and must register for the conference and submit their abstracts through the AAG website by the November 8th deadline to be added to the paper session.


This Call for Papers invites contributions that explore the nexus between real estate, sustainability and urban design through residential densification in cities across the globe.

Urban densification has long been seen as an approach to counteracting urban sprawl (EEA, 2006) and delivering sustainability, via more compact cities and efficient use of resources such as land, urban transportation, materials, energy etc. (Breheny, 1995). However, an emerging body of literature points to the shortcomings of urban densification including stress on urban infrastructure, damaging of ecosystems and biodiversity, and encroaching on cultural and heritage spaces. An important strand within this literature sees urban densification as a justification for property-led development which is often connected to negative social impacts; for example, spatial displacement, gentrification and inequality. Additionally, positive trickle-down effects from regenerative property-led development to more deprived communities are not always apparent in reality (Tallon, 2013). However, it has also been argued that urban design, combined with real estate development and planning strategies can effectively create more attractive places and place-making processes, recognising that although real estate actors may enforce constraints, they can also ‘facilitate the creation of successful places’ (Adams & Tiesdell, 2012: 60). These urban design processes can ‘change the decision environment of developers, financiers, designers… in the real estate development process’ (Adams and Tiesdell, 2011: 1) and therefore require them to be more place-focused.

It has been argued that ‘density is a simple yet effective measure that brings together economic, environmental and social benefits, solving the problems of a sprawling society that has become disconnected, disengaged and distant from an earlier ideal of urban propinquity’ (Holman et al, 2016: p. 2). Indeed, Churchman (1999: 389) argues that its appeal to planners and policy makers is that it is ‘objective, quantitative, and neutral’. These ‘multiple win-win claims for density’ (Holman et al, 20165: 2) reflect a view that density is an independent variable (Boyko and Cooper, 2011) that somehow delivers a set of un- or ill-defined benefits. Density can, however, be perceived and therefore be experiential. This, unlike the ‘measurable’ indicators of density is a relative and subjective indicator. Perceived density is not solely about the relation between individuals and their surrounding environment, but also about the relations among the individuals in the space (Ng, 2010).

Based upon empirical work undertaken in London, Stockholm and Helsinki we seek to explore the role that various actors and policies play in mediating the sometimes-conflicting requirements of sustainability, urban design and property-led development, both in the process of densifying, and the longer term. Using three case studies of residential development, the authors will outline an emerging research agenda in the initial presentation of the session.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Nicola Livingstone UCL 5 9:55 AM
Presenter Carola Fricke*, Human Geography, University of Freiburg, Travelling concepts and material translations in urban housing policy: Urban growth and densification in Freiburg, Germany, beyond the sustainability mantra 20 10:00 AM
Presenter Lucia Cerrada Morato*, , Local authorities and housing intensification: conviction or imposition 20 10:20 AM
Presenter Jenni Kuoppa, University of Tampere, Niina Nieminen*, University of Turku, Sampo Ruoppila, University of Turku, Markus Laine, University of Tampere, Risto Haverinen, University of Turku, Developing quality of densifying housing environments: exploring meaningful dwelling features from residents’ perspective 20 10:40 AM
Discussant Michael Short University College London 15 11:00 AM

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