Contemporary City and Plural Knowledge: Reframing Urban Planning

Luís Balula, João Seixas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Urbanization stands amongst the most significant global trends of the 21st century, with cities accounting already for 70% of global wealth creation, 60% of total energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste (UN Habitat 2015). These numbers are telling of both the vigor of cities and the challenges they face. The unprecedented levels of urbanization worldwide over the last decades have fuelled global economic growth while raising a number of social, environmental and spatial concerns that are increasingly shared by all cities, rather than unique to particular sites, thanks to globalization. Sustainability, socio-territorial cohesion and sustainable urban development became mots d’ordre and the city emerged as the critical building block for a more sustainable future. In this chapter, we consider the imperatives of sustainability and how they impact the urban planning field. In light of the United Nations declaration of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD 2004–2014), we look into the requirements of higher education for sustainable urban planning and development (SUPD) and examine how sustainability concepts and principles are shaping the curricula of academic programs with a focus on the built environment. Supported by topical literature on sustainability and urban planning, the content analysis of a sample of 10 top world academic programs dealing with the built environment—covering the areas of architecture, urban design, urbanism and city planning—helped to identify the topical themes/fields for conceptualization and action, as well as the key skills which urban professionals need to master, in order to advance SUPD. Findings support the idea that, over the last decades, the imperatives of sustainability for urban planning have contributed to a growing convergence between the social sciences and the spatial planning field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitecture and the Social Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationInter- and Multidisciplinary Approaches between Society and Space
EditorsM. Manuela Mendes, T. Sá, J. Cabral
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-53477-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-53476-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Sustainable development
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Higher education
  • Urbanism
  • architecture
  • Social science


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