ABE 004

Regions, Territories, Networks

Cities and urban regions can be seen and analysed as products of historical processes of networking between other cities and urban regions on a variety of different scales. Some would even say – like the historians McNeill and McNeill – that human history can be interpreted as the weaving of webs between the places where humans live right from the moment when agriculture made the formation of cities possible, about 11,000 years ago.

The present pattern of urbanisation in many parts of the world has a history which goes back at least 1,000 years and can be interpreted as a layered system of different cities taking the lead in different periods of time. The current hierarchy of cities seems to be dominated by a limited number of much-discussed global cities.

What is typical of 20th- and 21st-century cities is that they have become truly regional manifestations: nearby cities have become vast agglomerations or dense, polycentric networks of individuals cities and town interspersed by a large variety of spaces and places with different functions and a different morphology. This has lead to a bewildering vocabulary of concepts to catch up with the modern ‘metropolis’, from ‘megalopolis’ to ‘patchwork metropolis’.

The Course

The aim of this course of eight seminars is to help students engage with concepts such as the city, city networks, the world economy, globalization and regionalism, polycentric urban regions, strategic spatial planning, and mapping. The aim of examining these concepts is to see how they can be practically applied to urban studies, with particularly reference to the studio work.

By the end of this course students will be expected to demonstrate the ability to meaningfully engage with concepts such as the ones listed above (and others) but also, and more importantly, show that they are able to formulate their own ways of thinking about them. They will do this via a series of seminar discussions on set readings (students are free to propose their own). Students will then be expected to take a position on one or more of the topics and develop them into a position paper which they will present in draft form to receive feedback from the course leaders and their classmates. For the seminars the students are expected to have read the readings; actively participate in the group discussions; demonstrate they have understood the readings by taking positions of their own; and finally, critique one another’s positions. 

Course Outline

Session 1: Introduction

•        No readings.

Session 2: The Origins of the City and City Networks 

  1. Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Chapter 1, ‘Sanctuary, Village, and Stronghold’.
  2. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, 1000-1994, Chapter 2, ‘Systems of Early Cities’.

Session 3: Urban Society in the European Medieval World

  1. Michael North, The Expansion of Europe, 1250-1500, Chapter 5.5, ‘Urban Society’.
  2. Michael North, The Expansion of Europe, 1250-1500, Chapter 12.4, ‘Urban Society.’

Session 4: Globalisation and the Early Modern World

  1. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I, Chapter 4, ‘From Seville to Amsterdam: The Failure of Empire’.
  2. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System II, Chapter 2, ‘Dutch Hegemony in the World Economy’.

Session 5: Student essays outline 

•        No readings.

Session 6: From Globalisation to Metropolisation

  1. Andy Pike, et al., Regional Studies, Vol. 41.9, ‘What Kind of Local and Regional Development and for Whom?’.
  2. Allen J Scott, Environment and Planning A, 51.3, ‘City-regions reconsidered’

Session 7: Planning

  1. John Friedmann, Planning Theory and Practice, Vol. 5, No. 1, ‘Strategic Spatial Planning and the Longer Range’ (with comments by Bryson, et al., and a brief introduction by Patsy Healy).
  2. Robert Kloosterman and Sako Musterd, Urban Studies 38.4, ‘The Polycentric Urban Region: Towards a Research Agenda’

Session 8: Mapping

  1. Jeremy W. Crampton, Progress in Human Geography, 2001 25: 235, ‘Maps as social construction: power, communication and visualization’.
  2. J.B. Harley, Cartographica, Vol. 26, No. 2, Summer 1989, ‘Deconstructing the Map’.

Suggested further reading 

Urban Theory  
- Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow, Chapter 10, ‘The City of Theory’. City History 
- Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Chapter 2, ‘The Crystallization of the City’.’ 

- James Corner, The Agency of Mapping. 
- Wil Zonneveld, Environmental and Planning C: Government and Policy 2005, Vol. 23, ‘Multiple visioning: new ways of constructing transnational spatial visions’.

- Carl Steinitz, ‘On Scale and Complexity and the Need for Spatial Analysis’. ArcNews retrieved (25-04-2017) from http:// www.esri.com/ news/arcnews/ spring11articles/on-scale-and-complexity-and-the-need-for-spatial-analysis. html 
- Stephanie Dühr, International Planning Studies, 11:8, ‘Illustrating Spatial Policies in Europe’. 

Study Goals

At the end of this course students will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of regions and territories according to the following criteria: 
- As complex artefacts. 
- As products of global and regional flows, migrations, and mobilities. 
- As the focus and outcome of planning and urban design.

The student will also be expected to demonstrate the following abilities: 
- Reflect in a critical way on urban theory. 
- Develop a critical theoretical position in relation to the literature of regions and territories, and take a personal position in relation to these.
- Synthesize ideas. 
- State a personal position on a specific case study in an academically rigorous position paper. 

Education Method

The literature will be made available at beforehand through Brightspace. Seminars and presentations will consist of the following tasks: 
- Read, present, and discuss a series of texts as a support to their studio work.
- Connect theory with studio work. 
- Present and write up a critical analysis of a topic relevant to their studio work. 


Attendance is compulsory. The student will need to demonstrate the following: 
- An understanding of the set literature. 
- Make presentations in class in relation to the literature. 
- Actively participate in class discussions. 
- Develop critical theoretical positions. 
- Write a paper (3,000 words) which provides theoretical reflection and/or support to their studio work. 
Papers will be checked for originality through a TurnItIn scan. 


  9 September 202013:45 - 16:45Online
16 September 202013:45 - 16:45Online
23 September 202013:45 - 16:45Online
30 September 202013:45 - 16:45Online
     14 October 202013:45 - 16:45Online
     28 October 202013:45 - 16:45Online
   4 November 202013:45 - 16:45Online
 11 November 202013:45 - 16:45Online

How to enroll

Please send an email with your name, mail address, start date, research group and title of your research to abe@tudelft.nl

Course Info

Course code
ABE 004

Course type
lectures with workshops

Most appropriate for
PhD candidates at all stages

Free for PhD candidates of A+BE Graduate School

Number of participants
min. 8 /max. 16

Name of lecturer(s)/coach(es)
Dr.ir. G. Bracken 
Dr. R. Ordonhas Viseu Cardoso

Course load
8 sessions with lectures and exercises

Graduate School credits


Once a year, from September 2020

Upcoming course dates and times
Fall 2020, see schedule

For further information, please contact Luiz De Carvalho Filho and emu-bk@tudelft.nl