The first issue of 2021 of Urban Geography is a special issue guest edited by Rodrigo Cardoso and Evert Meijers. Based on our long-standing research agenda and several special sessions in conferences, we joined forces with other authors to consolidate the concept of metropolisation as a lens to examine regional and metropolitan integration processes. We define metropolisation as the long-term, multi-scalar and multi-dimensional process through which spatially, functionally, culturally and institutionally fragmented urbanised regions become integrated as coherent metropolitan places. In our editorial, we delve into the genealogy of this concept, which has been re-invented by several academic traditions in different languages in slightly different ways, but whose overlap went somewhat unnoticed.

We propose to capture metropolisation through three main notions: Inversion, Multiplexity and Convergence. Inversion shifts the dominant perspective in research and policy of cities dissolving into urban regions (the ‘regionalisation of the city’) towards urban regions consolidating into extensive cities (the ‘citification of the region’), as urban qualities, uses and programmes are reconstructed across regions. We use this new perspective to propose another shift from the nodal concept of urban network to the zonal concept of urban field when approaching metropolitan spaces.

Multiplexity examines this process as a continuous feedback interaction of intertwined spatial-functional, political-institutional and cultural-symbolic transformations, which work as facilitators and inhibitors of urban region integration with overlapping effects and recurrences. Metropolisation thus becomes contextual and contingent and requires an attention for historical processes which researchers rarely mobilise at the urban region scale.

Finally, Convergence stresses the confluence of ‘urban’ and ‘regional’ theoretical topics, policy challenges and planning concerns. The long history of urbanisation beyond the reference point of the city justifies a departure from models which leave categorical distinctions between spaces untouched. As one of several concepts that cuts through categories, metropolisation provides an unbiased lens both to observe urban regions and to envision their development.

The Special Issue includes a series of great papers by our fellow researchers on metropolisation. Jen Nelles takes the notion of multiplexity to offer new ways to define metropolitan space beyond the tyranny of functional indicators, exploring the negotiated and contested boundaries of metropolitan cooperation institutions to identify real-life urban regions. Giulia Urso extends this line of reasoning through the convergence lens, looking at the attitudes of policymakers in urban and rural areas embedded in common metropolitan spaces but incompatible policy frameworks, whose dichotomies actively impede metropolitan place-making. The contribution by Jean-Paul Addie focuses on the inversion dimension of metropolisation, exploring the role of universities in reconfiguring the city at the regional scale through patterns of spatial location, sites of knowledge production, cooperation networks and the mobilisation of new spatial imaginaries, together with context-dependent limits to this university regionalism. Michael Bentlage, Christiane Müller and Alain Thierstein focus on the spatial planning implications of metropolisation processes, taking the unfolding metropolitan structure of the Munich region, an intricate pattern of concentration, deconcentration and dispersion highly dependent on transport systems and how they are steered in new directions. Finally, the paper by Tassilo Herrschel stresses the remaining tensions in the convergence between the urban and the regional, looking at the double role of large metropolitan areas as global competitive actors detached from their surrpunding territories and as nodes of activity responsible for inclusive development across the democratically legitimate nation-state. We deeply regret that just days after submitting a revised version of this paper, Tassilo passed away after a short illness. As editors and in respect for his legacy, we a special issue editors have taken responsibility for the final editing of his paper.

We hope that this Special Issue spikes the interest of a wide community of researchers and students and opens up new directions in research on urban regions. The full journal issue (42:1) can be found here.


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