The Experimental City: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Experimental City

1st Edition

Edited by James Evans, Andrew Karvonen, Rob Raven


260 pages | 34 B/W Illus.

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This book explores how the concept or urban experimentation is being used to reshape practices of knowledge production in urban debates about resilience, climate change governance, and socio-technical transitions.

With contributions from leading scholars, and case studies from the Global North and South, from small to large scale cities, this book suggests that urban experiments offer novel modes of engagement, governance, and politics that both challenge and complement conventional strategies. The book is organized around three cross-cutting themes. Part I explores the logics of urban experimentation, different approaches, and how and why they are deployed. Part II considers how experiments are being staged within cities, by whom, and with what effects? Part III examines how entire cities or groups of cities are constructed as experiments.

This book seeks to contribute a deeper and more socially and politically nuanced understanding of how urban experiments shape cities and drive wider changes in society, providing a framework to examine the phenomenon of urban experimentation in conceptual and empirical detail.


"If the much talked about politics of green transformations during the post-2009 era is to be more than another fad, it will have to find traction in the world’s cities where the majority of the population now lives. This book convincingly argues that this is starting to happen as ‘urban experiments’ mushroom across the global regions of the world. This first provocative review of the evolutionary potential of these actually existing processes of change starts off in Chapter 2 with a remarkably useful definition of ‘urban experimentation’ that is then explored by people from many different disciplines and perspectives. The analyses emerging from this book raise the possibility that ‘urban experimentation’ may well be the emergent mode of governance that replaces both bureaucratic managerialism and the business-led public-private partnerships that underpinned neo-liberal corporatism and splintered urbanism. Entrepreneurs, innovators and knowledge networks become the new players in a world where cities become laboratories for the future." Professor Mark Swelling, Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

"Students, researchers and practioners will find inspiration in this text from the extremely clear and succinct theorisations in section one, the illustrative case studies in section two and the insightful reflections in section three. While undoubtedly the collection reveals conceptual and empirical gaps in the field, this in itself is also productive in suggesting new directions for research and understanding." – Robert Shaw, Newcastle University, UK

Table of Contents

1. The experimental city: new modes and prospects of urban transformation

James Evans, Andrew Karvonen and Rob Raven


2. Experiments in the city: unpacking notions of experimentation for sustainability

Frans Sengers, Frans Berkhout, Anna J. Wieczorek, and Rob Raven

3. Cities, experiments, and the logics of the knowledge economy

Tim May and Beth Perry

4. The urban laboratory and emerging sites of urban experimentation

Simon Marvin and Jonathan Silver

5. Virtual city experimentation: a critical role for design visioning

Chris Ryan, Idil Gaziulusoy, Kes McCormick and Michael Trudgeon

6. The boundaries of experimentation in sustainable urbanism

Elizabeth Rapoport

7. Cabin ecologies: the technoscience of integrated urban infrastructure

Simon Marvin and Mike Hodson


8. Green enclaves, neoliberalism and the constitution of the experimental city in Santiago de Chile

Martin Sanzana Calvet and Vanesa Castán Broto

9. Urban mobility experiments in India and Thailand

Duke Ghosh, Frans Sengers, Anna J. Wieczorek, Bipashyee Ghosh, Joyashree Roy, and Rob Raven

10. Urban science networks and local economy: the case of Newcastle upon Tyne

Gareth Powells and Lynsay Blake

11. Grassroots experimentation: alternative learning and innovation in the Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin

Jana Wendler

12. Living labs: users, citizens and sustainable urban transitions

Gabriele Schliwa and Kes McCormick


13. Turning over a new leaf: sustainability and urban experimentation in Seoul

Sofia Shwayri

14. Frankenstein cities: (de)composed urbanism and experimental eco-cities

Federico Cugurullo

15. Experimental afterlives: making and unmaking developmental laboratories in Ghana

Thomas Yarrow

16. The glorious failure of the experimental city: cautionary tales from Arcosanti and Masdar

James Evans, Gabriele Schliwa and Katherine Luke

17. Post carbon cities: distributed and decentralized and demodernized?

Stephanie Pincetl

About the Editors

James Evans is a Professor of Geography at the School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, UK.

Andrew Karvonen is Lecturer in Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Manchester, UK and co-director of the Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy.

Rob Raven is Professor of Institutions and Transitions at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Sustainable Urbanism

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography