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Urban Metabolism at UCL – A working paper

Allen, AE; Eriksson, A; Castan-Broto, V; (2011) Urban Metabolism at UCL – A working paper. UCL Environment Institute: London.

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Abstract

The concept of urban metabolism is increasingly used to explain urban ecological relations in different disciplines such as civil engineering, economics, planning and geography. In the summer of 2011, the UCL Environmental Institute funded a small project to explore whether urban metabolism, given the interdisciplinary vocation of the term, could be used as a concept to bridge perspectives and build collaborations across different strands of research on environment and cities. We carried out sixteen interviews with scholars in UCL who have engaged, directly or indirectly, with debates on urban metabolism. Qualitative analysis of the interviews revealed their coalescence around three broad interdisciplinary perspectives: the perspective adopting a Functional Analogy emphasises urban metabolism as conducting the functions that reproduce the city; the perspective adopting a Form Analogy uses the concept as a entry point into the internal configuration of the city; the Dialectical Production perspective emphasises urban metabolism as directing the production of urban economies and their distribution. In every case, words of caution were expressed about the limited potential of biological concepts to capture the complexity of social processes and urban life. However, urban metabolism emerges as a malleable concept which draws attention to the materiality embedded in urban relations and may open new avenues of discussion across disciplines.

Type:Report
Title:Urban Metabolism at UCL – A working paper
Keywords:Urban metabolism, political ecology
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Development Planning Unit

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