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Profile photo of Mattias Kärrholm

Mattias Kärrholm


Profile photo of Mattias Kärrholm

Compact City Planning and Development : Emerging Practices and Strategies for Achieving the Goals of Sustainable Development


  • Simon Elias Bibri
  • John Krogstie
  • Mattias Kärrholm

Summary, in English

Compact city planning and development has, over the last 30 years or so, been the hegemonic response to the challenges of sustainable development. Global and local policies promote the compact city model due to the positive outcomes of its design principles and strategics as to achieving sustainable cities in terms of their environmental, economic, and social goals. The aim of this paper is to examine how the compact city model is practiced and justified in urban planning and development with respect to the three dimensions of sustainability, and whether any kind of practical progress has been made in this regard. To illuminate the phenomenon of the compact city, a descriptive case study is adopted as a qualitative research methodology where the empirical basis is mainly formed by urban plans in two Swedish cities: Gothenburg and Helsingborg, in combination with qualitative interview data, secondary data, and scientific literature. This study shows that compactness, density, diversity, mixed land use, sustainable transportation, and green space are the prevalent design principles and strategies of compact city planning and development, with the latter being contextually linked to the concept of green structure, an institutional setup under which the two Swedish cities operate. Moreover, at the core of the compact city model is the clear synergy between the underlying principles and strategies in terms of their cooperation to produce combined effects greater than the sum of their separate effects with respect to the benefits of sustainability as regards its tripartite value. Further, this study demonstrates that the compact city model as practiced by the two cities is justified by its ability to contribute to the environmental, economic, and social goals of sustainable development. However, the economic goals dominate over the environmental and social goals, notwithstanding the claim about the three dimensions of sustainability being equally important at the discursive level. Nevertheless, new planning measures are being implemented to address the relevant environmental and social issues towards balancing the three goals of sustainability and thus strengthening their influence over urban development practices.


  • Department of Architecture and Built Environment

Publishing year





Development in the Built Environment



Document type

Journal article




  • Architecture




  • ISSN: 2666-1659