Martijn Burger

Research fellow Martijn Burger (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and co-author Evert Meijers (Delft University of Technology) are the winners of the Urban Studies Best Article 2017 for their article ‘Stretching the concept of ‘borrowed size’. The paper, selected from no less than 300 papers, was considered both original and insightful.

‘Borrowed size’ is an emerging policy concept in several European countries, presenting theoretical potential to explain contemporary urban dynamics unaddressed through conventional urban growth theories that emphasise the role of agglomeration economies. In its original conceptualisation by Alonso, the concept describes and explains the situation that especially smaller cities that are located in a larger ‘megapolitan complex’ do perform better because they have access to agglomeration benefits of larger neighbouring cities.

This paper scrutinises the concept of borrowed size, thereby focusing on its conceptualisation and reviewing its empirical justification thus far. The empirical analyses show that the concept must be stretched in terms of scale and scope to enhance its policy value. Borrowed size occurs when a city possesses urban functions and/or performance levels normally associated with larger cities. This is enabled through interactions in networks of cities across multiple spatial scales. These networks serve as a substitute for the benefits of agglomeration. Theoretically, the borrowed size concept demands a recasting of the geographical foundations of agglomeration theory.

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