Matthew Lane and Elizabeth Rapoport are currently working on projects exploring the circulation of policy models and ideas on urban sustainability. Read about their work below.

Post-colonial relational urbanism: The case of sustainable master planning in Lusaka (Matthew Lane)


Lusaka’s Ecko Sustainable Vision

A number of ideas exist as to how unsustainable levels of sprawl and the associated concerns of this uncontrolled urban growth should be tackled. Held together under the banner of ‘sustainability’ and primarily concerned with urban design and ‘order’, the approaches involved include political alignments such as ‘smart growth’, full scale urban master plans such as the ‘compact city’ a range of policy and ideals defined as ‘new urbanism’ and neighbourhood level infrastructure planning such as ‘transit-orientated developments’ and pedestrian zoning. These models have received global recognition as means of tackling undesirable sprawl through the way we re-design our cities and their presence on the global scene is evident in development projects across all regions of the world. Officials in Lusaka, Zambia are therefore seeking to draw upon a number of these ideas to implement an urban mega-project that directs the future growth of the city. Accepting that this diverse array of policies and models based around sustainable urban design exist, the emphasis for this project is on firstly; how a number of different players act to bring certain policies and forms to Lusaka, and secondly; how they are grounded in Lusaka’s unique, post-colonial context. Rather than being a straightforward process of transfer, the remit here is to suggest that such mobility is characterised by sticky, history laden contexts that shape what goes where and the forms they take. By learning from elsewhere, embedding mobile ideas into their plans and framing the existing problems in certain ways, policy makers are producing not only a sustainable vision for Lusaka’s future but an inherently relational one.

Contact Matthew (m.lane [at] for more details on the project.


Sustainability in motion: Global consultants and the international travels of the sustainable masterplan (Elizabeth Rapoport)

Recent years have seen an international proliferation of proposals for new ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco’ urban projects and growing demand for ideas about how to make urban development more sustainable. Increasingly, people are looking internationally for inspiration. This research project examines the international circulation of ideas in sustainable urbanism in order to explore the way in which urban planning models develop and move around internationally. In doing so it aims to contribute to current debates on the international mobility of urban policy and planning ideas (Healey & Upton 2010, McCann & Ward 2011, Roy & Ong 2011).

The research focuses specifically on the plans for and planners of large sustainable urban projects, that is, new large scale, mixed use urban developments. Many of these sustainable urban projects are designed at a distance (Falconbridge 2010), by members of the small, elite largely Western group of architects, urban planners, urban designers and engineers known as the global intelligence Corps (GIC) (Olds 2001). In the early stages of the design process the GIC are often invited to prepare a masterplan setting out the broad strategic and land-use parameters of the project.

The empirical focus of the research is on the GIC, the clients who employ them, and the masterplans they develop for sustainable urban projects. Theoretically this research project adopts a post-structural approach to understanding the way in which knowledge and ideas are generated and move around. Specifically it conceptualizes the traveling urban planning model of sustainable urbanism as a dynamic and heterogeneous assemblage. Building on this, the research explores the composition of the assemblage of sustainable urbanism, the processes by which it crystallizes into something that can be recognized as a “model”, the way in which this model circulates, and what happens to it along the way.


Rapoport, E. (2015) Sustainable urbanism in an age of Photoshop: Images, experiences and the role of learning through inhabiting the international travels of a planning model. Global Networks 15 (3): 307-324. [official version here]

Rapoport, E. (2015) Globalising sustainable urbanism: The role of international masterplanners. Area 47 (2): 110-115. [official version here]

Rapoport, E. (2014) Utopian visions and real estate dreams: The eco-city past, present and future. Geography Compass 8 (2): 137-149. [official version here]

Contact Elizabeth (e.rapoport [at] for further details on the research project and outputs.


Other members of the IUF collective have explored issues of urban sustainability. Take a look at some of their work here:

Cook, I. R. and Swyngedouw, E. (forthcoming) Cities, nature and sustainability. In McCann, E. and Paddison, R. (eds.) Cities and Social Change. London: Sage. [pdf]

Cook, I. R. and Swyngedouw, E. (2012) Cities, social cohesion and the environment: Towards a future research agenda. Urban Studies, 49 (9): 1959-1979. [pdf]

Temenos, C. and McCann, E. (2012) The local politics of policy mobility: Learning, persuasion, and the production of a municipal sustainability fix. Environment and Planning A, 44 (6): 1389-1406. [pdf]