Investigating functional mix in Europe's dispersed urban areas

Alexander Wandl*, Birgit Hausleitner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


A large proportion of European inhabitants live in dispersed urban settlements, much of which is labelled as sprawl, defined by monofunctional, low-density areas. However, there is increasing evidence that this may be an overly simplistic way of describing territories-in-between (TiB). This paper defines and maps functional mix in six dispersed urban areas across Europe, applying a method that goes beyond existing land-use-based mixed-use indicators but considers functional mixing on the parcel level. The paper uses data on the location of economic activities and the residential population. It concludes that, in eight cases from four European countries, mixed-use is widespread and that more than 65% of inhabited areas are mixed. Moreover, the paper relates functional mixing to specific settlement characteristics: permeability, grain size, centrality and accessibility, and connectivity. This demonstrates that functional mixing is not the result of local urban morphology or planning instruments, but of the multi-scalar qualities of a location. Therefore, there is a requirement to coordinate planning and design through different scales if mixed-use areas are to be seen as one strategy for achieving greater sustainability in the spatial development of dispersed areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2862-2879
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • dispersed urban development
  • Mixed-use
  • settlement characteristics
  • typology

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