Seedbeds, harbours, and battlegrounds: on the origins of favourable environments for urban experimentation with sustainability

Jonas Torrens, Johan Schot, Rob Raven, Phil Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Urban experimentation (UE) is seen as crucial for enacting transformations towards sustainability. Research in this domain has flourished, but still lacks theoretical coherence. We review this emerging literature, combining methods for problematisation and critical interpretive synthesis, to address two questions: how does the extant literature conceive of the contexts in which experimentation emerge, and what dynamics are thought to be implicated in reconfiguring these contexts into favourable environments for UE? Traditionally, transition studies assume that cities may act as protective spaces for experimentation, but recent studies suggest other salient dynamics. We identify three lenses - seedbeds, harbours, and battlegrounds – which articulate the assumptions and dynamics associated with different understandings of the urban context. We argue for plural accounts of how UE thrives in particular places and offer a way öto follow’ the co-evolution between a multiplicity of experiments and their environment, through interactions between protection, connectivity, and conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-232
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Geography of experimentation
  • Geography of transitions
  • Strategic niche management
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Urban experimentation

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