Unveiling the Eco-city phenomenon: is this the (urban) future? (Federico Cugurullo)

Important and helpful critique of the #ecocity idea, by Federico Cugurullo, who is based in Dublin, Ireland:

Cugurullo is an Italian geographer who is a lecturer in Human Geography and Sustainable Urbanism in The University of Manchester and also Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism in Trinity College Dublin (from where I got my architectural degree, due to the old deal with DIT Bolton St).

Federico Cugurullo is Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism at Trinity College Dublin. His research is positioned at the intersection of urban geography, political philosophy and experimental urbanism, and explores how ideas of sustainability are cultivated and implemented across geographical spaces, with a focus on projects for eco-cities and smart cities.

Federico has done extensive empirical research in the Middle East and Southeast Asia where he has investigated the sustainability performance of supposedly experimental cities such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong. His work has been used by the United Nations and the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to foresee future urban challenges and develop preventive policies.

Building upon empirical grounds, Federico’s main theoretical aspiration (also the subject of his forthcoming book) is the development of urban equations for a sustainable urbanism. Other theoretical contributions include the concept of urban eco-modernisation, and the theory of de-composed urbanism and Frankenstein cities.

Before joining Trinity College Dublin, Federico held positions at the University of Manchester, King’s College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Cugurullo states, on his Manchester page:

My research incorporates the tools of different disciplines from the social sciences and humanities, such as urbanism, urban geography, political science and philosophy, into a single method of analysis whose target is the development of sustainable strategies of urbanisation. Empirically, my research looks at projects for new eco-cities with a focus on ideals, materialities, design and supply chains.

From a theoretical and philosophical perspective, my target is to shape new thinking in relation to the dimension and shape of the sustainable city as an open system crossing conventional political borders. I’m also interested in how, within multi-regional urban systems, issues of social and environmental sustainability (social justice, happiness and ecosystem services in particular) can be understood and integrated into policy agendas.


Manchester: http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/geography/research/groups/serg/who-we-are/federico-cugurullo/

TCD Dublin: https://www.tcd.ie/Geography/staff/FedericoCugurullo.php

Federico’s research profile: http://tcd.academia.edu/FedericoCugurullo

Smart & Sustainable Cities, TCD Dublin course : https://www.tcd.ie/research/themes/smart-sustainable-cities/

** Publications

Animated urbanism

Federico’s work on eco-cities illustrated and animated – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjZFhWS4DFg

Peer-reviewed articles

Cugurullo F. (2015), Urban eco-modernisation and the policy context of new eco-city projects: where Masdar City fails and why, Urban Studies. Vol. 53, No. 11 2417-2433

Cugurullo F. (2013) How to Build a Sandcastle: An Analysis of the Genesis and Development of Masdar City, Journal of Urban Technology Vol. 20, No. 1, 23-37

Cugurullo F. (2013), The Business of Utopia: Estidama and the road to the Sustainable City, Utopian Studies Vol. 24, No. 1, 66-88

Book chapters

Cugurullo F., (2016) Frankenstein cities: (de)composed urbanism and experimental eco-cities, in Evans J., Karvonen A. and Raven R., The Experimental City, London: Routledge

Cugurullo F. (2012), Reconsidering Utopia and Dystopia: a matter of perception, in Blaim A. and Gruszewska Blaim L., Spectres of Utopia. Theory, Practice, Conventions, Oxford: Peter Lang


Recognizing and Rewarding Exceptional Performance (RREP) Award for “exceptional contribution, work and commitment”, University of Manchester, June 2016

Italy Made Me Award (Social Sciences and Humanities Category), Best Italian early-stage academic working in the UK, Italian Embassy, London, July 2015




3 thoughts on “Unveiling the Eco-city phenomenon: is this the (urban) future? (Federico Cugurullo)

  1. Dr Federico Cugurullo presented Vignettes of TurningPoint Use within Humanities at Turning Technologies 2014 User Conference in Manchester.

    The Faculty of Humanities, University of Manchester, has provided TurningPoint with ResponseCards as a teaching tool since 2009, and ResponseWare since 2010. Since the provision of ResponseWare, ease of use has led to an increase in the number of people taking up this tool, and the frequency in its use, leading to a multiplier effect on innovation and teaching impact. This 45 minute session will highlight the work of faculty users through short ‘PechaKucha’ style presentations, limited by duration and number of slides in order to create short, but poignant stories about TurningPoint use within the Humanities subjects taught at Manchester.


  2. Dr. Federico Cugurullo gave a seminar on October 26th, 2016 entitled Revealing experimental smart cities: The Frankenstein city and the sustainability challenges of de-composed urbanism. Dr. Cugurullo is Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism, Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin. If you missed the seminar, here is the video for his talk:

    link: http://progcity.maynoothuniversity.ie/2016/11/seminar-video-revealing-experimental-smart-cities/
    via tweet: https://twitter.com/RobKitchin/status/790520456126271488


    Federico Cugurullo + Maria Hellström Reimer
    Critical issues concerning Eco-cities, smart cities, sustainable cities
    Public lectures with Maria Hellström Reimer, Professor in Design Theory and Practice, Malmö University and Federico Cugurullo, Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism, Trinity College Dublin.


  3. Trinity Launches Multi-disciplinary Research Centre ‘Future Cities: Trinity Centre for Smart and Sustainable Cities’
    8 July 2013


    Future Cities, a new, multi-disciplinary research centre which will drive and inspire new ways of thinking about smart and sustainable cities was launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn at Trinity. Welcoming the initiative the Lord Mayor said: “There is a trend across the world towards cities. Successful cities are growing at a phenomenal rate. Dublin must do everything it can to position itself to be able to compete with other cities. I am very excited by this unique initiative to establish a Future Cities Centre in TCD. Many of the world’s leading new technology and social media companies have already chosen Dublin as their gateway to Europe”.

    “If we want to compete in the global battle of cities, then Dublin is our only realistic chance. By international standards Dublin is a small to medium size city, yet it produces half of Ireland’s GDP. This unique combination of multi-disciplinary research activity working directly with industry, citizens and city agencies to achieve a city that is effective, efficient and sustainable, in which citizens are safe, productive, engaged and included can play a vital role in strengthening Dublin’s competitive advantages.”



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