Cet appel à articles est disponible en français.

This issue of RIURBA is part of the scientific debate on productive activities. It echoes the political and practical concerns that turn them into an object of public policy, questioning the conditions of their location, territorial and urban integration, functioning, their effects on the regeneration of territories and, more broadly, their relationship to spatial planning, in compact conurbations, in small and medium-sized towns and in sparsely built-up areas. This is reflected in the discourse on the productive metropolis, the manufacturing city, and the reindustrialization of territories, at European, national, and local levels (Crague and Levratto, 2022[1] ; Fedeli et al., 2022[2] ; Gros-Balthazard and Talandier, 2023[3]).

The notion of “productive activities” involved in these public policies differs from the notion of “productive economy” (or « productive sphere ») as categorized by French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), which, on the one hand, contrasts it with a presential economy and, on the other hand, erases the dichotomy between manufacturing and tertiary activities, while the productive city emphasizes industrial, manufacturing and craft activities and proves difficult to grasp using the INSEE nomenclature (Arab, Crague, Miot, 2023[4]). These are the kinds of activities covered here, whether we’re referring to smart manufacturing or gigafactories, automobile repair centres or printshops, building materials dealerships or urban farms… or whether the subject is large industrial firms, SMEs/SMIs or craft enterprises…

However, while the return of productive activities is fervently desired in many countries (in Western Europe, and elsewhere), it nonetheless remains difficult, reversing years of relocation of production and deindustrialisation. The potential for reindustrialisation varies, depending on whether countries have a long industrial tradition or are more recently industrialised, and how far they are involved in globalisation. The productive city in China bears little resemblance with the productive city in the United States of America or in other European countries. Productive city is also being re-examined, often in relation to ecological issues, as an essential driver or as an irreversible barrier.

This issue will pay particular attention to proposals that combine the productive city and the ecological transition and, from this angle, examine the issues and debates that this raises for town and country planning. The questions are wide-ranging, addressing such issues as industrial planning, the objective of zero net artificialisation, the cohabitation of industrial activities, residential functions and the preservation of biodiversity; the reorganisation and redesign of the employment/housing/mobility relationship; the financial and urban planning conditions of productive real estate creation; maintenance, repair and circularity and their impact on urban planning and development; spatial transformations in the light of economic redevelopment; the low-carbon productive city, and so on.

Given the current discourse on reindustrialisation, it is important not to neglect the fact that the relationship between industry, development and the environment is not a new one, and deserves to be put into historical perspective in the light of contemporary issues. 

There are three main themes. Proposals may focus on one of these aspects or, alternatively, link them together, or open up other perspectives likely to enrich the issues and debates for urban and spatial planning raised by the productive city at a time of ecological transition.

Theme 1: Productive planning, work and the challenges of urban regeneration

Productive territories raise several spatial planning issues that need to be examined in terms of ongoing trends and contemporary changes, and their impact on socio-spatial and environmental justice.

Is there a phenomenon of (re)concentration of activities around major corridors or specialised hubs that are becoming established on a national and international scale? What effects does this have on the areas where these activities are located? On the other hand, is it possible to encourage the resurgence of specialist craft districts (lace, porcelain, wood, glass, etc.) based on heritage skills, and what impact will this have on small and medium-sized towns (Warnant, 2023[5])? Similarly, is there a reproduction of the spatial division between production, training and research and development?

In addition, the integration of these activities into the urban fabric raises the question of preferential zones for the location of activities, and therefore the downgrading/upgrading dialectic of certain neighbourhoods depending on the type of activity and associated services that are set up there. For example, the digital economy and the creative industries are leading to crowding out, rapid transformation and gentrification… In contrast, other neighbourhoods are suffering from a strong industrial image that is holding back urban regeneration. Will they be able to regenerate through the return of manufacturing activities to the city (PUCA, 2020[6])? And how do these developments affect adjacent public policies on employment (Crague[7], 2022), training and housing?

Finally, more recently, the hypothesis that productive activities « in the city » would encourage territorial cooperation and the metropolitan dimension (strengthening links between metropolitan cores and small towns, etc.) has been tested in various European territories (ESPON, 2021[8] ; Fedeli et al., 2022): the presentation of significant results and contributions to this debate are expected.

Theme 2: Public action, planning and productive land

Productive activities can be approached from the perspective of reindustrialisation and relocation of manufacturing activities, or as levers for urban regeneration (occupation of ground floors, empty commercial premises, declining peripheral business parks, industrial or agricultural wasteland sites, etc.) and territorial development in the context of spatial planning and land restructuring strategies.

The redevelopment of business parks and industrial estates, which are very often located on the outskirts of the city, also raises questions about the energy transition, waste management, preventing land leakage, the new required supply chains and, in addition to industrial ecology, the organisation of circularity (Brunner 2011[9] ; Aurez et Lévy, 2013[10] ; Leducq, 2020[11]). So how can we continue to produce and even strengthen the ecological productive capacity of our regions, while preserving the land from net artificialisation and ecological damage?

This apparent paradox is particularly relevant to land use in the productive city, and in particular to public action and its responsibilities in terms of planning, zoning, development choices and other aspects. While productive land has been the neglected area of public action (Cerema, 2017[12]), it is once again a major factor in industrial redeployment (Crague, 2023) and even, for some, a prerequisite for the attractiveness of manufacturers (Eury, 2022[13]) while raising the question of the environmental sensitivity of the sites to be built and coming up against the objective of “zero net artificial” (ZNA).

How is the tension between industrial development and ecological issues manifested and dealt with? How is the rapid production of industrial land called for is being implemented? What are the regulatory and operational instruments, who are the players and what are the spatial implications? And, finally, what kind of ecology are we talking about?

Theme 3: Cities challenged by productive real estate and functional diversity

In cities, the cohabitation of uses can be complex to manage, not only because of the diversity of players involved (businesses, residents, local authorities, etc.), but also because of functional cohabitation, mutual nuisances, risks and even incompatibilities. The difficulty also stems from a silo approach by local authorities, and therefore a complicated dialogue between economic and planning spheres, leading to incoherencies in the management of the productive city and the functional mix (living areas/new workplaces, etc.). This also questions the acceptability to residents of bringing production back to the city. Apart from the specific problem of classified industrial facilities, there are many negative externalities (noise and olfactive pollution, aerosol emissions…) and the cost of rethinking urban densification projects can be significant.

Urban planning, its methods and urban professionals are questioned in their practices, innovations and struggles for a more ecological and just productive city.

Another difficulty encountered by the productive city project concerns the capacity to produce business premises. Just as the production of housing is supported by a stakeholder system, legal and financial frameworks, standards and norms, so the production of business premises, particularly in dense urban areas, raises questions about the urban design aspects of the integration of such premises, architectural typologies, stakeholder systems, in particular the role of developers and investors, and the property price often incompatible with the financial capacities of targeted companies (Rappaport, 2017[14] ; Arab, 2019[15] ; Schrock, Wolf-Powers[16]). Therefore, how can these activities – maintenance, repair, waste management and the circular economy – be accommodated, as they must be for an ecological approach to economic activity and the city (Tsui et al., 2020[17])? What lessons can be learnt from experience, experimentation, successes and failures to produce new knowledge and contribute to the debates and issues that productive real estate poses for urban planning?


  • Online launch of the call for papers (English version): November 2023
  • Submission deadline V1 : February 15, 2024
  • Responses to authors: mid-March 2024
  • Submission deadline (if accepted with minor/major modifications): end of May 2024
  • Editing process: July-September 2024
  • “RIURBA No.16 July-December” published online: New academic year, September 2024

Guidelines for authors

The expected research papers may be based on case studies, comparison or not, carried out at different scales and in different contexts (operational or strategic urban planning, urban policies) and may contribute to theoretical reflections. They may be part of one or a combination of the proposed themes. We expect authors to submit articles in line with the editorial policy of an international research journal focused on urban planning. Papers may be submitted in French or English. They undergo to a peer-reviewed evaluation.

Article submission

Authors are required to send their articles before 15 February 2024 to the editors of this special issue and, cc to in the format indicated on page Recommandations aux auteur.e.s.

If you have any questions or require further information, please contact the editors of special issue #16:

Nadia ARAB, Full professor, Paris School of Urban Planning, EA 7374 Lab’URBA, University Paris Créteil

Divya LEDUCQ, Full professor, Lille Institute of Urban Planning and Geography, URL 4477 Territories, Cities, Environment & Society, University of Lille

[1] Crague G. et Levratto N. (2022) « Au-delà de la relocalisation de l’industrie : la ville productive », Métropolitiques, 10 janvier.

[2] Fedeli V., Huber P., Hill A., Tosics I. and China A. (2022) Re-assembling the productive city, Luxembourg : ESPON, 156 p. 

[3] Gros-Balthazard M. et Talandier M. (2023) « Reconquête industrielle : quelle place pour les villes petites et moyennes en France et en Europe ? », EchoGéo, 63.

[4] Arab N., Crague G. et Miot Y. (2023) Vers un nouvel agir métropolitain. Presses des Ponts.

[5] Warnant A. (2021) Le “problème des villes moyennes” : l’action publique face à la décroissance urbaine à Montluçon, Nevers et Vierzon (1970-2020), Thèse de Doctorat en Géographie, Paris : EHESS.

[6] Plan, Urbanisme, Construction, Architecture (2020) Ville productive.

[7] Crague G. (2022) « Où se cache l’emploi productif métropolitain ? Les enseignements du territoire Grand-Orly Seine Bièvre », Métropolitiques, 15 décembre.

[8] ESPON EGTC (2021) Policy brief: Europe’s productive cities and metros, Luxembourg, 20 p.

[9] Brunner P.H. (2011) Urban Mining: A Contribution to Reindustrializing the City. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15, 339–341.

[10] Aurez, V. et Lévy, J.-C. (2013) Économie circulaire, écologie et reconstruction industrielle ? Paris : Éditions CNCD.

[11] Leducq D. (2020) Ville productive, ville verte : des figures pour penser l’urbain, Mémoire d’Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches en Aménagement de l’espace et urbanisme : Université de Tours, 326 p.

[12] Cerema (2017) L’action foncière publique en faveur du logement et des zones d’activités productives. Regards croisés, 50p.

[13] Eury S. (2022) Le rôle crucial des acteurs publics locaux pour accélérer les implantations industrielles”, Administration, 274, 66-68.

[14] Rappaport N. (2017) Hybrid Factory / Hybrid City, Built Environment 43(1):72-86.

[15] Arab N. (2019) « Faire une place à l’économie productive en centre urbain dense métropolitain », in Crague G. (dir) Faire la ville avec l’industrie, Paris, Presses des Ponts, pp.121-154.

[16] Schrock G. and Wolf-Powers L. (2019) Opportunities and risks of localised industrial policy:  the case of “maker-entrepreneurial ecosystems” in the USA, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 12/ 3, 369-384.

[17] Tsui T., Peck D., Geldermans B. and van Timmeren A. (2020) ‘The role of urban manufacturing for a circular economy in cities’, Sustainability 13(1): 23.