The Bartlett School of Planning


Rodrigo Cardoso

Research subject

Thesis title: Metropolisation Processes in European Second-tier Cities

Primary supervisor: Professor John Tomaney
Secondary supervisor: Dr Filipa Wunderlich
SponsorFundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Starting date: September 2011
Projected completion date: May 2016

This research project investigates whether second-tier urban regions in Europe have functional, spatial, socio-economic and institutional characteristics which differentiate them in meaningful ways from primate urban regions. Based on the argument that second-tier cities can particularly profit from integration at the urban region scale, the study then explores whether the specific features detected may provide them with a greater ability to pursue that goal. 

This study fills two important gaps, as we do not know what exactly differentiates second-tier urban regions regarding the aspects above, and in what ways those differences affect their integration processes. The study also contributes to reveal a new and still unexplored set of strategic options for second-tier cities, whose urgency is proportional to the extent to which they are neglected or hampered in their national urban systems. Indeed, at a moment when cities have turned into vast urban regions, when size, functional mass and diversity and city-regional governance have been argued as major drivers of economic development, and the European economic and policy climate favours strategies that work better with existing assets rather than adding new ones, integration is not only an ongoing territorial process but also a relevant strategic option for second-tier urban regions. 

The research proposes an original interpretative lens to understand them, namely the concept of metropolisation, whose appropriateness to read contemporary urbanisation modes may find a particularly compatible response in the features of second-tier urban regions. The study is applies a set of comparative research methods to three main cases studies: Porto, Portugal, Bristol, UK and Antwerp, Belgium.


I have graduated in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of Porto in 2001, with a final dissertation titled ‘The Airport as a Contemporary Phenomenon’, where I studied the spatial and social meaning of the airport as a paradigmatic urban typology of the 21st century. In 1999-2000 I spent a year at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, under the Erasmus program.

In 2009 I completed the Metropolis Masters degree in Barcelona, a joint program of the Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya and CCCB. My research thesis was titled ‘Three Tenses of Reality: a complex approach to the multi-scale geography of cities’, and focused on the use of large-scale projects by mid-sized European cities as catalysts to detach from their immediate geography. The results of my research were presented in 2009 at a public session at the CCCB.

I have been a practising architect in Porto since 2001, and opened my own office in 2006, working in several projects (housing, urban design, retail, renovations, competitions), with some temporary adventures in graphic and furniture design, and BIM consulting. In 2007 I was a finalist of the Távora Award (Portuguese Order of Architects) with a proposal for a grand tour of European airports. In September 2011 I definitely switched from small to large scale and started doctoral research in Planning Studies at the Bartlett School of Planning, sponsored by the FCT.

Between 2010 and 2012 I have been closely involved with the Cities for Recovery platform, a group of researchers dedicated to discuss the role of civic intervention in urban practices in times of economic and social unrest. With that group, I helped to shape several initiatives, such as the Global City 2.0 network, presented in Lisbon in April 2011 with Saskia Sassen and João Ferrão as keynote speakers.

More recently, I have produced a report in collaboration with Foster + Partners about the reconciliation of heritage and urban growth in English historic cities. I have also conceived and edited a publication of short essays by PhD research students for the Bartlett School of Planning centenary in 2014. I am currently doing editorial assistance for an upcoming publication by the UCL Urban Laboratory. Since 2013-14 I have been involved in postgraduate teaching assistance at the Bartlett, both in undergraduate and postgraduate modules. 

Publications and other work

Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Cardoso, R. (2015). Cidades principais e secundárias na Europa: uma caracterização dos contrastes à escala da região urbana [Primate and second-tier cities in Europe: a characterisation of contrasts at the urban region scale]. GOT, n.º 7 (junho). Centro de Estudos de Geografia e Ordenamento do Território, p. 85-109, <dx.doi.org/10.17127/got/2015.7.004>
  • Cardoso, R. and Meijers E. (...) Contrasts between Primate and Second-tier Cities in Europe: a functional perspective. Currently under review for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Cardoso, R. (…) Localising extensive urbanisation: comparing the emergence of second-tier urban regions in Europe 1890-2011. Currently under review for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Conference Proceedings

  • 2013: ‘New identities of the extensive city: the case of European second-tier cities’, in Fernandes J. R. et al. (eds.) Geography & Politics, Policies and Planning, pp. 289-302. CEGOT, Porto. Full paper available here.
  • 2012: ‘Reading heterogeneous city-regions: perspectives on the urban region of Porto’ (abstract), in Networked Cities and Regions in Times of Fragmentation: Developing Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Places, pp. 31-32. Regional Studies Association, Seaford.

Non-Academic Publications

  • 2014: ‘Improbable Cities’, in Punkto Magazine 03: Online Archive.
  • 2011: ‘Protesto e Proposta: sobre o mercado do Bom Sucesso’ [Protest and Proposal: about the Bom Sucesso market], opinion piece in Publico, 2 June 2011
  • 2004: ‘Maquetas e Modelos Virtuais no método de Álvaro Siza’ [Architectural Models and Virtual Models in the method of Álvaro Siza], CADProject 8, pp. 28-30
  • 2000: ‘Views on OMA’s Casa da Música: further mental exercises’, in ArchiNed, Dutch independent architectural website (010 Publishers), April 17, 2000.

Selected Conference Presentations

  • ‘Comparing the emergence of second-tier urban regions in Europe: population patterns and urban change in Porto, Bristol and Antwerp’, paper presented at the special session ‘Small and mid-sized cities as drivers of growth’ (invited panellist). City Futures Conference, Paris, June 2014.
  • ‘European second-tier cities and the prospects of metropolisation: the case of Porto’ (with Evert J. Meijers, TU Delft), paper presented at the 9th European Urban and Regional Studies Conference, University of Sussex, July 2013.
  • ‘New identities of the extensive city: the case of European second-tier cities’, paper presented at the 1st CEGOT International Meeting, University of Porto, March 2013.
  • ‘Reading heterogeneous city-regions: perspectives on the urban region of Porto’, paper presented at the Regional Studies Association European Conference, Delft, May 2012.
  • Co-organization and panel member of the ‘Urban civic movements in a global world’ conference, with Saskia Sassen and João Ferrão as keynote speakers, Lisbon, April 2011.
  • 2010: ‘Space matters: fine-tuning the variable geometry of cities’, paper presented at the CITTA 3rd Annual Conference on Planning Research, University of Porto, May 2010.