UF - Urban Fabrics

Thinking - Model - Theory

Author: Leo Kosonen
Kuopio, Finland

About this book

This web-based document is a tool and a product of the Urban Fabrics project. The project is also referred to as UF, and it is a project of Finnish Environment Institute SYKE. The pages include the basic documentation of the findings of the project. This far the documentation of the new Local Model of the case study cities is only in Finnish. The English text of the Local Model and some more documentation will be provided in 2014.

The main theoretical findings concerning the new model are presented on pages Thinking - Model - Theory.

The other pages are mainly empty. At the moment these grey pages just indicate the basic classification that was used as the framework of the data collection and the analysis of the project. The pages were left unfilled, when the main emphasis of the research programme was redirected in January 2013. It had turned out, that the proper data and documentation of the walking, transit and car city fabrics on an international level was not available and the resources of the project were too limited to fill the pages. On the other hand the cooperation with Peter Newman opened an option of new theoretical findings and this was prioritized in the programming. The project still produced lots of documentation and drafts for the empty pages and they will be filled later if possible.

The findings of the UF project were presented by Leo Kosonen in an international seminar hosted by the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE in Helsinki on 24 October 2013. Professor Peter Newman was the keynote speaker of the seminar.

A new city model is the main product of the project

The purpose of this UF research project is to compile a new city model which is based on the new way of thinking. The model should be a tangible and practical tool, better than the present models, for comprehensive planning, development projects and research of the cities. The basis of the work has been “Kuopio model”, which is a pilot model that has been used for 20 years. The methodology of this Walking City - Transit City - Car City model has been applied and tested in the analysis of four case study cities. The new model will be adjusted to fit the scale of the case study cities. It is obvious that the model will be applicable to other Finnish cities, too.

The international part of the project has indicated that the new way of thinking and the new models are useful on the global level. It seems that they are useful and effective tools in the analysis of any city of any country. Originally I intended to build a model that would rely on a global comprehensive theory but it became evident that a theory of three urban fabrics did not exist. On the other hand the studies and the discussions with Professor Peter Newman in Perth, Australia, confirmed the potential and the need for a new theory. We launched our co-operation to compile a new theory and consequently, the main emphasis of this project shifted towards creating and compiling the basic components of the new theory.

Urban Fabrics

Urban Fabrics is a new way of thinking and a new comprehensive way of recognizing the fabrics of the cities. It´s a paradigm shift from conventional ways of thinking, which are recognizing the city as one comprehensive solid system. These ways of thinking are based on the old Modern City Paradigm and it's city models, which have led to bad mistakes and are out of date.

Fabric or urban fabric in this book has been used as a name of three comprehensive city systems, which all have their own histories and special characteristic features, which make them different from each other. According to this classification cities consist of three fabrics. The names of the fabrics are:

Each of these fabrics can be distinguished from amount, quality and location of its typical physical elements. Each fabric has also numerous characteristic features in terms of population and social groups, functions, activities and life styles, culture, architecture and art, green spaces etc. In addition to general features, each fabric can have also special features based on the size, functions and special qualities of the city, the stage of development, history, orientation, etc.

This book discusses urban fabrics as dynamic processes where urban lifestyles maintain and shape the physical structures of urban fabrics, which in turn provide a framework for urban lifestyles and changes to them. We will focus on the current state and the history of urban fabrics, but will also examine the theories, models and plans that affected the development of urban fabrics (theory), as well as the frameworks and challenges of urban development (challenges).

Thinking, model, theory

Urban fabrics can be identified at three levels: way of thinking, model and theory. The concept is built on a new way of thinking that recognises three separate fabrics: the car city, the transit city and the walking city. This differs from the prevailing approaches where a city is regarded as one solid system, or as a combination of several subsystems of the main system.

Besides a new way of thinking, new models conforming to the theory of three urban fabrics have been used to identify and study urban fabrics. The basic model generated in this study is illustrated in the Model page.

The new way of thinking and new models have given rise to first documentations of a new theory. In the context of this study, we have elaborated on this new theory. The theoretical outlines and results are explained in theTheory section.


The international part of this book is based on my work at the CUSP Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia, where I had the pleasure of working together with Professor Peter Newman for ten months. As a result of our co-operation, we identified the need for a new theory of cities and launched the preparation of first drafts of the theory. An outline explaining the core of the theory was presented at A Science Frontier Symposium - Sustainability and Cities by CSIRO at Melbourne 12-14 June 2013. The abstract and the slides of the presentation of Peter Newman as well as the abstract and the slides of Leo Kosonen are the latest documentations of the new theory.

The international part of this book draws on materials obtained in pilot projects in Finnish towns, international literature, and analyses of towns and cities during my stay in Australia. When studying literature and preparing analyses of cities, I focused on materials that provided data on urban fabrics and their development. The proposed new way of thinking, the model of cities and compilation of the theory is largely founded on materials produced by professor Peter Newman and on my discussions with him. Feedback from other colleagues has been invaluable too.

The model of three urban fabrics created in this research project is based on a prototype of a new city known as the "Kuopio model". Methodology derived from the Kuopio model was applied to the analysis of four towns in spring 2012. This involved testing, revising and completing definitions and classifications. Four mid-sized Finnish towns were included in the study: Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Lahti and Oulu. An urban model founded on the proposed new way of thinking has been used on a national level in research projects of the Kara network and the Finnish Enviornment Institute SYKE, such as the UZ Urban Zone project and the CityMetro project. The outcomes of these projects have been utilised in this UF project.

This new way of thinking and the new models have been adapted, used and tested in practice at City of Kuopio, Finland, where I was working as a Master Planning Architect and a City Planning Manager for 24 years. The prototype "Kuopio Model" was at first a tool of master planning, but the new way of thinking was soon embraced (Mäntysalo 2013) also by other stakeholders. It has changed the attitudes and practices of planning, construction and maintenance of the fabrics. It has also led to implementation of numerous new development projects of the fabrics.


I am Leo Kosonen, the main researcher of this UF project and the author of this document. I am an architect. I have four decades of experience in city planning. For the duration of this project I worked as a senior researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE. If you have any comments regarding this document or its subject matter, please contact me at kosonenleo@gmail.com.

The project was funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, the cities of Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Lahti and Oulu and four Finnish companies: Koiviston Auto Corporation, SITO Group, Skanska and YIT Group.