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Urban emptiness as a resource for sustainable urban development

Marina Petrova (Institute for Design and Urban Studies, ITMO University, St Petersburg, Russia)
Aleksandra Nenko (Institute for Design and Urban Studies, ITMO University, St Petersburg, Russia)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




The purpose of this paper is to develop an approach to urban environment management through analysis of “urban emptiness” based on user-generated big data.


The research design is based on creating a theoretical model of urban emptiness as a multilayer phenomenon in the city space and then developing an applied approach to map its different types through user-generated and open big data from multiple online sources.


The paper provides a definition and a theoretical model of “urban emptiness” as a multilayer phenomenon integrated into the complexity of the city system and as a resource for sustainable urban development. The paper presents a methodological approach to analyse urban emptiness based on spontaneous user-generated geolocated open data emerging online. This approach is applied to the Russian city of St Petersburg with a demonstration of the data set formation based on multiple sources and an interpretation of the preliminary results.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focuses on the under-researched phenomenon of urban emptiness, which leads to a certain speculation of propositions and lack of generalisability of the results. Therefore, the researchers are encouraged to further test the proposed propositions.

Practical implications

The paper describes urban emptiness as a resource in urban development and gives recommendations on how to account for it in sustainable urban environment management, in particular, in limiting urban sprawl.


This paper consolidates data-driven methods to create an integrated approach to urban environment management from an original standpoint – analysis of urban emptiness.



Petrova, M. and Nenko, A. (2018), "Urban emptiness as a resource for sustainable urban development", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 388-405.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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