Big Science, Ethics, and the Scalar Effects of Urban Planning

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Big Science, Ethics, and the Scalar Effects of Urban Planning

  • Sandra Kopljar Department of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund University, Sweden

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Abstract:  The urban expansion currently under development around the two materials science facilities MAX IV and European Spallation Source in Lund, Sweden, surrounds two meticulously designed research facilities steered by global demands. The new urban area, together with the research facilities dedicated to science and the development of knowledge, expands the city of Lund onto high-quality agricultural land. In doing so, the municipal planning is attempting to align contemporary ideas of sustainable urban development with large-scale scientific infrastructure. This actualizes an ethical dilemma as the urban expansion onto productive agricultural land overrides previous decisions taken by the municipality regarding land use. It can also be understood as going against national land use policy which states that development on productive agricultural land should be avoided. As the planning stands today, the research facilities heavily push local urban development into the area while the intended research outcomes primarily relate to a global research community tied to international scientific demands for materials science. Although the Brunnshög area is realized through a neutralizing planning strategy, thought to balance and compensate for the development on farmland, the effects of the counterbalancing acts are primarily played out at a local urban level in terms of diverse, exciting, and locally sustainable neighbourhoods. The land use protection policies meant to secure national food production rather operates on a national scale. The argument made in this text is that sustainable development, and the intended balancing acts it involves, ought to be carefully considered in terms of scalar effects. Sustainable planning effects’ scalar extent should be taken into account through careful assessment of the step between good intentions and expected outcomes.

Keywords:  big science; planning ethics; planning scale; scalar effect; scalar intention; scale; sustainability; sustainable urban planning

Published:   12 November 2020


© Sandra Kopljar. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.