The changing roles of planning and the market in the processes of urban growth in Belgrade and Sofia

  • Atanas Kovachev Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Aleksandar D. Slaev Varna Free University, Faculty of Architecture, Varna, Bulgaria
  • Slavka Zeković Institute of Architecture and Urban & Spatial Planning of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Tamara Maričić Institute of Architecture and Urban & Spatial Planning of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Diliana Daskalova Varna Free University, Faculty of Architecture, Varna, Bulgaria
Keywords: Post-socialist development, suburbanization, urban growth, market-led urban development, market planning relationship


This paper studies the changing roles of planning and the market in the context of urban growth and suburbanization in the capitals of Serbia and Bulgaria, specifically with regard to the socio-economic changes experienced in Southeast Europe over the past decades. With a focus on the post-socialist period, the work also examines specific features of the socialist period, so as to make important distinctions between the two. The research question in this paper is: Is planning or the market responsible for the form of growth that has occurred in Sofia and Belgrade? One methodological problem for the study is that in reality, most urban processes are to a degree both market driven and centrally planned. Thus, it can be difficult to distinguish between the distinct roles and outcomes of planning and the market. To solve this problem, the paper analyzes situations in which either planning or the market is dominant, so as to be able to clearly determine the impact of each mechanism on the resultant development. The paper concludes that urban growth and suburbanization are generally engendered by market forces, whereas the role of planning is to improve and refine the action of the market. When planning ignores the market, it results in failed or inefficient urban forms. However when planning is absent, urban development fails to meet reasonable standards.


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