CfA – Circles of Expansion

Call for Abstracts

The urban circle, in its best-known form, is the ring boulevard, a significant phenomenon of urban development in Europe. First created in the wake of the demolition of medieval city walls at the outset of the modern era, the paradigmatic example, if a rather late one, is the Ringstrasse in Vienna. Both politically and architecturally, the representative character of the Vienna Ring became a point of reference for the cities of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, hence making this shared urban form a common heritage of the cities of Central Europe. 

In the wider European perspective, however, the Ring in Vienna is merely one of several solutions to the problem of circular expansion of cities. In Budapest, for example, the Great Boulevard (Nagykörút) is remarkable for the absence of imposing public buildings. Instead of symbolic urban self-representation, it emerged as – and remains – primarily a traffic artery, complete with modern transport vehicles like the first electric trams. As the 20th century began, the circular urban forms created tended primarily to consist of transport-oriented ring roads, like motorways or suburban train lines. Yet nonetheless, the range of circular expansion is still more varied: green belts, industrial belts, agglomeration belts were and are significant ideas common to European urban planning.

Hence, the circle of expansion is less of a fixed concept and more of a model of city growth, which – in its simplest interpretation – stands in antithesis to the linear city model or offers an alternative to the multi-core city model. 

Whether urban boulevards, transport rings, or the varying forms of developmental belts, the intention is twofold: to stimulate yet equally to control growth. Essentially, they act simultaneously as the boundaries and the links between suburbs.

Similarly, the circles of urban expansion show a historical dynamic.  In contrast to the early ring boulevards surrounding the cores of the original medieval towns, later urban development was no longer able to implement compact urban architectural concepts. Simply put, the ever-wider concentric circles could not cover the increasing distances and were thus unable to link together the very different types of urban fabrics. As a result, most city dwellers often fail to perceive the circles as an urban issue. A typical case of this manifestation is the motorway or the belt-railway: circles that exist only on the maps and do not create compact urban zones.

In our thematic issue, we will explore the history and challenges of circles of expansion, from the start until contemporary urbanism.

Possible topics include:

–  Case studies and comparative analyses of European cities: boulevards created after the demolition of medieval city walls

–  The concept of the Vienna Ring and its architectural reception in Central Europe

–  The concept and reception of the 19th century Great Boulevard in Budapest

–  Changes of ideas: the transport, military, recreation and other issues by the planning of boulevards, roads and belts

–  Invisible ring roads: the railway and motorway systems

– Navigable ring roads

– Green belts in and around cities

– The emergence of industrial rings and their challenges today

–  The situation of agglomeration belts

–  Theoretical models of urban planning

Host Editors:

Máté Tamáska, (Hungary), Apor Vilmos Catholic College – Hungarian National Archive

Jan Sekan (Slovakia), Technical Univesity of Košice

Anna Váraljai, (Hungary), Univeristy of Szeged

Laura Krišteková (Slovakia), Institute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences


Call published 20.2.2024

Deadline for abstracts 15.4.2024

Notification of acceptance 1.5.2024

Deadline for full papers 15.8.2024

Journal published 12.2024