The urban mind

The program was completed in 2010.

This post is also available in Swedish

– Cultural and environmental dynamics


Urban development has been a global phenomenon, fundamentally stemming from a close association between climate and emerging human systems. These processes evolve over millennia, and are expressed in many different forms from one time and place to another — with highly varied consequences. Today, we face numerous problems where the challenge is to find solutions conducive to a future that gives scope for psychological well-being in a workable world.

Although now on a scale that is global, with no parallel in history, these problems are not new. Considerable knowledge is therefore attainable through time-depth analyses of similar societal situations. Not infrequently, a very secluded role is assigned to this historical aspect in the problem analyses and solutions presented today. The same goes for the human mental structures that shape, and are shaped by, the societies and situations where our surrounding world is threatened.


The project’s main aim is to offer a perspective of history and humanities to the study of sustainable urban habitats. This is achieved by using a global approach to study urban dwellers’ mental and physical terrain and how it has changed over time since the first high-density settlements, starting some 10,000 years ago.

This prolonged timescale includes many eras of varying length in which prosperity has waxed and waned. Societies have undergone periods of expansion and recession, civilisations have risen and fallen, and human populations have exchanged their mainly rural lifestyles for urban settings. Through the ages, the climate and environment too have been characterised by global, regional and local variation and changes of shifting scope and extent.

The project therefore introduces a new concept, ‘the Urban Mind’, based on a combination of humanities and natural science studies of urban development and climate change. Fourteen exploratory studies using material from Africa, Eurasia and America will analyse discontinuities and continuities in the composition of local, regional and global ‘urban minds’ over time, focusing primarily on periods of increased vulnerability to economic, climate and environmental factors.


In its idea-support form, the project was conceived as a means of laying a foundation for greater understanding of the dynamics of human interaction with the environment from a historical perspective. This was to be done by presenting an initial analysis and review of cultural and social flexibility and recovery in relation to urban development over time.

The concept of ‘Urban Mind’ brings a necessary cognitive and historic dimension to our understanding of how the modern urban complexes inhabited by more than half the world’s population are organised. The project therefore caters for all those who are involved in some way in formulating strategies for creating the sustainable, urban habitats of the future.