Urban & Regional Governance

Since the 1980s, various forms of governance and control are applied in urban and regional development, reaching from self-organization to hierarchic governance of collective action in fields with societal relevance. In this field, these forms of governance and control are analyzed based on a scientific, wide understanding of governance under aspects of legitimacy and inclusion. Actors, systems of rule (institutions) and its interdependencies are the main focus of research activities.

Typical questions in this field are:

  • How to influence socio-spatial contexts with formal and informal planning institutions?
  • Which specific modes of governance can be observed in planning related fields?
  • What are the effects of the legal-institutional framework of planning on the formation of sets of actors and on the action- and interaction-orientation of actors?
  • What is the role of state actors in the field of planning?

Urban Commons

in preparation

Politics, Power

in preparation

Protest, Democracy

In recent years, large scale protest movements are emerging in cities around the globe, often as a response to austerity politics inflicted on citizens. These protest movements appropriate urban space by occupation or by marching and rallying, using the city’s spaces as their stage to voice their demands. Urban space becomes a central tool in the expression of politics and in the democratic process. Protest and governmental responses to protest highlight hierarchies and power relations in urban space, while at the same time these spatial practices bear the potential for emancipatory processes, of overcoming hierarchies and dominant structures.

Typical questions in this field are:

  • What is the import of space to urban democracy in general and to protest in particular?
  • How is space appropriated by protest movements? Which spatial tactics are applied?
  • What are governmental responses to protest in urban space? How are approaches/ discourses changing over time?
  • What is the importance of accessible urban space to urban democracy (emancipatory processes, political participation)?

Planning Culture

Current debates about planning culture describe new perspectives and interpretations of spatial planning and its processes. An up-to-date definition of spatial planning includes the totality of all actions which are directed towards the future development of an area, and which control or influence its design and appropriation. This broad understanding of spatial planning corresponds with a holistic apprehension and with a cultural understanding of meaning and knowledge. In this sense, planning is per se cultural. It can be seen as a cultural practice that is influenced by its value systems as well as its contexts of action which lead to the production of spaces with certain meanings. Planning culture is the guiding idea for an unfinished search process that focuses on the cultural understanding of the practices of spatial planning.

Urban Living Labs

As an instrument for establishing an open collaborative practice, the European Commission recommends the development of so-called (Urban) Living Labs (ULL) to enable social spaces where not only products and services are created, but also any kind of local concerns can be addressed. The focus lies on new processes of urban production, co-production, participation and open learning. In practice, online and offline-based interactive and collaborative development approaches are often combined. The variety of approaches is in part a response to the increasingly complex interactions in a global environment. The core objective of the ULL is the systematic interaction of all relevant actors with explicit involvement of the end users in an experimental development laboratory. This happens on a local, urban and / or regional scale as well as in the context of strategic planning and development approaches.

In context of the existing concepts of ULLs, which were rather insensitive to the socio-spatial contexts and social psychological dimensions of learning and acting (up till now), it is important to further development the ULL approach through improvement and testing of innovative forms of knowledge. This will enable gradual, continuous learning for the participants on the theoretical basis of social learning theory.