Complex cities – Planning change

Complex cities is an association of researchers who assist MSc graduation at the Department of Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology. Researchers share an interest in the changing role of Urbanism that results from increasingly complex spatial and societal circumstances and internationalization. They explore how radical transformations of metropolitan structures influence sustainability, how planning, governance and design resolve spatial problems and territorial conflicts and how urbanism addresses poverty, extreme environmental threats and weak governance in the global South. Researchers draw on a expertise in planning and the social sciences more broadly. Their mission is to support specific aspects of MSc Urbanism graduations:

  • Trans-disciplinary approaches: Complex cities graduations draw on knowledge from the fields of design, planning, the political sciences, history, social and economic geography. Through investigating spatial change from multiple perspectives, students are trained to apply trans-disciplinary approaches. The consideration of divers knowledge enhances their innovative thinking.
  • Internationalisation: Complex cities graduations investigate urbanization and urbanism in regions around the globe. Through an orientation towards a variety of settings, students learn to encounter and appreciate differences among spatial, cultural and political circumstances.
  • Institutional practices: Complex cities graduations investigate spatial and institutional change in conjunction. Students learn how to involve the interests, responsibilities and resources of actors in research and design. Their ability to position themselves in societal and political debate is enhanced.
  • Planning methods, systems and cultures: All Complex cities graduations involve knowledge about planning. They consider formal planning systems in place, the influence that planning has on outcomes, and the strengths and weaknesses of planning approaches. Through this involvement, students learn not only how to imagine changes in the built environment but also how to manage such change.
  • Decision-making: Many Complex cities graduations consider not only planning instruments but have an interest in decision-making processes. Such interest enhances the strategic thinking of students. Students develop communication skills that are required for the participation in collaborative decision making.

Graduation topics
Complex cities researchers suggest a set of topics for Complex cities graduations. These topics do not fully determine the scope graduations; they just serve as initial guidelines for the definition of more dedicated proposals. A detailed description of topics can be found on the pages Inclusive cities in the Global South, Imagining (European) cities and Transforming Chinese cities. The selection of topics was inspired by, among others, the knowledge that researchers at the section Spatial Planning & Strategy and the OTB Research Institute have about driving forces and conditions that shape urbanization in particular parts of the world, notably (1) the Global South/developing countries, (2) European regions/developed countries and (3) China. A list of forces and conditions can be found here. We note that boundaries between parts of the world are soft and shifting over time; that there are countries that show a mix of characteristics as they develop and that there are exceptions: countries that fall within a part geographically but do not follow the development patterns of their peers at all. We also note that many Complex cities graduations take a comparative research perspective which requires an in-depth understanding of varieties, possibly across these parts of the world.

Research group
Mentors: On this page you find a list of researchers who are involved in Complex cities graduations, as mentors.
Responsible professors: Vincent Nadin (Chair of Spatial Planning and Strategy) and Wil Zonneveld (Chair of Urban and Regional Development).
Section: Spatial Planning & Strategy (for more information on the activities of the section, see here). Researchers at the section form the Randstad Research Group (for more information about the interests of the group please see here). Many researchers are PhD researchers whom we seek to involve in graduations.



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  1. Pingback: Complex Cities – Planning for Change |

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