Projects and networks

Please note that the below information will be regularly updated over the upcoming weeks!

Students in the Planning Complex Cities studio are generally free to choose the region or urban area they wish to work on. In order to gain a deep understanding of spatial development patterns and institutional conditions, we encourage students to focus on the development and planning of regions, cities and neighbourhoods that are under investigation of ongoing research at the Department of Urbanism tough. Projects that provide excellent opportunities for the development of graduation project proposals are firstly described below. We highlight their scope, and the additional benefits they offer to involved students. To enhance the understanding of particular situations, students should also consider existing research networks at the Spatial Planning & Strategy and Urban Studies sections. The most relevant ones are described below secondly.


UfM Action Plan for Sustainable Urbanisation and Housing in the Mediterranean

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is an intergovernmental organisation that brings together 43 countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region to promote dialogue and cooperation. The UfM Working Groups on Urban Regeneration and Housing have – in partnership with member states – developed an Action Plan on Sustainable Urbanisation and on Housing, both under the roof of the Urban Agenda for the Mediterranean of 2017. The section Spatial Planning & Strategy at TU Delft is the lead knowledge partner in the writing-up of these plans, and in charge of coordinating related research. As such, it aims to promote integrated urban regeneration and development across the Mediterranean region and to foster human development, economic prosperity, political stability and overall sustainability. The key areas of action for integrated urban planning concern:

  1. Informal settlements and deprived neighbourhoods as focus points for the creation of inclusive cities and regions;
  2. Former brownfields and railway sites as focus points for urban regeneration and area re-development;
  3. Heritage and tourism as drivers of economic prosperity;
  4. Port-areas, port-cities and their hinterlands as drivers of sustainable economic prosperity.

Benefits for participating graduation students include access to already accumulated knowledge and information, e.g. an overview over up-to-date policy frameworks used in European Union and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. Besides coordinating the writing of action plans, TU Delft will coordinate a series of events to consult and inspire stakeholders around the region. The objective of these gathering is to create a community of academics, policy makers, and students from around the region, and to identify future leaders for positive change in the Mediterranean. Planning Complex Cities students who link their project to UfM research will thus benefit from being part of a broad, informed and ambitious partnership.
For more information, please click HERE, or contact: R.C.Rocco@tudelft.nl


Master Thesis Workshop The Hague Southwest

The Hague Southwest is a district in the City of the Hague, consisting of four early postwar neighbourhoods: Bouwlust, Vrederust, Morgenstond and Moerwijk. These four neighbourhoods provide accommodation to approximately 70,000 residents, which is comparable to the size of a small Dutch city. Many residents in these areas suffer from poverty, long-term unemployment, physical and mental health issues. For youngsters, there is a lack of opportunities related education, work, and leisure. Almost half of the residents struggle to get by on a daily basis and many residents often feel not safe in their own neighbourhood. The majority of the housing consists of medium-rise apartments in the social rented sector, many of which are nearing the end of their life cycle. The Hague Southwest has a lot of public space, but not all of this is used in optimal ways. Moreover, the region-wide need for significant housing construction has sparked a debate about densification in the area. The City of the Hague, local housing associations and the national government have joined forced in the so-called ‘Regiodeal Den Haag Zuidwest’ and will invest a lot of resources into these neighbourhoods in the coming years.

In this context, the LDE Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity (of which our faculty is one of the lead partners) has initiated a so-called Master Thesis Workshop The Hague Southwest. This graduation lab initiative aims to make a positive contribution (through graduation research and education) to the ambitions for The Hague Southwest. Within the Master Thesis Workshop (MTW), students with different backgrounds from the universities of Delft, Rotterdam and Leiden work on special themes/challenges.

Each student will be supervised by his/her own supervisors at the ‘home’ faculty. However, the MTW will offer an interdisciplinary vehicle for regular exchanges, not only between students, but also between students and civil servants from the city, housing associations and other professional actors. In other words, if you are keen on working together in your graduation project with other disciplines and with societal stakeholders, this may be a good choice for you. Your ‘home base’ will be the Planning Complex Cities Studio, but you will also be periodically active in the LDE Master Thesis Workshop.

The City of The Hague has offered a list of challenges (in Dutch) that they would like to be addressed by graduate students from the constituent faculties and departments represented in the LDE Centre Governance of Migration & Diversity. Below are some ‘typical’ Urbanism / Planning Complex Cities themes, which students can take on from September 2021 onwards:

  • What is an optimal composition of the population of The Hague Southwest? Which target groups may be very useful in ‘strengthening’ the population composition, and how is this supposed to work? To what extent can student housing (where and under which conditions) make a positive impact? How can Collective Private Commissioning (CPC) self-building and co-housing play a role in the wider area redevelopment?
  • Which factors are important for ‘balanced neighbourhoods’ (NB: this terms needs to be contextualized)? What is a ‘good’ mix of housing types? How do place-based social cohesion and a sense of community arise? How can a sense of community/collectivity be created between building blocks and in inner courtyards? What is the meaning of inner courtyards in this respect (now and in the future, when they may be used in more collective ways)? What can we learn from previous redevelopment projects in The Hague Southwest and in other cities, especially projects which are characterised by densification of a former low- or medium density housing area?
  • Placemaking: what can temporary initiatives in public space and beyond mean for The Hague Southwest? What are success factors of this type of temporality? What about examples and experiences elsewhere (whether or not based on empirical research)? How do placemaking and related temporal initiatives contribute to area redevelopment in general, and strengthening social cohesion/community in particular? Under which conditions do placemaking and related temporal initiatives contribute to (perceived) ownership by residents and local entrepreneurs?

For more information, please contact: R.J.Kleinhans@tudelft.nl

Regional design, civic participation, & democracy

An upcoming project at the Department of Urbanism will develop and operationalise novel participatory instruments for proactive and strategic citizen engagement in sustainability transitions. It will investigate – amongst others – regional design-led territorial tools for citizen deliberation at scale. The project addresses a defining societal and democratic challenge for Europe, which is to hear the voices of least engaged communities, especially in structurally weak regions dependent on energy-intensive industries, which will be most affected by transitions towards a more sustainable future. We encourage graduation students to help us explore the interrelations between regional design, civic participation, and democracy via case studies in particularly European regions at the start of this project. Questions investigated may be: How do governmental agencies and civil society work together in regional design? what are performance of regional design in the realm of democracy? How can regional design enhance the quality of democratic decision-making at scale?

For more information, please contact: V.E.Balz@tudelft.nl or M.M.Dabrowski@tudelft.nl

Research Management in Per-Urban Areas: Going Beyond Urban Metabolism (REPAiR)

The REPAiR project draws on geodesign approach and the concept of extended Urban Metabolism to promote the use of waste as a resource in European regions. Given that a transition to circular economy is one of the fundamental urban challenges of today, the aim of the project is to support the regional stakeholders in co-exploration of regional challenges and opportunities for circular economy development, co-design of eco-innovative solutions and co-decision on strategies for their implementation. REPAiR makes a difference by emphasising the importance of and exploring the neglected spatial dimension of circular economy. Planning Complex Cities students who link their project to REPAiR research will benefit from the expertise generated so far as well as access to a wide range of experts and stakeholders.
For more information, please contact: M.M.Dabrowski@tudelft.nl

Climate challenge and flood resilience planning: systems, agents, institutions. Greater Bay Area, Guangdong Province

Planning Complex Cities studio students can choose to synergise their graduation project with an ongoing research project bringing together researchers from South China University of Technology’s State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Building Science and TU Delft’s Department of Urbanism. This project combines spatial planning, urban design and flood risk management insights to explore barriers and opportunities for developing cross-boundary resilience strategies in the Greater Bay Area in the Guangdong Province in Southern China. This is one of the fastest growing urban mega-regions in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially coastal flooding and extreme weather events. In particular, the focus is on (1) identifying the factors that affect vulnerability of cities in the Greater Bay Area; (2) the interrelations between spatial systems, agents and institutions matter for vulnerability and resilience; (3) and the design of spatial interventions and planning tools facilitate cross-boundary regional cooperation to improve resilience. Graduation projects connected to this project would be expected to shed light on the distribution of flood risk for infrastructures, ecosystems and different social groups, analyse interests, awareness and decision-making process involving the main stakeholders, and propose visionary spatial designs for this region, supported by planning tools and policies for enabling integration between planning, urban design and water management. The students will benefit from the project team’s support and access local knowledge of the SCUT staff and students to facilitate fieldwork in the Greater Bay Area, while feeding findings and design proposals to the research project. They will also have an opportunity to co-author academic publications with the project team.

The project team involves Meng Meng (SCUT, principal investigator), Marcin Dąbrowski (TUD) and Fransje Hooijmeier (TUD)

For more information, please contact: M.M.Dabrowski@tudelft.nl

Srei Sophon: Rapid urban growth in secondary cities

The Cambodian city of Srei Sophon is going through major changes at the moment due to macro scale and regional development plans for infrastructure projects and reconstruction. The city has witnessed serious growth over the last years, attracting new businesses and people. This growth can be attributed to several factors, such as the good location of this secondary city, its connectivity to other major cities in Cambodia, and its close distance to Thailand. It is expected that an increasing number of both internal and international migrants will move to Srei Sophon and its hinterland.

Planning Complex Cities students who investigate this project can draw on on existing relationship with administrators of the city of Srei Sophon and several Universities and NGOs in Cambodia.
For more information, please contact: C.E.L.Newton-1@tudelft.nl



Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Research Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity (GMD)

The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Research Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity (GMD) is a research centre of scholars that share a focus on the governance of migration and diversity. With its multi- and interdisciplinary knowledge infrastructure, the mission of the LDE Centre GMD is to generate knowledge for and have impact on the governance of migration and diversity at various levels of scale. Its main aim is to achieve resilient and inclusive societies.

TU Delft scholars connected to this centre tackle issues of urban development and socio-spatial justice, including social inequality, segregation and neighbourhood development. These issues are strongly related to migration and diversity. Segregation is for instance caused by social-spatial inequalities of people with a migration background or the concentration of low-income households in areas which reveal super-diversity in terms of migration backgrounds. Planning Complex Cities students who are interested in the socio-spatial implications of inequality, segregation, migration and diversity, can benefit from this network through access to scholars with various backgrounds, sources of information, and, in the near future, research projects jointly enacted by senior academics affiliated to the Centre.
For more information, please contact: R.J.Kleinhans@tudelft.nl


Graduation projects investigating Chinese cities and regions build up upon an expertise on spatial development, governance and spatial planning in China, present at the Spatial Planning & Strategy section. They profit from ongoing collaboration between TU Delft and Chinese partner institutions, particularly South China University of Technology (SCUT) in Guangzhou. Since 2012, SCUT and TU Delft have established a joint research centre on Urban Systems and Environment (USE). The centre facilitates interdisciplinary research on sustainable urbanization in the European Union and China. Comparative studies seek to enrich a common understanding of future challenges concerning sustainable urbanization, as well as innovations planning strategies, governance models and design solutions.

Planning Complex Cities students who participate in this network will benefit from accessibility to knowledge and data particularly related to the Greater Bay Area (GBA) where SCUT is located. Cities in this region -Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong for instance – have also been studied by MSc Urbanism students of previous years. Conducted research therefore provides for a broad, general understanding of the context and issues at hand, as well as potentials for future development. The most relevant topics are related to inclusive development in the context of migration, industrial transformation and climate change. However, students are not restricted to this platform when choosing their study cases. The same topics can be studied in other cities and regions in China, using own collaboration networks for data collection and field work. Teachers will support such initiatives with contacts, in for instance Beijing and Shanghai, if possible.
For more information, please contact: L.Qu@tudelft.nl

Comparative Analysis of Territorial Governance and Spatial Planning Systems in Europe (COMPASS)

In the late 1990’s the European Commission published the ‘EU Compendium on Spatial Planning Systems and Policies’ which covered the 15 EU member states at that time. Since then, the EU has expanded to 28 member states and there have been significant developments in pan-European territorial and cohesion policies. Territorial governance and spatial planning systems have now evolved to become one of the key components of integrated cross-sectoral development strategies and policy delivery mechanisms among ESPON member and partner states. The COMPASS project has investigated this change through raising policy questions on the influence of EU directives and policies, best-practices for cross-fertilisation of spatial and territorial development policies with EU Cohesion Policy, and ways to better reflect development policy perspectives in Cohesion Policy and other policies at the EU scale. The COMPASS project has been concluded in 2018. However, results are currently investigated in more depth and by means of case study analysis in several European countries.

Planning Complex Cities students who link their project to COMPASS can draw on a robust body of knowledge about spatial planning, regional policies, and governance in European countries as well as a comprehensive framework for comparative research. In addition they have potential access to a broad group of researchers in many European countries.
For more information, please contact: W.A.M.Zonneveld@tudelft.nl

Global Urban Lab

The Global Urban Lab is a communication and action platform, which is part of the TU Delft | Global Initiative. Its goal is to bring visibility and articulation to TU Delft staff and students doing work on urbanisation in the Global South (low- and middle-income contexts). Next to hosting discussions, lectures and events, the Global Urban Lab predominantly wants to connect and build knowledge: serving as a platform throughout all faculties, schools, and departments for researchers and practitioners to meet, learn and collaborate in a transdisciplinary manner. For more information, please visit http://www.globalurbanlab.org

Confronting Informality

Urban informality can be defined in many ways and is highly contested. Scholars have identified three schools of thought characterising debates on informal urbanisation: dualist, legalist and structuralist. Despite various critical accounts, a dualistic framework for the study of informality persists. The assumption of formality as the “norm” and informality as an “anomaly” can still be read in practice and policy. In recent debates, this binary opposition is being addressed by several authors, forcing a more nuanced understanding of what is “informal”.

Members of the Department of Urbanism are deeply engaged in the debate mentioned above, evidenced for instance by the organisation of five “Confronting Informality” Symposiums (https://confrontinginformality.org), including an international competition in 2018. Due to continuing engagement, Planning Complex Cities students can benefit from access to many experts on this topic, and are invited to help with the organisation of the symposium and the competition.

Some additional opportunities for linking graduation projects and research networks at the Department of Urbanism are not yet announced on this website.