Graduation program 2020/21

Draft! Please keep an eye on this webpage throughout graduation because more detailed information on events will be regularly updated.

All Planning Complex Cities graduation students are interested in how spatial planning, territorial governance, and participation shape the development of cities and regions. They investigate how these practices can be improved to achieve more sustainable and fair outcomes. Conclusions from projects recommend institutional change and demonstrate, by means of design, how this leads to new development patterns. The Planning Complex Cities studio knows two sub-studios, notably (1) Complex Regions in Transformation and (2) Planning as Critical Engaged Practice. Practices investigated by these sub-studios draw on common conceptions of spatial planning, governance and participation, but use different bodies of knowledge and methodological approaches for their in-depth understanding. Below it is briefly described how the common and different objectives and approaches at the attention of Planning Complex Cities students are addressed during events organized by the studio.

An introduction to Planning Complex Cities

The first five weeks of MSc Urbanism graduations are dedicated to orientation. During week 1 and 2 of this orientation period students select a studio and indicate a preference for a 1st mentor. The Planning Complex Cities group assists in this during two events.

  • Planning Complex Cities: An introduction to graduation topics.
    Wednesday, 2 September 2020, 8.45 – 11.15
    By studio and sub-studio coordinators
    A first event will elaborate the topics of the Planning Complex Cities studio and sub-studios and provide insight into the basic workings of the studio.
  • Planning Complex Cities: A workshop to find common interests.
    Wednesday, 9 September 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Planning Complex Cities 1st mentors
    A second event is intended to help students to reflect upon the implications of Planning Complex Cities topics for their graduation project proposals. In addition it provides students with the opportunity to meet available Planning Complex Cities mentors in person.

Key concepts of Planning Complex Cities graduations

Weeks 3-5 of the graduation orientation period are dedicated to the first drafting of a thesis plan and the selection of a second mentor. During a series of three events, key concepts of Planning Complex Cities graduations will be introduced. Brief lectures on concepts by experts will create a common ground of Planning Complex Cities graduations. Related workshops will help students focusing attention on aspects of these concepts and thus their belonging to sub-studios. The series is dedicated to Planning Complex Cities students. Students who have chosen another graduation studio are invited to participate! Concepts and related analytical approaches are of a general interest of any urbanist, and also help to define issues of secondary interests of graduation students.

  • # 1
    Planning Complex Cities session @ MSc Urbanism workshop week:
    Using SDGs in Your Graduation Project*
    Friday, 18 September 2020, 13.45 – 17.45
    Program to be defined
  • Extra: Welcome to the studio-session
    Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 8.45 – 10.15
  • # 2
    Spatial planning and governance
    Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    This session will introduce key concepts from the field of spatial planning. It will in particular elaborate different planning approaches at the attention of Planning Complex Cities sub-studios. Notions on regional and community-led planning will help students to focus their attention on distinct aspects of planning schemes, and to foresee preconditions and outcomes.
    # 3
    Design, planning, governance and participation
    Wednesday, 30 September 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    This session will elaborate key concepts from the field of design and show how these relate to notions on spatial planning, governance and participation. A workshop will help students to combine concepts and notions, so they can anticipate on the role of design in their graduation projects.

Key methodology of Planning Complex Cities graduation

The period between week 1.5 and the first P1 assessment is dedicated to the finalizing of a thesis plan. A methodology workshop series will help Planning Complex Cities graduation students to predefine intended analyses and to prepare for it. The series complements the Methodology course (AR3U012) and the expertise in spatial analysis and design that students gained during their earlier MSc Urbanism curriculum. It will focus on methods that have particular relevance for graduations at the sub-studios Complex Regions in Transformation and Planning as Critical Engaged Practice. Students will be free to participate in the sessions that are most relevant in the light of their project proposal. The series will involve experts, PhD students, and former graduation students. Sessions will take the form of open discussions/workshops so that the particular needs of individual graduation students can be addressed.

  • # 1 On distinguishing research methods
    Wednesday, 7 October 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Arie Romein
  • # 2 On fieldwork
    Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Caroline Newton
  • Planning Complex Cities P1 presentation
    Wednesday, 28 October 2020 and Thursday, 29 October 2020
    For a more detailed program, see here
  • #3 On interviews, questionnaires and online surveys
    Wednesday, 4 November 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Kasia Piskorek
  • #4 On quantitative data analysis
    Wednesday, 11 November 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Arie Romein
  • #5 On big data, analysing social media, and data scraping
    Wednesday, 18 November 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Ali Sobhani, Urban Studies section, & Lize Oldenkamp, alumni MSc Urbanism student
  • Planning Complex Cities session during Urbansim workshop week
    Planning tools and instruments
    Wednesday, 25 November 2020, 13.45 – 17.30
  • #6 On policy & discourse analysis
    Wednesday, 2 December 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By Verena Balz & Roberto Rocco (to be confirmed)
  • Pitching for P2
    Feedback on methodology
    #1 Thursday, 10 December 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    #2 Wednesday, 16 December 2020, 8.45 – 10.45
    By students (5 – 10 min-pitches)
    By experts (giving feedback, to be confirmed)

Table 1 (draft): Distinguishing Planning Complex Cities sub-studios

Complex Regions in Transformation  Community-Led Planning in Complex Cities
Methods Regional spatial analysis,
Interviews with key actors,
(online) Surveys,
Actor network analysis,
Policy analysis,
Discourse analysis,
Social media analysis,
Quantitative data analysis,
Scenario analysis,
Local spatial analysis,
(walk-along) Interviews,
Actor network analysis,
Policy analysis,
Social media analysis,
Metaplan analysis (crowdsourcing),
Field observations,
Observational drawing,
Action research,
Innovative qualitative methods,
Scenario analysis,

Other common activities

Discussing Planning Complex Cities graduations

The period before the P1 assessment is dedicated to graduation orientation, as well as a deeper understanding of key concepts and methods that all Planning Complex Cities students should share. After P1 Planning Complex Cities students, mentors, experts and PhD students will form dedicated groups to discuss the progress of graduation projects. Initial discussion groups will relate to the Planning Complex Cities sub-studios Complex Regions in Transformation and Planning as Critical Engaged Practice. In case there occur questions that are shared across sub-studios, these will be addressed too. It is important to note that students will have a strong say in determining issues that require discussion. A detailed post-P1 program can therefore not be planned in advance, but will emerge as a response to occurring demands.

Peer review and learning @ Ps

The program foresees exchange and learning during or around assessment moments of graduations. P1, that does not formally require the attendance of 2nd mentors and Delegates of the Board of Examiners, will be a common event. P3 will be organized in a way that supports exchange, in particular between graduation students who share an interest in sub-studios. Other assessment moments of students  (P2, P5) will be broadly announced, so students have the opportunity to learn from each other’s presentations.

The studio as a social setting

Since the establishment of the Planning Complex Cities studio, we have built routines that support the formation of a socially engaged studio group. These routines – largely drawing on on-campus meetings – lost their viability during the 2019/20 round of the studio, due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. As a response, students became engaged in developing new online-formats that compensate for a lack of in particular informal social contacts. They, for an instance, invented the so-called Smart Breaks – moments to lean back, to reflect, and to enjoy the academic setting that they came to experience at TU Delft in the first place (see also related posts on this webpage). When restrictions concerning social distancing became softer, these online formats were complemented with responsible physical meetings. Throughout the period, they were also augmented with active involvement of students in relevant events organized by third parties, in particular the section Spatial Planning & Strategy (see also here).

It is our mission to enhance this approach to the formation of a social studio group: We will continue to pay attention to the constraints of online-education, strive for a varied program that addresses constraints in social and academic terms, and involve students in shaping responses.


The Planning Complex Cities studio involves many different people, students, alumni students, PhD students, mentors, and other experts among these. Below the functions of the ones who coordinate collaboration between all involved are briefly described.

Planning Complex Cities studio coordinator
Dr. Verena Elisabeth Balz, v.e.balz@tudelft.nl

  • Helps students find the right mentor during graduation orientation;
  • Organizes lectures and workshops;
  • Assists in the set-up of peer discussions and other events;
  • Assists in the organisation of P1 and 3 (peer review);
  • Provides students with relevant information/runs the Planning Complex Cities website (in case students wish to publish information, please don’t hesitate to contact);
  • Is an important contact in case students have new ideas about the studio format, feel  unsatisfied about it, or face particular problems during graduation.

Researchers responsible for sub-studios

Complex Regions in Transformation

Planning as Critical Engaged Practice

These people

  • Assist in the set-up and conduction of the Planning Complex Cities program;
  • Assist in the set-up and conduction of peer discussions in sub-studios;
  • Assist students in data acquisition, or the laying of contacts to stakeholders/organisations.

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