Please find below brief abstracts of all Planning Complex Cities graduation projects that have started in autumn 2019 and have been concluded in 2020. Click on project titles to access the full graduation project reports at the TU Delft education repository. We present these projects with particular pride as students have accomplished this impressive work under the difficult circumstances that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has imposed.

Anneliese Fuchshuber

Anneliese Fuchshuber

Rio 2016: Reframing the legacy

Rio 2016: Reframing the legacy towards an inclusive city

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Mentors: Luiz de Cavalho Filho, Tanja Herdt
Keywords: Olympic Games, legacy, socio-spatial segregation, inclusive city

The process of globalization of the economy created the idea of a global urban hierarchy. Within this context, the Olympic Games and their legacy started to be seen as a tool for cities to attract large-scale investment and be projected in this global economic perspective. In the case of the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, however, massive dislocation of people and substantial public investments in exclusive areas left behind a legacy of empty venues, gentrification, and real estate speculation, further contributing to an increase of the already existing social-spatial inequality within the city. This project proposes to build upon this legacy of the Olympics in order to create a more inclusive planning for the city of Rio de Janeiro. It proposes to reintegrate segregated areas into the city and designs strategies for a better use of Olympic venues. Overall, it focuses on the possibilities of acting on the legacies left behind by the games in order to revert the negative social and spatial impacts of such a mega-event and put them on the agenda of future urban plans.

Dor Cohen

Dor Cohen

Jerusalem: Dynamic planning and decolonization

Jerusalem: Dynamic planning and decolonization: Transportation infrastructure in conflictual territory

Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Mentors: Luiz de Cavalho Filho, Franklin van der Hoeven
Keywords: Divided cities, urban conflict, transit-oriented development, decolonization, Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Over the past two decades, two big processes have changed the urban configuration of Jerusalem: the construction of the West Bank separation barrier – leaving the majority of the Palestinian neighbourhoods of the city completely cut out from their hinterland and neighbouring Palestinian cities -and the ongoing planning and construction of a light rail project – part of a transportation infrastructure upgrade that came as a response to the city’s urban sprawl and its heavy traffic problem. These two processes seem to be of a contradictive nature: one is of absolute separation and segregation, and the other is of interconnection and integration. The truth is, as always, more complex, as both processes are deeply rooted in the colonization of the city.

This thesis researches the relations between urban planning and colonization, and, in particular, the role of transportation infrastructure in manifesting colonization patterns in the urban space of the city of Jerusalem. It firstly analyses the dynamics that influence planning in a divided city which is subjected to urban conflict; it examines the problems, urban damage, and social injustice that are caused by it. The design part of this thesis secondly explores the potential of urban planning and design as a means of a decolonization and reconciliation process. The result proposes a transition to a transit-oriented development framework to support this process.

Eleni Maria Koskeridou

Eleni Maria Koskeridou

Integrated difference

Integrated difference: Counteracting exclusion of migrants through intercultural spatial planning and governance in Athens

Location: Athens, Greece
Mentors: Verena Elisabeth Balz, Els Bet
Keywords: Integration, governance, migration, housing, urban space

This research-and-design project addresses the mutual but often neglected influence of urban and social conditions and explores interdisciplinary alternatives. In the context of Athens (Greece), spatial planning and its governance support social exclusion of migrants, which is expressed through conflicts with native residents. The project experiments with alleviating these effects by establishing spatial planning as active agent of integration. The main aim of the research is to develop an appropriate strategy in areas with migrants, by re-adjusting the principles of urban space. Instead of providing one fixed solution, the project proposes flexible initiatives that help the community achieve desirable outcomes. The method of this urban integration is generally replicable, provided that it is adjusted for similar urban and social contexts.

Elisa Maria Isaza Bernhard

Elisa Isaza Bernhard

An adaptive strategic framework

An adaptive strategic framework: Exploration of new upgrading strategies in Bogotá, Colombia

Location: Bogotá, Columbia
Mentors: Diego Andres Sepulveda Carmona, Luisa Calabrese
Keywords: Adaptive planning, informal urbanization, socio-ecological resilience

Rising poverty rates, internal displacement, market-oriented development, and social inequalities are some of the many factors that shaped the binary configuration of the so-called formal and informal urban fabric of Bogotá. Urban informality emerges as the answer to a lack of opportunities and spatial offers, evidencing the inability of the existing planning structures to embody and decode the complex conditions, dynamics, and vulnerability gradients that these environments entail. Bogotá’s upgrading program, despite being a crucial instrument in the transformation of informal areas, has proven to be insufficient to overcome the fragmentation between formal and informal urban dynamics. The generic and rigid approach has impeded structural change and local empowerment in a long term perspective.

The thesis proposes an alternative assessment and planning framework, as an opportunity to improve the current planning methods. The framework employs a new long term perspective, that increases the adaptive capacity of the diverse vulnerable groups and enhances systemic interrelations in the current structures of Bogotá. By redefining the role of nature and of formal and informal actors as co-agents of change in the development process, the proposed model aims to transform the segregation dynamics of the city. It seeks to empower the most neglected local communities, to reinforce bottom-up approaches and to provide alternative possibilities for more resilient socio-ecological systems.

Henry Endemann

Henry Endemann

A compact Desakota?

A compact Desakota?: Peri-urban areas in the Jing-Jin-Ji Megaregion (China)

Location: Jing-Jin-Ji Megaregion, China
Mentors: Qu Lei, Alexander Wandl
Keywords: Desakota, peri-urbanization, megaregions, compact city, villages

This thesis explores possible transformations of peri-urban areas in the Jing-Jin-Ji megaregion (China) in order to improve the region’s performance in terms of environmental and social sustainability. Peri-urbanity in East-Asia – or Desakota, a term coined by Terry McGee in the 1990s – can be conceptualized as a combination of easing urban agglomeration and different forms of rural transformation. Being bypassed by the formation of economic metropolitan structures, it forms a diffuse mix of agricultural, industrial, and residential patches. Dramatic levels of air pollution and the loss of agricultural land threaten these environmental and social structures. What was once called the hinterland has lost its original function. The shortcomings of spatial planning and regional governance practices should be counteracted by readjusted principles of urbanism.

The thesis first hypothesizes that integration and compactness can be suitable tools to contribute to the sustainable development of megaregions, if they adapt to the complexities and scales posed by mega-regionalization. A related methodology lays out an agenda that leads to three concrete outcomes. Firstly, the “Desakota Dilemmas” clarify the difficulties of balancing environmental and social concerns. Secondly, the “Desakota Strategies” present proposals for alternative forms of peri-urbanization that are based on the diversity of village communities and the detailed analysis of spatial pre-conditions. Thirdly, the “Jing-Jin-Ji Planning Framework” synthesizes the outcomes of the analysis and design. It presents recommendations for a type of regional planning that is based on collective action, multi-scalar cooperation, and the recognition of uncertainty.

Jie Zhao

Jie Zhao

Re-inventing peri-urban villages

Sub-urban – Reinventing the peri-urban villages

Location: Kunming region, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Peri-urban village, industry agglomeration, industry convergence, knowledge economy

Over recent years, the benefits of agglomeration have been hugely emphasized by the Chinese central government. This has led to the majority of amenities and services being only located in cities and to the household-registration system (Hukou) which equipped cities with even more advantages. The exclusive focus on “megacity-making”, however, has eventually led to mega-city problems, including environmental deterioration and urban-rural disparity. In the 30 years since the reform and opening of the country, rapid urbanization has brought many urban problems to China and urbanization is still in progress; another 300 million people are expected to become urban in the next decade.

Based on the studies of the Kunming peri-urban area, this project analyses the competitive advantages and disadvantages of peri-urban agriculture development. It reveals how the ongoing rural industry transformation shapes the development of peri-urban villages and shows how these can be reinvented through taking a new perspective on a diversified agricultural production; one that includes ecologic, economic, and social values. Theproject also discusses a spatial planning strategy for the development of the peri-urban villages. Following principles of industry agglomeration and the formation of a knowledge economy, it proposes a benign growth boundary between urban and rural areas, constructs a multi-functional industrial-space system, and finally suggests to coordinate urban and rural development with different characteristics respectively.

Kavya Kalyan

Kavya Kalyan

The humane metropolis

The humane metropolis: Towards an integrated socio-ecological planning approach in Chennai

Location: Chennai, India
Mentors: Diego Andres Sepulveda Carmona, Claudiu Forgaci
Keywords: Resilience, local adaptation, climate vulnerability, governance, adaptive spatial planning, culture

Chennai, one of the largest metropolitan cities on the Eastern coast of South India, has seen massive growth over the last few decades. Growth was accompanied by a major infrastructure-led development that has placed economic prosperity above environmental value and social inclusion. The effects of this process have been witnessed during the intense climatic events that the city has borne the brunt of, particularly affecting the socio-economically poor living in ecologically sensitive areas. The response measures that have been taken following such events have led to further marginalisation of these communities. This project proposes an integrated planning and design framework for the vulnerable areas in Chennai, in order to address climate adaptation in a more inclusive, just and humane manner.

Maria Symeonidi

Maria Symeonidi

Island(s) of exception

Island(s) of exception: Investigating spatial planning as an instrument advocating cooperation within contested territories in Cyprus

Location: Cyprus
Mentors: Verena Elisabeth Balz, Leo van den Burg
Keywords: Territorialism, territoriality, cross-border, contested environments, conflict, cooperation, spatial planning

This graduation project discusses the relation between spatial planning and the domains of (1) territorialism and territoriality, and (2) contested and conflicted environments. The project examines the ongoing conflict in Cyprus as the main case study. It focuses on the manifestations of territorialism through analysing how the border between the two contested territories transformed over time. The impact of the territorial division of the island caused by the Turkish invasion in 1974 are examined firstly. Secondly the influence of the re-bordering of the green line in 2003 and henceforth are investigated. Results from these analyses identify a broad variety of existing territories with a different status. They demonstrate a lack of effective bi-communal cooperation and planning to meet in particular environmental challenges but also show the potential for more territorial cooperation through different domains, based on the existing socio-spatial conditions. Insights are used to define new forms of territorial cooperation, characterised by responsibilities that are shared across communities, a more important mediating role for supra-national authority, and an increased focus on environmental challenges. The project concludes with a spatial planning framework for conflict mediation, that will activate sustainable development in Cyprus, addressing the direct and indirect outcomes of the deficiencies of territorialism.


Mark Scholten

Mark Scholten

(Anti-)social Stockholm

(Anti-)Social Stockholm: Understanding interrelations of socio-spatial segregation

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Mentors: Marcin Dąbrowski, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Socio-spatial segregation, social sustainability, multi-level governance, spatial justice, migration

Under the influence of globalisation and neoliberal planning paradigms, socio-spatial segregation in Stockholm, Sweden, has significantly risen. The city’s society has become more heterogeneous, with migrants often ending up in socially vulnerable suburbs in the periphery of metropolitan areas where a spiral of social exclusion and decline was kick-started. This has caused social disorganisation, perpetual poverty and increased crime and vandalism, leading to further stigmatisation and polarization. This is endangering effective decision-making to help improve socio-spatial integration, as migrants are depending on municipalities to respond to their needs. Past and current policy approaches have until now proved ineffective to reduce segregation or to mitigate its negative externalities.

This project aims to address the gap of knowledge about how governance, and social and spatial constructs interrelate with segregation processes and their effects on society. It explores possibilities for a shift towards a more comprehensive way of planning that incorporates a better understanding of these processes. The project proposes a multi-scalar, complementary approach to strategic policy and design interventions and tests interventions on their social sustainability in the Järva area in North-West Stockholm. Overall, the project uses a multi-dimensional socio-cultural lens to grasp interrelations in historically grown segregation processes and to better account for their implications for future development.

Qian Yu

Qian Yu

The endogenous development of rural areas

Exploring the endogenous development model of rural areas based on tourism background, taking Wuyuan as an example

Location: Wuyuan, China
Mentors: Qu Lei, Taeke Bouma
Keywords: Community-based tourism, rural area, cultural dimension, endogenous development

The question explored in this thesis is how to combine the cultural dimension of the countryside with a community-based approach in order to help rural endogenous development in the context of the urban-rural dual economic differentiation that is caused by China’s rapid urbanization. The project gives an alternative possibility to the current top-down tourism model which emphasizes the role of government and developer, marginalizes local people and causes damages to local environment. It  also searches for a path to generate inclusive benefits for local community. The knowledge gap addressed by this project concerns the feasibility of community-based tourism (CBT) in China’s top-down planning system in the face of various threats in rural development, including labour loss, lack of skills, backward facilities etc. The project also explores the potential of creating economic growth in the rural landscape that contains China’s traditional culture since thousands of years, and the spatial form that can be generated by an endogenous development model that is based on community value and hence promotes socio-economic sustainable development in Chinese rural area.


Qiaojia Zhang

The community living circle around stations

Community living circle along station influencing realm: Exploring the relationship between the community living circle and rail station influencing realm in a mountainous urban context

Location: Chongqing, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Stefan van der Spek
Keywords: Community living circle, station influencing realm, TOD, residential district planning, rail system, mountain topography

China is facing the dual challenges of urbanization and motorization. The poorly organized urban centres and traditional residential planning are unable to meet the increasingly diverse demands of people. To solve problems, the Transit-oriented development (TOD) model and the emerging concept ‘community living circle’ are being favoured by policy makers. However, the related theoretical division between a station influencing realm and a community living circle is not applicable to mountain cities. In the context of complex mountain terrain, the way in which the two concepts describe space is inconsistent with the actual experience of people. Against this background, this project redefines the station influencing realm and community living circle. A design strategy for the connection space of mountain cities is updated and optimized to .

Raul Alejandro Martinez Medina

Raul Alejandro Martinez Medina

Asymmetries of power

Asymmetries of power: Adaptive spatial planning in the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico

Location: Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico (MAVM), Mexico
Mentors: Diego Andres Sepulveda Carmona, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Adaptive planning and design, urban morphology, socio-ecological system, spatial justice, endogenous development

Unbalanced decision making processes, a lack of planning and market-driven development led by high power interests have shaped increasing spatial fragmentation and social segregation in the emergent Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico (MAVM). To counteract these problems, this project proposes an adaptive planning framework that links urban morphology, governance capacities and socio-ecological systems.  The approach to vulnerable areas in the metropolis employs a local perspective and aims at a collaborative and evolutionary process. Several areas with the potential to become sub-centres are defined to become strategic locations for endogenous development, thus creating opportunities for overcoming segregation and fragmentation by means of enhanced economic and community activities. The research recognises five main principles (systemic goals) of spatial actions. These evolve at multi-dimensional levels (scale, time and actors) and stress capacities for adaptation embedded in the selected locations. Potentials for connectedness and activation from a bottom-up perspective are revealed through exploration by design, using a scenario technique. This research concludes that interests and their alignment with different actors, local capacities and operability of the actions taken are directly proportional to the transformation capacities and the effectiveness of the goals proposed by the adaptive framework.

Rotem Shenitzer Schwake

Rotem Shenitzer Schwake


(Re)Levant: Former railway networks in the Levant as a backbone for regional cooperation and social inclusion

Location: Levant region, Israel
Mentors: Roberto Rocco, Leo van den Burg
Keywords: Contested environments, social inclusion, sustainable development, railway planning

Sankarnath Pothannoor Mukundan

Sankarnath Pothannoor Mukundan

Changing sacredscapes

Changing Sacredscapes: A cultural approach for a sustainable Varanasi

Location: Varanasi, India
Mentors: Marcin Dąbrowski, Gerdy Verschuure-Stuip
Keywords: Culture, pilgrimage, socio-ecological system, strategic framework, sacredscapes, Hinduism, cultural landscape

Nature is unique on earth. Civilizations over time have defined various landscapes, some of which have been changed and some are in the process. Sacredscapes are ones among those that have been sustained over many centuries. Urbanization is in the process of transforming the sacred identity of many cities. But what is forgotten is beyond religion; there is often a strong socio-ecological balance that has kept the landscapes resilient. Is there a need to preserve this identity? If so why and how? This graduation project explores the opportunities for the planning of sacredscapes, focusing on Varanasi in India. Following a cultural approach, the research proposes a regional design and strategic framework. Lessons learnt can be transferred to other sacredscapes.

Shuangyun Chen

Shuangyun Chen

Break the tourist bubbles!

Break the tourist bubbles!: Spatial strategies to achieve liveable local places and explorable tourist destinations in developing Chinese cities

Location: Hangzhou, China
Mentors: Arie Romein, Gerdy Verschuure-Stuip
Keywords: Tourist bubbles, behavioural pattern, spatial pattern, urban tourism

The activity of urban tourists often confines distinct urban tourist zones – the tourist bubbles – and these zones usually cause segregation between city life and the tourist area. This thesis digs into this phenomenon, using Hangzhou, China, as the case study. The goal of the project is to reintroduce local inhabitants into the tourist area and to invite tourists to explore the city beyond these. It first sets up spatial patterns of three types of tourist bubbles in the city and analyses the interrelationships between the tourist areas and the moving-staying mode of different types of visitors. The three representative tourist bubbles are West Lake which stands for the urban scenic areas, Hefang neighbourhood which stands for the traditional neighbourhoods, and Qiaoxi Museum clusters which stands for the cultural building clusters. Based on the analysis and the pattern system, the thesis secondly proposes spatial strategies for the different bubbles and for the city of Hangzhou to break the bubbles.

Shuxin Chi

From arrival city to Beijing

From arrival city to Beijing: Co-transformation of arrival city and urban in an open system

Location: Beijing, China
Mentors: Taeke Bouma, Lei Qu
Keywords: Open city, arrival city, informal city

This graduation project explores an alternative development strategy for city of Beijing, China. The project reflects on the grand blueprint of Beijing planning and the original approach to urban renewal. It in particular discusses the death of the ‘arrival cities’ in this planning context as well as a series of related social problems. Taking the mitigation of these Beijing planning problems as a goal, the project builds a new development framework; one that is based on the theory of the ‘open cities’. It is demonstrated that when understanding the arrival city as an effective open system, it becomes a means of opening the urban space in Beijing. This project reverses Beijing’s planning logic. It points at new development value in the weak spaces of Beijing’s current planning, inspiring formal planning models by suggestions derived from the observation of informal development forces.

Clifford Shu-Yu Lin

Shu-Yu Lin

A creatively inclusive London?

A creatively inclusive London?: Nomadic urban creative clusters as drivers of socio-economic integration and spatial quality in peripheral urban areas

Location: London, United Kingdom
Mentors: Rodrigo Cardoso, Maurice Harteveld
Keywords: Nomadic creative community, creative industry, creative city, gentrification, urban regeneration, globalisation

Since creative industries started gaining their recognition as beneficial forces for socio-economic transformation in the 1990s, there have been plenty of discussions regarding such phenomenon in urban planning policy and academia. While certain sectors of creative industries are enjoying the economic growth brought by globalisation, some others, especially the Nomadic Creative Community (NCC) – as this thesis identifies as young, mobile, highly educated, artistically employed, and low income groups – are suffering from cities’ high land values caused by gentrifications.

This thesis aims to explore the potentiality and obstacles of facilitating the NCC as the bottom-up forces for locally based urban regenerations in the case of the global city of London. On top of that, the thesis adapts the ‘creative city’ concept to include an evaluation of the effect of globalisation on creative industries and how they respond to the conditions. Through a multi-scale spatial and governance analysis, example reviews as well as empirical findings collected via on-site interviews and observation, the project reveals the importance and values of community-oriented creative and cultural amenities supported by involved stakeholders. In the end, the thesis proposes several design and planning recommendations aiming at improved liveability for all and better spatial, socio-economic inclusivity of the current London metropolitan structures.

Surabhi Khandelwal

Surabhi Khandelwal

Adaptive geographies

Adaptive geographies: Towards a flood-resilient Mumbai Metropolitan Region

Location: Mumbai Megaregion, India
Mentors: Dominic Stead, Ulf Hackauf
Keywords: Ecology, infrastructure, flooding, adaptation

Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. The economy and morphology of the city has been shaped by its physical infrastructure but planning has neglected ecological and social aspects. This has led to the extreme vulnerability of the region to ecological and social negative externalities. The urban floods that the region experiences every year disrupt the daily lives and inflict loss to both, the life and livelihood of many. Also, the state of emergency that is due to climate change presents severe challenges to the sustenance for humankind. Especially Mumbai, one of the largest cities in the world, is at risk of being wiped out. Being built from an archipelago of islands, the city’s historic downtown core is particularly vulnerable, along with most of the suburban districts. This leads to an urgent need for providing resilience to the socio-ecological system in the region and for climate adaptive capacity against floods.

You Wu

You Wu

The death and life of Chinatowns

The death and life of Chinatowns: Towards an integrated and authentic transformation of ‘Chinatown’ in Amsterdam

Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Reinout Kleinhans
Keywords: Chinatown, integration, authenticity, socio-spatial planning, transnational identity

The advent of steamship in the 19th century has triggered Chinese immigration in many cities around the world. Chinese seamen gathered around docklands of a certain scale and formed Chinese quarters. Chinatowns appeared in many harbour cities in European countries consequently. Over the recent one hundred years urban development and migrant shifts transformed these Chinatowns many times, resulting in shifting recognitions, urban roles and functions. However, nowadays Chinatowns seem to decline universally. Scholars note that the stereotypic manifestation and commodification have gradually erased their social meaning as an ‘ethnic core’, and the ‘voluntaristic way’ to accommodate difference. Based on literatures, this thesis defines the spatial dimensions and social construction of Chinatowns, as well as the concept of integration and authenticity. It analyses the contextualised problems of the Chinatown in Amsterdam, and proposes its reconfiguration through the socio-spatial strategies.

Most photos were taken by Robert Rocco. All others have been provided by the students.

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