Please find below brief abstracts of all Planning Complex Cities graduation projects that have started in autumn 2020 and have been concluded in 2021. 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.


Chen Gao

Whose Rules? Whose Land? Whose Water?

Whose rules? Whose land? Whose water?: Water rights, equity and justice in Dujiangyan water conservation area

Location: Dujiangyan, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Tanja Herdt
Keywords: Water conservation, Dujiangyan irrigation area, water justice, sustainable development

With the explosive growing population in Chengdu, the demand for urban drinking water is increasing, and the application of water conservation regulations is becoming more and more stringent. However, with the delineation of water source protection zones, villages and small counties in the upper reaches of Chengdu have been affected a lot. Metropolis gain priority on water and the indigenous people are sacrificed in the process of water resource utilization with both economic and water culture loss. Interventions that try to improve the life of indigenous people in the process of protecting water sources sometimes exacerbate this injustice. Therefore, this research is aiming to build a framework of how to measure both physical and virtual water values, a development strategy in this peri-urban context, and feasible governance to keep the balance of different demands to pursue water justice in the Dujiangyan irrigation area.

For more information on Chen: Twitter @Chen17193372


Christiaan Hanse

The Relevance of In-Between

The relevance of in-between: repositioning the role of the urban and peri-urban of the Dutch Flanders region into the larger transition of the Scheldt Delta

Location: Dutch Flanders, Netherlands
Mentors: Rodrigo Cardoso, Alex Wandl
Keywords: Regional decline, Scheldt Delta, regional development, regional strategies, regions in transition, regional governance

The region of Dutch Flanders is facing several challenges related to regional imbalances and perception of decline. It is located in between the Scheldt river estuary and the region of Flanders in Belgium which is providing unique opportunities, but also causing frictions and risk. Its peri-urban and urban areas under pressure are located in between the large scale activities in industry, agriculture and port logistics. These large-scale activities have multiscalar relations, connections and forms of cooperation to which the urban and peri-urban do not seem to be as well connected to. At the same time, the larger functional region of the Scheldt Delta is in need of transition because of economic, environmental and technological changes. The in-between areas could benefit by repositioning their economic, social and environmental role into the larger functional transition of the Scheldt Delta. This study develops a strategy for improving the cross-border relations and opportunities to guide the transition of the Scheldt Delta region.

Divya Gunnam

Loiter City

Loiter City: Spatial Strategies to redefine a woman’s place in a public realm

Location: Bangalore, India
Mentors: Caroline Newton, Els Bet
Keywords: Right to gendered city, gender mainstreaming, agency for women, gender-sensitive urban planning, collaborative governance

Gender is a highly context-specific social construct.  It explores the social relationships between men and women, a relationship in which women have been systematically subordinated (Oakley 1972). The way gender relations are defined broadly influence the conceptualisation of space and place. In a patriarchy like India, where gender inequality is deeply rooted in its culture and history, this disparity lends itself to the realm of space-making as well. Even though women account for almost half of India’s population, they are still considered vulnerable and marginalised. They still have difficulty fostering an amicable relationship with the public realm which was predominantly created and served for men. They are often met with hostility, cultural taboos, violence and an exclusionary environment that doesn’t account for or recognise their complex needs.

This project deals with the inequalities between gender and focuses on the spatial dimension of this inequality trying to locate socio-spatial justice through an Indian perspective. Through this project, we try to understand culturally constructed social structures, behaviour patterns, relationships between people and the built environment.  The project explores spatial justice through gender-sensitive city planning and by giving agency and ownership to women towards the cities they inhabit.


Federico Ruiz Carvajal

Life after Fences

Life after fences: Negotiating low-income gated communities in Bogotá

Location: Bogotá, Colombia
Mentors: Luiz De Carvalho Filho, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Gated communities, social housing, negotiation

In the early 2000s gated communities became the main growth cells of Bogotá, and in 2018 they housed 38% of the city’s households. The case of low-income gated communities, which accounts of more than half of them, is especially complex; their inhabitants, who see homeownership as the first step in their trajectory towards middle-class, are the first enforcers of their condominiums’ written and unwritten codes of conduct. This unexpected alignment of government, developers and residents defines a “closed city”, where the possibility of an open and productive relationship between public and private spaces is denied. Nonetheless, this complex apparatus for control is constantly challenged by those same residents. This “overflow” is evident in the productive activities carried out within the gated communities and in the informal services and products offered in the streets around them. This project explores the ways in which this negotiation can be translated and enhanced into a spatial and regulatory “framework for negotiation.” The goal is to create the conditions for the growth of open living environments through actions that prioritize horizontal interaction and spatial flexibility. In this scenario, residents should become the main agents of production of social, political and economic complexity of their neighbourhoods.


Jackson Gathanga

Cities for Nomads

City-regions for cultural nomads: Leveraging transitory rural-urban networks in Nairobi’s peripheries through regional agroecological systems; A guide to city-region planning in Kenya

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Mentors: Caroline Newton, Ellen van Bueren
Keywords: City-region, peripherals, rural-urban links, agroecology, adaptive governance

Nairobi, like many other major African cities, is characterized by urban primacy, highly rooted in its historical colonial context, where it is three to four times larger than the country’s second largest city. Similarly, it faces rapid urbanization, increasing inequality and poverty, and a burgeoning and vulnerable urban youth population who constitute majority of the population. Despite this, it continues to attract an increasing population of rural-urban migrants who are in search of the opportunities and benefits afforded by urban areas. A closer look at the social-economic lifestyle of a large group of Nairobi urbanites reveals a strong link between urban and rural areas which can be attributed to social-economic circular migration patterns. By closely evaluating these patterns and the everyday socio-economic settings of Nairobi urbanites, this project seeks to investigate these migratory socio-economic patterns that establish connective socio-spatial patterns between the rural and urban areas. Consequently, it evaluates how these patterns can be leveraged against currently practised neo-liberal urban development models in the region, to advocate for a more sustainable system of decentralized urban development that caters to the needs of a rapidly growing urban population.

Johnathan Subendran

Geographies of Conflict

Geographies of Conflict: Towards Liberation, Self-determination and Spatial justice in Sri Lanka’s North-East

Location: North-Eastern, Sri Lanka
Mentors: Caroline Newton, Diego Sepulveda Carmona
Keywords: Spatial justice, ethnic conflict, spatial planning, self-determination

This research project aims to understand the spatial and procedural implications of planning and spatial justice in conditions of oppressive power and conflict. Ambitions towards spatial justice amongst marginalized ethnic minority populations are at further risk if liberal notions of government and planning continue to operate under the ethnocratic state regime. This demands an alternative approach and perspectives that are context-specific to which can engage with the realities of marginalized populations towards the quest for justice. The research framework is steered by an exploratory research approach that suggests an organic process to contextualize the preconditions of spatial justice as the research begins to unveil the conditions of the context of marginalized areas of North-Eastern Sri Lanka. The project intends to formulate spatial strategies and procedural guidelines to support the quest for spatial justice, self-determination, and liberation of marginalized populations.


Jort Van den Broek

The Revival of the Social Housing Community

The Revival of the Social Housing Community: Providing security and shelter for the urban poor

Location: London, United Kingdom
Mentors: Arie Romein, Leo van den Burg
Keywords: Social housing, urban planning, community land trust, right to the city.

Adequate housing has long been considered a basic human right. Trends of globalisation, financialisation and urbanisation are oppressing this right. Social housing is neglected by authorities and stigmatised by society. Local, low-income residents are dispossessed and displaced, and social housing is close to disappearance. London has become a fragmented and unequal city, with an unbalanced governance. The power of the private investors induces that residents cannot make use of their right to the city. To recover the right to the city for all residents and to counteract the displacement and dispossession, a shift has to be made towards a revival of the social housing community, providing secure tenure and quality housing for the entire population. This graduation project introduces a community land trust growth model. By gradually taking land out of the market into a CLT, the residents are able to make their own decisions and improve their living conditions. The model provides tenure security and permanent affordability. The project designs a transparent and modular People’s Plan with a holistic, multiscalar vision providing secure tenure and quality housing for the urban poor.

For more information on Jort: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jort-van-den-broek-501b62134/


Karlou Westerbeek

Turning a City of Walls into a City for All

Turning a city of walls into a city for all: a redevelopment strategy to reunite the urban core with the metropolitan region of Grand Paris

Location: Paris, France
Mentors: Rodrigo Cardoso, Rients Dijkstra
Keywords: Urban inequalities, infrastructure, intra-urban connectivity, redevelopment strategy, Métropole du Grand Paris

Throughout history, Paris has always been a divided city. The inequalities between the wealthy core and the poor periphery are increasing rapidly. The Boulevard Périphérique functions as a modern city wall, excluding citizens of the metropolitan region from the resources that the city has to offer. This concrete ring road is the spatial and symbolic manifestation of the imbalance between the city and periphery. The research- and design project shows how the redevelopment of the Boulevard Périphérique can contribute to transform its spatial, functional, social and symbolic roles, in order to address the socio-spatial inequality challenges in the metropolitan area of Paris. The final outcomes are a strategic framework, spatial framework and a redevelopment toolbox to tackle the complexity of the infrastructure project.


Maud Ebbers

Reclaiming (Semi)Public Space

Reclaiming (Semi)Public Space: Two Strikes Against Living at a Disadvantage

Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Mentors: Caroline Newton, Tanja Herdt
Keywords: Urban politics, (semi)public space, urban deprived areas, societal discourse, reclaiming space, neighbourhood settings, stigmatization of disadvantage

Rotterdam has always been a showcase for attractive images but ignorant about developing urban impurities, by post-war being built back as an intra- and international getaway.  Due to fragmentation of the spatial planning system, politicization and polarization, and a lack of depth in important political discussions, urban impurities in municipal measures express in the absence of cross understanding regarding taking care of challenging focus areas, like Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu) in Rotterdam. It is time to reconsider the approach.

Socio-spatial character is paradoxical, while social unrest creates a lack of responsibility to sustain and maintain the (semi)public space, which causes a vicious cycle of unrest. Overstimulation with (sustainable or resilient) development plans sensitizes and therewith stigmatizes the neighbourhood. Residents are aware of this stigmatization and find themselves often in a self-fulfilling prophecy, not taking care of their surroundings. Passengers and residers move through the neighbourhood with shifting motives related to four domains of social life, notably living (1), labour (2), learning (3), and leisure (4). Urban planning documents are dominantly textual and theoretical, while they involve creating physical places with a practical outcome. No-boundary-botu could be the solution. By embracing asset-based community development and co-creating with the unusual suspects, an Asset Atlas could strengthen local networks and fit the needs of the different domains, aiming for true cross understanding. Through scenarios, synergies within the initiatives’ network will be displayed to reclaim the (semi)public space, encourage encounters, and create safety, trust and, most important, rest.

Simon Bohun

Polarized Vienna

Polarized Vienna: Democracy and Public Space in the Urban Periphery

Location: Vienna, Austria
Mentors: Roberto Rocco, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Urban periphery, Donaustadt, democracy and public space, centrality

Political opinions in Vienna are increasingly polarized in spatially distinct patterns. Election results show that the inner-city population predominantly supports cosmopolitan and green strategies. Outer areas, on the other hand, have a distinctly higher share of voters for right-wing populist parties. This phenomenon can be observed in many European cities, but the Viennese context is particularly interesting since Vienna is frequently ranked as the city with the highest quality of life and is famous for strong social policies.

This project researches how political discontent in suburban areas correlates with spatial structures and processes. Furthermore, it will investigate how different social groups in suburban areas experience the current development of their environment. The aim is to understand the socio-spatial differences between urban and suburban areas, that promote the polarization, and  to propose strategies to reduce this imbalance.


Yangzi Li

Towards a More Socio-culturally Sustainable Future of Chengdu City

Towards a More Socio-culturally Sustainable Future of Chengdu City: The pathway exploration of urban regeneration in the inner city of Chengdu, China, focused on the local public lifestyle

Location: Chengdu, China
Mentors: Lei Qu, Claudiu Forgaci
Keywords: Socio-cultural identity, local public lifestyle, urban regeneration, inner city

Chengdu, is a megacity in the west of China where the socio-cultural identity stands out with a unique local lifestyle. Also, it is a city facing overall urban regeneration since 2020, when the establishment of urban regeneration system at the city level was just started. In the past decade, the TOD redevelopment including the fast construction of metro lines and stations has been one of the core strategies taken in this city. In the near future, this will cause a possible rush of urban regeneration in terms of demolishing and rebuilding around the metro stations in the inner city of Chengdu. The local public lifestyle could be threatened not only because of the absence of tools to maintain it in the incomplete urban regeneration system, but also because the values of socio-cultural identity can be always easily compromised in the decision-making process for its “less urgent” position. This project is aimed to build an integrated strategic framework for extending and flourishing the local public lifestyle in future urban regeneration in Chengdu in a long term, strengthening the socio-cultural sustainability of the city.

In this project, the research consists of four sessions. Firstly, the research about the understanding of the local public lifestyle including representative scenes and the supporting factors has been done. Secondly, the research about possible influence on the scenes of lifestyle from the business as usual of demolishing and rebuilding has been conducted. Thirdly, the exploration about strategy development to extend and flourish the local public lifestyle in the selected site has been done. At last, the research about how to make those strategies feasible by institutional planning has been done.

It was found that there can be three groups of supporting factors categorized by “people”, “space” and “service” for the local public lifestyle, and eighteen representative scenes have been concluded. Also, the business as usual can generate much more threats than opportunities on the existing scenes identified in the design testing. To avoid the threats and fully use the opportunities, in urban design, identifying the scenes in status quo, analyzing how to extend and flourish the scenes and assessing the performance of design strategies are important. This can help to inform what need to be done in demolishing and rebuilding projects. However, to really make sure the intension of extending and flourishing the local public lifestyle can be integrated in the realistic project process, planning tools are also demanded. Therefore, a tool box containing eight tools has been carried out. At last, institutionalization is demanded to regulate the project process and plug the tools developed into the conventional project process. To provide better and more practical support in the decision-making process of demolishing and rebuilding projects, further research about the lifestyle model is needed both in theoretical level and in practice.


Yaqi Wang

Metropolitan Virus

Metropolitan Virus: A strategic planning framework to improve the resilience of the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic

Location: Metropolitan Region Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Mentors: Rodrigo Cardoso, Claudiu Forgaci
Keywords: Globalization, COVID-19, urban vulnerability, urban resilience

Metropolitan regions are the most urbanized and globalized areas as the concentration of population and economy in the world, which makes them exposed to various global emergency risks like pandemics. And the COVID-19 outbreak from Wuhan (China) at the end of 2019, can be a perfect case and opportunity to investigate and improve the vulnerability of metropolitan regions in highly contagious global diseases. Metropolitan Region Amsterdam, is one of the most developed regions in the Netherlands and the world, who is playing a significant role in globalization. However, in this emerging public health crisis, MRA has been the most vulnerable region as the current epidemic hotspot. The concentration of corona cases in the region has resulted in various negative impacts, both directly and indirectly.

Considering these problems, this project is a research-oriented design in MRA for the post-pandemic vision. Firstly, through a series of theoretical, political, and spatial analysis, the main problem of MRA is that it is vulnerable to the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic due to a vicious cycle of urban vulnerability which has been exposed and intensified by the hazard of COVID-19. And the basic reason is related to its attachment to continuous economic growth. The government of MRA has also paid attention to this problem and attempted to transfer its development from a pro-financial model to a pro-well-being model with a theoretical underpinning called “Doughnut Economics”.  However, like many other experimental tests, this transformation follows the traditional planning method which is not suitable for dynamic risks like the pandemic. Therefore, this research is aiming at spatial and political strategies based on the methodology of dynamic planning to improve urban resilience facing the pandemic in the post-COVID MRA. And the fi nal concrete outcomes will be on different scales. There will be a vision of post-COVID MRA through a set of strategies of municipalities and institutions to improve urban resilience. And on a local scale, there will be a resilient design for different pandemic vulnerabilities for an equal and sustainable community.

Yixiang Huang

Beyond Informality

Beyond informality: Exploring strategies for redevelopment in informal settlements in Guangzhou (China)

Location: Guangzhou, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Luisa Calabrese
Keywords: Urban villages, redevelopment, informal settlement

In China, the phenomenon of informal settlements is a consequence of rapid urbanization. Since the 1980s, the construction of labor-intensive industries has accelerated the expansion of urban areas. Villages at the fringe of the city were surrounded by newly built urban areas and became the so-called “urban village”. The governance program sets up restrictions for villagers to get access to public service and the redistribution market in the city, which leads to the inequality and segregation between the informal settlements and other urban areas. As survival strategies, informal constructions and informal economic activities have been booming in the villages, which also raised problems of overcrowding and unsafety. The project intends to understand the current issue within its socio-economic context, and explore the potentials of upgrading the industrial model as a trigger to redevelop the informal settlements.


Yizhao Du

Transformation and Revival

Transformation and revival: Research on urban development strategic planning for HanDan under the dual dilemma of resourcebased industry transition and regional spatial marginalization

Location: Han Dan, China
Mentors: Roberto Rocco, Alexander Wandl
Keywords: Secondary cities, resource-based industrial cities, transformation, innovative urbanism, strategic planning, integration

Secondary post-industrial cities in China are facing two problems. In order to promote the sustainable transformation of cities, the Chinese central government promoted “new industrialization” in 2002. This concept aims to eliminate heavy industry enterprises to create a better urban environment. Due to the imbalance in the industrial structure and loss of talent and labour, these resource-based industrial cities are facing the dilemma of industrial upgrading. On the other hand, as regional cooperation is considered extremely important in the new stage of industrialization, the central government started to promote “urban agglomeration” as a key approach to such cooperation. However, due to the complex administrative system and the unequal competition between the central and other cities, the secondary cities cannot really benefit from regionalization and are gradually spatially marginalized. The two problems form a vicious circle, hindering the sustainable upgrade of these secondary resource-based industrial cities. This project aims to study how to use spatial planning and strategic interventions to help secondary (post-) resource-based industrial cities seek better sustainability and development. Onto achieve this, Handan, a secondary city with nearly 10 million population surrounded by four mega-regions, is selected as the research object. This city suffers from the development limitation of “in-between mega regions” and threat of hindrance of heavy industrial enterprises. Except for the disadvantages, it is a city with a long history and splendid culture which could provide great potential to develop into a new type innovative metropolis. In this project, three planning principles derived from theoretical study were put forward: young people friendly, local culture friendly, and natural environment friendly.

Yujia Liu

Vibrant Old Community

Livable old community: participative approach as a tool to promote community redevelopment

Location: Chengdu, China
Mentors: Arie Romein, Gerdy Verschuure-Stuip
Keywords: Community redevelopment, public participation, scenario building

Chengdu is experiencing rapid development, and the urban area is sprawling to the south and east, leaving many old communities in the north abandoned. Most of those old communities are built before the 1980s. The aging built environment, and spatial structure cannot meet the increasing need of people anymore. The current large-scale urban regeneration focusing on demolition and reconstruction was not implemented well in some communities. To solve these problems, this project aims to explore a planning strategy in collaboration with the government, the citizens, and other public and private sectors, to promote the old community redevelopment. During this process, the locals’ voices will be heard, and they will be an essential part of the redevelopment implementation. A series of guidelines and toolbox for the community redevelopment will also be proposed and applied in several typical public and semi-public spaces to test if it works well.

Shot with NOMO 135 Ti.

Zhe Hou

#Amsterdam after 6 pm

 #Amsterdam after 6 pm: Planning for a diverse and balanced night-time economy

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Mentors: Arie Romein, Akkelies van Nes
Keywords: Night-time economy, gentrification, polycentric city, spatial planning

With the development of the social economy, the traditional urban work and rest pattern of working during the day and resting at night has gradually changed. The night-time economy has become a new engine for urban regeneration, economic growth and cultural creation. The growth of tourism in Amsterdam has also benefited from its inclusive and prosperous night-time economy. However, the agglomeration of the nightlife industry in Amsterdam’s city center results in a rise in noise, crime, and antisocial behavior, which triggers a backlash from residents. As a current countermeasure adopted by the municipality, state-led gentrification has mitigated the night-time economy’s negative externalities to an extent and caused massive closures of nightlife venues.

The research aims to solve the dilemma of Amsterdam’s night-time economy through planning instruments that optimize the urban polycentricity. The research explores integrated strategies and multi-scale spatial interventions to stimulate the development of peripheral night-time industry clusters while minimizing the nuisance, in order to improve the livability of the city center and contribute to a diverse and balanced night-time economy in Amsterdam.


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

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