Planning Complex Cities graduations consider spatial planning and territorial governance schemes in regions, and investigate how these can be improved to achieve more sustainable spatial outcomes. Basic starting points in graduations are observations of disparities in the distribution of spatial resources across territories, in China, Europe or the Global South. Conclusions  recommend institutional change and demonstrate, by means of design, how this can lead to new spatial development patterns. In conjunction projects present a valuable reservoir of knowledge and ideas. Please find below a brief abstract of all graduation projects that have started in autumn 2017 and have been concluded before August 2018. Click title to see graduation projects at the TU Delft educational repository!

All photographies are taken by Robert Rocco.

Anne Marije Bodde

A spatial strategy for refugee integration in the urban environment: The case of Istanbul

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Mentors: Verena Balz, Leo van den Burg
Keywords: Refugee integration, spatial strategy, urban planning, interaction

Abstract – The Syrian civil war has created a large refugee influx in the urban environment of surrounding countries. Half a million of Syrian refugees have settled in the metropolitan area of Istanbul, evoking an ad hoc humanitarian response. This master thesis proposes an interdisciplinary long-term approach, operating at the intersection of humanitarian aid and urban planning and design. It investigates how a spatial strategy, that takes into account the complexity of the urban environment, long and short-term goals, and involved actors, could enhance the integration process of refugees. The research predominantly focuses on qualitative data in the metropolitan area of Istanbul and a multiple case study on two districts: Sultanbeyli and Zeytinburnu. Integration can be considered as the process in which refugees become an accepted part of society, where interactions between refugees and the receiving society determine the direction and outcome. It comprises a legal-political, socio-economic, and cultural-religious dimension. As a final result, the collaborative process in which the spatial strategy is constructed and an exemplary spatial strategy are developed. This strategy enhances the cultural-religious integration of refugees and the receiving society, by employing the potential of interactions in public space.



Annika van den Heuvel

(Re-)connecting borders: Functional and institutional integration in relation to the urban pattern of the cross-border Euregio Maas-Rijn

Location: Euregio Maas-Rijn, Europe
Mentors: Will Zonneveld, Rodrigo Ordonhas Viseu Cardoso
Keywords: Cross-border cooperation, functional integration, institutional integration, polycentric urban region, public transport network

Abstract – The Euregio Maas-Rijn can be considered a Polycentric Urban Region (PUR), a region that consists mostly of medium and small-sized cities. The region is divided by three national borders, but the opening of European borders has enabled the region to cooperate more. PUR’s have access to the same level of agglomeration benefits as a single, large city, when cultural, functional and institutional integration in the region increases. In this thesis the focus is on functional and institutional integration and their relationship.

Within functional integration the focus is on the public transport network, in line with the increase in congestion in the car network and the raising awareness of climate change. Within the Euregio Maas-Rijn (EMR), its dispersed polycentric urban pattern, and lack of cross-border public transport connections show a disconnected and underdeveloped regional public transport network that does not relate to the urban pattern. The exclusion of power-actors in public transport in the main governance structure on the euroregional scale, obstructs cross-border projects to be realised. The design shows how functional and institutional integration can be increased, and in this create a stronger region. Design principles form the foundation of the design strategies and create the link between literature and spatial design, in particular the literature on the increase of integration in rural urban regions. The principles focus on the integration of public transport and the urbanisation pattern, the integration of the euroregional, regional and local scale, and the integration of governance structures.



Asmeeta Das Sharma

Accommodating the displaced: An inclusive regional preparedness strategy for the circular environmental migration in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta

Location: Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, India/Bangladesh
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Verena Balz
Keywords: Circular climate migration, regional development, delta regions, urban-rural relation, secondary urbanisation

Abstract – Climate change is the defining crisis of the 21st century. While increasingly there are efforts being made globally to spread awareness about the impact of human activities on the natural environment, the talks on the direct impact of the change on the human are still nascent. There are an increasing number of people who are losing their land, livelihoods and basic access to food and potable water due to the adverse effects of climate change. In an attempt to survive these people have no option but to seek sanctuary in nearby settlements. A rough prediction of 200 million climate induced migrants by the end of the century has brought this issue to the forefront and is being termed as the ‘human face of climate change’ (Myers, 1997). Caught in a ‘negative vulnerability cycle’ the displaced population lacks visibility, recognition and even a basic definitive category which makes it impossible for them to seek refuge or get national or international aid. Their migration is usually termed as ‘economic’ in nature and classified as an act of desire rather than survival.

This research aims to establish this definitive category through a review of scientific literature. Further it highlights the social, economic and spatial injustice faced by the environmentally displaced people and investigates the role of spatial planning, strategy and good governance as a tool to address the issue. Using methodologies like case studies, field trip, deductive mapping, data and comparative policy analysis, the research presents a strategic framework to socio-spatially and economically accommodate the EDP’s. The strategy uses the ongoing and future migration for the socio-economic benefit of the sending and receiving regions. It aims to generate a sustainable livelihood pattern for the affected to enhance their climate-resilience as well as trigger their growth. It presents migration as an adaptive strategy for the affected population and focuses on community-based initiatives and self-organisation as central concepts. The research constructs and tests this framework in the context of the cross-border region of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta (GBD). Being the largest and one of the most densely populated deltas in the world, it has been experiencing the impact of climate induced migration for decades. Further, the displacement of 40 million people by 2050, has been estimated.

Acknowledgement: This research has been supported by EFL Stichting



Diego Reinaldo Moya Ortiz

Contesting metropolization by neoliberalism: Activating vulnerable areas through inter-municipal spatial planning in Santiago de Chile

Location: Santiago de Chile, Chile
Mentors: Diego Sepulveda Carmona, Birgit Hausleitner, Stephen Read
Keywords: Metropolisation, neoliberalism, urban segregation, endogenous development, governance, strategic spatial planning, land management

 Abstract – Metropolization process in Santiago de Chile has been strongly influenced by neoliberal rationale in the field of urban planning. A diffuse interaction between the forces of the urban land market, national-global trends of capital agglomeration and fragmented governance have led to a highly segregated socio-spatial structure. These processes have fostered the economic marginalization of the most vulnerable municipal areas unable to profit within the current model of market-driven development. During the last five years, the Chilean government has raised the necessity to address these issues through new governance and planning national agenda.

Based on this context, this graduation thesis investigates the evolution of those urban issues in the Metropolitan area of Santiago (MAS) and evaluates a collaborative spatial planning strategy for three vulnerable municipalities by using adaptive scenarios. A paramount emphasis is focused on the social and economic activation of the morphological urban tissue of these areas by using a multi-scalar approach.

Acknowledgement: This project could be realized thanks to support by National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (Conicyt) of the Chilean Government. Individual people and representatives of the neighborhood boards of Lo Valledor Sur, Cerrillos and Lo Espejo contributed during interviews.

For more information on the author see:



Felipe Chaves Gonzalez

Permeable borders: Addressing multidimensional conflicts between polarized communities in Rio de Janeiro

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Mentors: Luiz de Carvallo Filho, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Vulnerable groups, polarized communities, fragmentation, social resilience, co-production, self-organized systems, urbanization processes, informal urbanization

Abstract – Rio de Janeiro has become a ’broken city’: rapid urbanization processes, wealth concentration, market-oriented development, governmental neglect and socio-spatial segregation have been enlarging the societal gap between rich and poor in Brazil. Those processes have shaped the fragmentation of the city, where multidimensional borders and subsequent conflicts construct a divide between the so-called formal and informal city. However, the consequences of this partition mostly affect the groups that low capacity to withstand the pressures of the city.

This project sets out design strategies that can increase the permeability of the multidimensional borders of the city, by promoting the integration and increasing the adaptive capacity of the vulnerable groups in Rio de Janeiro. It proposes a strategy for the co-production of spaces that can create places of potentiality: places that enhance social interactions and support the self-development of the local population. Carried out as an open project, an exploratory design, the proposal has been translated to an extensive set of independent, but complementary, socio-ecological strategies that vary according to scale, program and involved stakeholders. The flexibility of the project intends to construct an alternative development process, open to changes and adaptive to uncertainties; that can satisfy local demands and promote the integration between the polarized communities in Rio de Janeiro, as well as enhance their adaptive capacity towards future fluctuations.



Gabriela Theresa Waldherr

Inter-relational territories: A new interplay between pre- and inner-alpine areas for future water use

Location: Alpine areas, Europe
Mentors: Dominic Stead, Alex Wandl
Keywords: Water as a resource, European Alps, socio-ecological resilience, macro-regional strategies, cross-border cooperation

Abstract – The Alps, also called the ‘water tower’ of Europe, are one of the biggest freshwater reserves of the continent, extending over seven countries. However, due to climate change, resulting in melting glaciers and more frequent dry periods, the availability of fresh water is seasonally changing and overall, decreasing in the future. This conflicts not only with the growing demand provoked by ongoing urbanization processes in and around the Alpine Arc, but also a rising interest in economic sectors like tourism and hydro power.

This project proposes a new interplay between pre- and inner-alpine areas by giving particular consideration to the natural environment. It seeks to coordinate the use for water as a resource under the framework of institutional thickness. Thereby it explores national planning cultures, existing cooperation programmes and the added value of a macro-regional strategy for the integral management of hydraulic resources in the alpine context. Finally, a seasonal development strategy in a case study region is designed as a possible translation of a macro-regional strategy into space.



Ninad Sansare

[UN]WAR: Spatial planning and strategies for social cohesion in the Kashmir Valley, India

Location: Kashmir Valley, India
Mentors: Vincent Nadin, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Contested cities, cultural conflict, urban planning in India, governance models, Srinagar, Kashmir, political conflict

Abstract – Planning in a conflict region is considered as one of the challenging discourses of urbanism due to extreme geopolitical and societal conditions. This research-design project addresses spatial planning, policies, and design in the contested areas, through the case of Kashmir which is a disputed geopolitical region between India and Pakistan. Due to this, political and cultural conflict emerge in the region resulting in underdevelopment and social fragmentation.

In order to understand the theoretical aspects of conflict and urbanism, the major part of this thesis is dedicated to the literature review. In which literature by several urban scholars on this topic as well as policies by the Indian government and State government of Jammu and Kashmir has been analysed. Which leads to the problem formulation for the thesis which constitutes and find out the missing link between current planning practices and cultural conflict in the region, in order to further assist in the conflict mitigation. Also, the analysis has been done by various methods like comparative analysis, Empirical analysis, field visit to understand the planning and governance system in Kashmir. This analysis resulted in finding spatial opportunities as an urbanist to develop the region. Finally, this project aims to create a strategic framework to achieve social cohesion in the area by altering the current planning practices and giving design interventions.



Preetika Balasubramanian

Geographies of power: Spatial strategies for a ‘just’ energy transition in Tamil Nadu

Location: Tamil Nadu, India
Mentors: Marcin Dabrowski, Ulf Hackauf
Keywords: Energy transition, spatial governance, Tamil Nadu, coimbatore, spatial planning, regional design, energy landscapes

Abstract – The era of energy transition has brought to the front the incredible potential of designing the reciprocal relationship between energy and space. The transition to renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal energy, uses space in a different way- its altered spatial qualities have blurred the boundaries between technical space (shunned by planners) and ‘non-technical’ space (coveted by planners). This spatial dimension of energy transition is the focus of the graduation project. Taking the case of Tamil Nadu, India, the project proposes a re-imagination of emerging energy geographies through regional design and spatial strategies, to create a framework for a humanised energy transition. Research Question: How can regional design of emerging energy geographies create a framework for a just energy transition in Tamil Nadu?



Qiyao Hu

Stay, live and participate: Towards a new urban regeneration method for foreign ethnic enclaves in Chinese cities, take Guangzhou as an example

Location: Guangzhou, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Arie Romein
Keywords: Low-end globalization, social segregation, ethnic enclaves, African enclaves in Guangzhou, social integration, community regeneration

Abstract – In the past four decades, China’s reform and opening up has made the country increasingly connected to the process of globalization. And as globalization continues to evolve, more and more people and other elements are beginning to participate in this process. Therefore, a large number of foreigners, especially some individuals and small merchants, come to this once closed country to find job and business opportunities. Due to the needs of work and business characteristics, many of them choose to long or short live in some Chinese cities. Some foreigners-inhabited areas have begun to appear in Chinese cities like Korea town in Beijing and African enclaves in Guangzhou in the recent 20 years which lead to a certain degree of ethnic residential differentiation and social segregation. In addition, their settlement and informal business are also facing the challenges from the process of urbanization.

This graduation project involves a theoretical research of this phenomenon, selecting the African enclaves in Guangzhou as a case for empirical research. What are their living conditions and what specific challenges are they facing? How should cities protect them and improve the quality of their living environment? The focus of this study is on exploring how to make these foreigners better stay, live and participate in local social life that based on understanding the status quo and the needs of stakeholders. Using the community and urban space they live in and emerge as the carrier, it suggests a specific spatial implementation design for these urban spaces from the perspective of urban regeneration. A series of plans and designs form a new urban regeneration method that could be applied to other Chinese cities with the same problems for attracting more foreigners to settle in China and integrate well into the local social environment.



Simin Chen

Tomorrow rural land: Vitalise Chinese idle homestead land through long-stay rural leisure development

Location: Nanjing, China
Mentors: Lei Qu, Steffen Nijhuis
Keywords: Chinese rural idle homestead land, complex system, long-term rent, nature-rural-urban integration system, long stay rural leisure

Abstract – The rapid urbanisation process in China has caused the emergence of much idle rural land, especially homestead land, which constitutes a huge waste of land resource and brings about several social problems. Nowadays, Chinese government has realised this problem and has put forward institutional intervention to rural land, and encourage to use rural leisure development mode to vitalize it. However, spatial planning strategies and design principles are not linked well with on-going institutional adjustment, and relative research is lacking and lagging. From the perspective of rural leisure industry, based on the idle homestead land phenomenon, this project intends to introduce ‘long stay rural leisure’ new development direction, and offer an adapted layers approach methodology, with sustainable nature-rural-urban integrated strategy that connects urban system, natural system and rural system. This project is aimed to vitalise Chinese idle homestead land in the future, furtherly, to discuss a development path for tomorrow rural land.



Vera van Maaren

In transition towards a circular future in north-east section of Nairobi river: An exploration of potential (re)implementation of circular resource management in Dandora, Kenya

Location: Dandora, Kenya
Mentors: Rachel Keeton, Ulf Hackauf, Els Leclercq
Keywords: Sub-Saharan Africa, circular resource strategy, waste-management Nairobi, community-based-organizations, sustainable development goals

Abstract – This graduation project addresses the problem of waste management in Nairobi, Kenya. The current inadequate waste management throughout Nairobi remains a spatial challenge as it contributes to health concerns, threatens local ecologies, and degrades public space. Analyzing waste flows, the social construct and in particular community- based organizations which are catalyzing local challenges to enhance community participation brings forth a set of solutions. By combining circular economy principles, the strengths of community-based-organizations and proposing schools as collection point, this study develops a roadmap towards a circular, healthy and green future. By defining a spatial program at the urban river front of the Nairobi River, as well systemic interventions this roadmap has ambition to improve the local environment and give answer to local needs.

Acknowledgement: This research has been supported by Universiteitsfonds, and EFL Stichting

For more information on the author see:



Zuzanna Sekuła

An alternative new town paradigm: Towards an inclusive new town in Kenya

Location: Tatu, Kenya
Mentors: Rachel Keeton, Arie Romein
Keywords: New town, Kenya, inclusive design, socio-spatial exclusion

Abstract – Sub-Saharan Africa is often regarded as the world’s fasted urbanizing region. This implies the high demand for urban housing, infrastructure developments and services. In many cases, because the government is unable to provide solutions, it shifts the approach from “providing to enabling”, encouraging the private sector to invest in the built environment. This results in developing New Towns which tend to envision of “Africa Rising” Narrative – driven by rapid economic growth. Ideologically, New Towns should be the solution for economic and population growth, however, influenced strongly by private sector’s ambitions, governments’ visions and emerging middle-class’s desires, they tend to become an exclusive and luxurious development, excluding the majority of the population who simply cannot afford living there. This approach may lead to socio-spatial exclusion, resulting in socio-spatial segregation.

This research discusses this phenomenon in the case study of Tatu City – a private New Town in Kenya that is partly built, partly under construction and partly in the design process. This research discusses the socio-spatial and governance challenges of Tatu City that have a direct and indirect impact on socio-spatial exclusion. It shows the variety of different perspectives on this issue – public sector’s, private sector’s, NGOs’ and civil society’s. Furthermore, based on theoretical and empirical research it presents the concept of Inclusive New Town and the concept of Inclusive Space In-Between as a response identifies challenges. The outcome of this research is a planning and design framework with a toolkit that was implemented in making the final design – an Alternative Vision for Tatu city.

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