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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.


Ardian Wiratama01

Ardian Wiratama

Transformative Resilience: A Study of Derivative Form of Resilience in Informal Settlement

Location: Bukit Duri, Jakarta
Mentors: Arie Romein, Roberto Rocco
Keywords: Resilience, Flooding, Informal Settlement

Abstract – The exposure to flooding exists in several Global South countries, not only in Indonesia. The community there has been living in vulnerable locations, encountering the magnitude of flooding throughout time, as elsewhere. In a difficult and complicated situation they still undergo the devastating impact of the disaster today. Many policies and actions by government have tried to solve the issue, yet outcomes are still improperly touching upon the root of problems. In particular, a lack of dialogue between authorities and inhabitants has resulted in a clash of rationalities which then has impeded policy implementation.

The primary objective of this research is to investigate pattern of intervention that can be implemented in informal settlement, as a part of constructing resilience and sustainable systems in neighbourhoods. Based on those objectives, several observations and analysis were conducted to identify the local properties that can improve spatial, economic, and social quality. Flooding –  the central issues in this project – has been analysed through layer mapping, including identification of stakeholder and flood-risk governance. The framework of resilience which includes engineering, ecological and social resilience has been a reference to determine the performance of existing properties in a resilience-sustainability system. The products of this research compile the outcomes of these different approaches. They include policy recommendations, a design framework, design pattern and the elaboration of a test case (pilot project). The framework of flood-risk governance is used to assess all the intervention in conjunction. Outcomes provide input for local stakeholders, both authorities and grassroots actors.


Concepción del Rocío Aranda Iglesias

Concepción del Rocío Aranda Iglesias

A Corridor towards sustainable urban development: Maputo Metropolitan Area, Mozambique

Location: Maputo, Mozambique
Mentors: Roberto Rocco, Frank van der Hoeven
Keywords: Mozambique, Informal Settlements, Inclusive urban planning, Adaptive Governance, Fast Urbanization Context

Abstract – This project reflects on current planning techniques and how to apply them in the African context, specifically in Mozambique. It aims to raise awareness about and the necessity of an adaption of European urban theories to the contextual conditions and the strong cultural identity of the African location. The project explores a shift in metropolitan planning approaches in developing countries, via a contextualized vision and strategy for Maputo Metropolitan Area 2040. The expected growth of the area is translated into a sustainable urban development scheme, through introducing principles of adaptive governance and ‘non-conventional’ housing policies.

This project proposes a shift in perspective, to address the danger of rapid growth happening in the Maputo Metropolitan Area (MMA), which is currently leading to high rates of informality and precarious living conditions in 70% of its extension. The research question of the project is: How can contextualized planning strategies structure metropolitan growth in a fast urbanization context as the back bone of mobility based sustainable spatial urbanization? How can adaptive governance support the decision making in this strategy? Results are in a detailed analysis and diagnosis of the area, a study of different growth scenarios and a proposal for a vision and strategy for MMA in 2040. This final strategy serves as an example for new approaches and development principles that pay enhanced attention to the complex conditions that shape the current situation of MMA: the spatial strategies and the policies to structure them.


Esmee Stalenberg

Esmee Stalenberg

Welcoming Amsterdam: A spatial strategy for a growing touristic region | case study Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Mentors: Arie Romein, Gerdy Verschuure-Stuip
Keywords: Tourism, Spatial Strategy, Regional planning

Abstract – Due to growing touristic movements worldwide, cities and landscapes start to experience or are already experiencing negative socioeconomic impacts, resulting in for example a decreased liveability and overcrowding. The increase of tourism is related to trends like globalisation, a growth of economic well-being and migration movements. Amsterdam is the largest and most popular city in the Netherlands; it attracts many tourists every year. With the predicted growth of possibly more than 45 million visitors in the year 2030, there is a need to get a better understanding of the positive and negative impacts of tourism on the host city and its inhabitants.

This project develops a framework to deal with increasing numbers of tourists visiting the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. It considers both, the quality of life of citizens and the experience of the visitor, in analysing layers present in the city of Amsterdam. The approach allows for finding the problematic links and nodes in the varying networks between history, governance, technical, economic and social layers (the theoretical foundation of the method and analysis can be found in the separate booklet Welcoming Amsterdam | Layer analysis). Involving theory about tourism impacts and cultural clusters, results – a spatial strategy of networks of touristic nodes and connections and a detailed design for one touristic area – show how to distribute the economic benefits and number of visitors more evenly across the region and thus how to minimize negative impacts on the inner city of Amsterdam.


Eva Labrujere

Eva Labrujere

An alternative urban paradigm?: Local knowledge and the power of community as a base for sustainable development in Mathare Valley, Nairobi

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Mentors: Roberto Rocco, Arie Romein
Keywords: Sustainable development, Local knowledge, Informal settlement, Community-based development, Co-operative organisation

Abstract – Nairobi’s urban processes today are largely impacted by global and postcolonial forces. Its inherited planning frameworks keep contributing to the self-sustaining systems of socio-economic inequality and exclusion of the urban poor in a capitalist society. At the same time, its urban planning reflects postcolonial processes, characterised by the global dominance of Western knowledge and the assumption of its universal applicability, as well as the pursuit of the ‘modern’ urban imaginary. Derived within this context, the standard mainstream upgrading and (re)development practices to address informal areas are unsustainable. They show ineffective (participatory) processes, provide solutions unfit to local circumstances and needs.

This project responds to these problems, by approaching informal settlements as spatial manifestation of implicit knowledge by the ‘subaltern’, and by using this implicit knowledge that arranges space and governance. The research analyses Mathare Valley, Nairobi, and uncovers its spatial, social, and economic structures, including the organisation of local governance. The aim of the project is to explore how a community-based approach can provide a base for a strategic framework to guide sustainable development in Mathare Valley. Its final outcome – an integrative strategic framework – combines spatial and non-spatial interventions, introducing a local co-operative organisation that forms the heart of the community’s collective process of empowerment. Accompanying the strategy is a community action plan, meant as inspiration for the community on how to instigate such a process.


IJsbrand Heeringa

IJsbrand Heeringa

Reimaging the European Periphery: The Case of Asturias

Location: Asturias, Spain
Mentors: Marcin Dabrowski, Steffen Nijhuis
Keywords: Shrinkage, Regional design, Spatial planning, Governance

Abstract – Throughout Europe, cities and region are facing shrinkage. Shrinkage is usually indicated by population decline. However, it is a complex process that can have negative consequences for both, the social cohesion and the economic viability of a region. Shrinkage can also tear into the physical structure of our environment, creating neighbourhoods with excessive vacancy, industrial brownfield areas, and sparsely populated mountainous regions.  Given that growth is no longer an option for many European cities and regions, we must adapt to this reality.

As several scholars have noted, shrinkage is not only a problem; it also presents opportunities for cities and regions to reinvent themselves as more sustainable and ecologically sound places. The abundance of vacant land and buildings offer opportunities for less traditional land-uses, such as renewable energy, ecology, and agriculture. What is currently lacking is a comprehensive approach that can capitalize upon these opportunities through laying links between action on the local scale and its implications for regional networks and structures. The aim of this thesis, which is embedded in the discipline of regional design, is to generate a strategic regional design proposal that offers comprehensive steps for a sustainable regional transformation.  The design identifies key potentials in the case-region of Asturias and shows how to best exploit them. It responds to both, the physical structure of the region and its governance and planning frameworks. It emphasis on a synergy between the problems caused by shrinkage and opportunities for new forms of land use. Uncovered principles can be transferred to other shrinking regions.


Jeanne Blok

Jeanne Blok

Refugees’ movement in immobility: A study investigating information seeking movements by refugees fleeing to Europe

Location: Athens/Katsikas, Greece
Mentors: Verena Balz, Frank van der Hoeven
Keywords: Spatial strategy, Information flows, Refugees

Abstract – For refugees that are fleeing is access to reliable information of great importance in order to allow them to seek for what they need and to avoid dangers. On their journey they experience moments of immobility and in these periods useful information is in need leading to economic, social or knowledge resources. These resources give them access to mobility of the following trajectory.

The purpose of this study is to investigate information processes used by refugees approaching economic, social and knowledge resources. It focuses on refugees fleeing to Europe and being in a stage of immobility. Its aim is to redesign information flows, in order to ease resource collecting. This research made progress through documentary and literature study, empirical analysis in an exploratory in-depth case study, mapping that draws upon field work. Its results are in design principles for information provision. The way interventions respond to information needs vary in the different settings of urban and rural areas. In an urban setting, information is spread via complex information network, provision focuses on filtering this information and on linking it to the physical surroundings. That is different in rural areas where clustered networks are limited, and where providers have the role of introducing and connect it to a wider existing network.


Jiangzhou Song

Jiangzhou Song

Livability in a growing Shenzhen: How to make Shenzhen a more migrant-friendly city to young graduates?

Location: Shenzhen, China
Mentors: Qu Lei, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Livability, Young graduates, Density, Urban regeneration, Industrial upgrading

Abstract – This research project – based on the hot issues of escaping from mega cities in China – focuses on young graduates in Shenzhen, China. It intends to improve their liveability through making Shenzhen a more migrant-friendly city. Livability, including affordable housing, and good accessibility to services and jobs, is the main topic and final goal of this thesis. To reach this goal, an urban form study – a study of the physical form of urban environments – is put forward. Through the understanding of relationships between liveability and urban form, this thesis explores ways to transform the current urban form in Shenzhen, to facilitate a change of function, and to improve balances between job density and housing density.


Karishma Asarpota

Karishma Asarpota

Spatial Planning for the Energy Transition: The role of spatial planning in facilitating the energy transition in Dubai

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Mentors: Vincent Nadin, Carola Hein
Keywords: Spatial planning, Comparative analysis, Governance, Urban energy transition

Abstract – This research and planning project explores the influence of spatial planning in facilitating the process of energy transition within the context of Dubai. Energy use within the built environment is closely related to the organization of urban form and functions. Spatial planning can influence diverse sectors in urban areas including the energy sector. The role of spatial planning in the energy transition is a crucial one since it can challenge fundamental norms that don’t promote energy efficiency. Planning processes and systems can pave the way for a collective investment in public goods that can help to promote long term environmental benefits.

Energy strategies need to have a stronger link with urban development plans, to be able to effectively change the ‘decision rules’ that can lead to an improved energy performance. This research has focused on the impact of spatial planning on changing relationships between space and energy use. It explored the parameters of planning that can impact energy use in Dubai. Its intention is to contribute to a discussion about the role of spatial planning in the energy transition in cities. I assumed an urban planner’s role in the project, to inform the Dubai government on how to involve developers, urban designers and architects in decision making processes. The project has a strong research base, in order to guide the redesigning of the planning process in Dubai towards a better balance between competing interests and an enhanced engagement with all stakeholders. This research attempts to bridge the gap between energy strategies and urban development policies.


Kseniya Otmakhova01

Kseniya Otmakhova

The New Silk Road: Facilitating interaction between global and local within the Belt and Road Initiative.

Location: Silk route, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Azadeh Kermani
Keywords: Belt and Road Initiative, Khorgos Gateway, Globalization, Local identity, Interaction design

Abstract – At times of political unrest and dynamic changes in the world, China puts forward a proposal for global collaboration towards peace and prosperity – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Faced with critique, distrust and questions from the global community, the plan to revive the ancient Silk Road can fail just as easily as it can succeed, depending on the way it is executed spatially one the local scale.

The research takes the first BRI-development, Khorgos Gateway, at the border of China and Kazakhstan, as a case to study how the global developments and the local context interact with each other. The main objective of the design is to facilitate interaction between the global and local contexts. The design proposal builds upon the existing International Centre of Border Cooperation (ICBC), an element of the Khorgos Gateway programme. In the first place, the design aim is to embed the ICBC functionally and spatially in the local context creating a symbiosis between the new development and its surrounding. Secondly, this thesis proposes to establish an international network of ICBC’s as places where local and global communities can meet to exchange culture and share knowledge. An evaluation and assessment framework is presented as a tool to assist the process of transferring and adapting the ICBC concept to other locations. This thesis is of explorative nature, aimed to sketch a socio-spatial frame of reference on the Belt and Road as a phenomenon. Its main aim of this work is to spark interest, discussion and further research within the urbanism community.


Matias Iversson Piazza

Matias Iversson Piazza

Altamira beyond Belo Monte: Gaps and opportunities for promoting sustainable development in a new energy landscape

Location: Altamira, Brazil
Mentors: Arie Romein, Leo van den Burg
Keywords: Big Infrastructure & Influence, Regional Development, Socio- spatial transformations, Adaptive Planning, Brazilian Amazon

Abstract – The research focuses in the city of Altamira, in Brazil. The municipality is located in the margins of the Xingu river, affluent of the Amazon river, and has been facing intense socio economic transformations, mainly through the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant – third biggest in the world, in generation capacity. Over the last 10 years, the local municipality estimates that the population inflated from 100.000 to 140.000 inhabitants (FOLHA, 2013), as a consequence of the jobs related to the dam and its construction. On the one hand, the implementation of the project has brought heavy investments in public infrastructure, following the compensation and mitigation guidelines established by the national environmental agency, providing the inhabitants with public amenities completely non-existent before the dam. On the other hand, the intense transformation of the built environment resulted in new social challenges, including increased violence, prostitution and drug consumption, adding pressure on the limited infrastructure and public equipment. The project – heavily criticized by local and international media – is almost concluded and is already in partial operation.

This research investigates the next steps following the conclusion of the construction, suggesting strategies capable of promoting sustainable development in the region. The focus is not only to look into the urban transformations triggered by the installation of the dam but also to explore possible future scenarios once Belo Monte is concluded.


Maximilian Einert

Maximilian Einert

Spatial Development in a Post-Capitalistic Economy: A Contingency Plan for Leipzig and its Region

Location: Leipzig, Germany
Mentors: Stephen Read, Birgit Hausleitner
Keywords: Agriculture, Capitalism, Decentralization, Decommodification, Food security, Post-capitalism, Regionalism, Regional economy, Self-sufficiency, Urban theory

Abstract – This research and design thesis addresses the transition towards a post-capitalistic economy and explores a corresponding spatial development perspective for Leipzig (Germany) and its hinterland. The starting point of this project is the theoretical assumption that there is a mutual relation between spatial and economic development. From there, it builds up the hypothesis that current neoliberal capitalism will fail and explores a spatial strategy, which prepares Leipzig and its hinterland for this event. At its base are the establishment of a self-sufficient regional agriculture and the spatial decentralization of the region. Sketching post-capitalistic socio-economic relations, in which the common good and not individual profits are the goal, the project explores the transformation of various example places in Leipzig and the region. In the end, this thesis promotes a new form of spatial organization, in which the city and its hinterland form one socio-economic and political unit.


Mu Xiufan

Mu Xiufan

Aging in Place,Non-zero Sum Game: Improves life quality and living conditions for aged people who “Aging in Place”, through the renewal and reconstruction of public spaces system in diverse scales

Location: Beijing, China
Mentors: Diego Andres Sepulveda Carmona, Maurice Harteveld
Keywords: Aging in place, Aged people, Public space, Spiritual demands, Beijing, City centre

Abstract – The density of elderly population in Central City of Beijing is relatively high compared to that in peri-urban areas, which is resulting in the urban disease, scarcity and low quality of public spaces in the city centre. In Beijing, the main demands of elderly people have inclined to the social needs and social participation, instead of merely sacrificing their later years to families. Besides, as a vital carrier of “spiritual supply”, public spaces are significant for the elderly, for promoting social interactions and increasing opportunities for social participation. However, planning and designing of public spaces are more focalized on the physical and safety needs of the elderly at present. Social needs are frequently not addressed during the design of public space.

The aim of this project is to explore and identify the corresponding indicators and criteria of the social aspects of planning and designing public spaces for the elderly people. A comparative case study, literature review, and mapping analysis were used. The project consists of three sections: Firstly, building upon the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, elderly people’s “spiritual” demands (including belongingness and love, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs as a whole) were analysed as main carriers of public space. Secondly, corresponding indicators and criteria for public spaces design were identified, further building upon literature, and best practices at the level of urban design. Finally, key indicators were used to formulate strategies and policy proposal, considering the special context of my study area in the Central City of Beijing.


Nilofer Afza Tajuddin

Nilofer Afza Tajuddin

LEVERAGING SOCIO-CULTURAL NETWORKS: Local adaptation strategies to bring about flood resilience in Chennai Metropolitan Area, India

Location: Chennai, India
Mentors: Marcin Dabrowski, Taneha Bacchin
Keywords: Local flood resilience, Community building, Collaborative participation, Blue-green infrastructure, Global South

Abstract – This project is set in the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The region has undergone substantial industrial growth in the last two decades and is still rapidly urbanizing, often in conflict with the natural hydrological patterns. Meanwhile, due to its deltaic nature, the CMA is naturally prone to floods from mainly extreme rainfall and cyclonic activities. The frequency and intensity of these events are projected to increase due to climate change.

Set in this context, this project addresses local adaptation strategies by building socio-ecological resilience at the neighbourhood level. Rapid urbanisation has led to the rupture of the traditional drainage network which was once the flat terrain region’s flood defence mechanism. The main problem recognised is hence a conflict between human and nature and a required shift towards socio-ecological harmonies. On these grounds, social capital was identified to be of crucial relevance for local resilience. Social and cultural networks were used as leverage to link economic aspirations and environmental restoration. To recognise the spatial manifestation of this conflict and to tap into social capital, the edges and community infrastructure were identified respectively. Used strategies were (1) to design an integrated water network across multiple scales, (2) to identify community infrastructure and open spaces that support a functional system, and (3) to design interactions between people and the environmental that motivates them to maintain the network. Overall the project builds a strong case for using socio-cultural networks and contextually grounded strategies to bring about a collective community based restoration process.


Reza Arlianda

Reza Arlianda

The co-creation of convivial city: reclaiming the right to the kampung in the touristic city

Location: Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Mentors: Stephen Read, Maurice Harteveld
Keywords: Conviviality, Kampung, Right to the city, Participatory design

Abstract – Urbanization in a developing country is not necessarily perceived as a good thing. Immediate transformations, including population booms and facilitated by the property industry, impact the city and its people extensively. This also applies to the kampung settlement in Indonesian cities. There was a time when the kampung’s people served food to any guest, a family member came to the sick people’s house for a care-treatment, and the community’s inhabitants kept an eye on the safety of the neighbourhood, all for nothing but the basic courtesy towards each other. People still feel proud when their kampung’s neighbourhood is memorized as a friendly environment to live in, thus the common sentiment is that the city will become a “harsh” place due to the growing urbanization. The growing tourism industry, including its property business, is one of the power engines of Yogyakarta’s urbanization. Despite the emergence of modern restaurants, shopping malls, and hotels, there is resistance and protest from the citizen towards the industry, as they do not have any control of what is happening and how that transforms their living environment in often undesirable ways. Inclusion and participatory are no longer respected, the power to change the city lies in the hand of a few.

This research tackles this posed problem by synthesizing ideas derived from the socio-cultural perspective to redistribute again the shaping power for urbanization to the people. It deducts do-it-yourself patterns from social traditions, communication and deliberation, and the local-wisdom. Arguments for place making are explored as an alternative strategy to the recent urbanization.


Vera Nimax

Vera Nimax

Redefining resource management in a fast growing urban setting: Explorations for regional innovation in Luxembourg

Location: Luxembourg
Mentors: Dominic Stead, Alex Wandl
Keywords: Transit-oriented development, resource efficiency, smart cities, regional spatial planning

Abstract – Despite its small size Luxembourg has made a name for itself, even on a global level. This has to do with the importance of its financial centre, and, above all, with the country’s morally questionable tax principles. This makes Luxembourg hit the headlines regularly. Renowned for its growing economy, stable political situation and a general high standard of living, to many Luxembourg might seem to be the ideal country. This is also reflected by Luxembourg’s continuous and rapid population growth, caused almost exclusively by immigration. In addition, massive commuter flows, and the related rising resource consumption cause major problems in the national territory (e.g. traffic jams, air pollution, and excessive resource consumption).

Due to these challenging conditions and the specific geography, Luxembourg constitutes an exceptional case study. In search of innovative solutions, this design and research project shows the possibilities for resource efficient planning by exploring the concept of transit-oriented development. With my thesis, I aim to analyse how resource efficiency can be achieved on a regional scale through important changes in current spatial development strategies. And thus, turn Luxembourg into ’smart Luxembourg’, a productive economic space, an ecologically sustainable society and a role model in resource management for other European countries. In particular, Luxembourg’s spatial configuration and its population adaptability can be advantageous in the process of becoming a laboratory for regional innovation.


Xiaojun Liu

Renewal with arrival: A participatory urban renewal in Hong Kong immigrant neighborhood

Location: Hong Kong, China
Mentors: Gregory Bracken, Frank van der Hoeven
Keywords: Participation, Urban renewal

Abstract – Hong Kong is an immigrant city. Over 30% of population nowadays are immigrant from mainly China mainland, Malaysia, Philippine and UK (CSD, 2017). Sham Shui Po is a typical arrival city that had successfully accommodated several generations of immigrants and helped them rising to the local city middle class. Sham Shui Po first developed in 1920s. Its small housing, density and streetscape have helped to build a social-support network and create more low-skill job opportunity. However, current urban renewal projects are damaging the existing immigrant community’s social mechanisms that help them to move upward to better income social status. What’s more, with the growing awareness of property right and community movement, the counterviews from neighbourhood residents, including migrant tenant, property owners and other stakeholders, are getting stronger. They lead to a radical rise of the financial and administrative cost of redevelopment processes.

This research uses participatory planning and design to fulfil urban renewal’s economic and social goals: to maintain, as well as improve, the supportive mechanism of immigrant neighbourhood to realize better and more affordable living, accessible job opportunity, a sense of community and cultural identity in Hong Kong. It is based on the theory of migrants’ city, which addresses on migrants’ life and spatial need. Another theoretical column is participatory planning and design, which claims to include users and stakeholders’ voice in design and planning process. Focusing on participation practices in Asian cities, planning approaches to engage and intervene on are proposed. Final products are a strategy plan for community engagement and a neighbourhood design toolkit.


Yanxin Liu

Yanxin Liu

Night and Fog of Hong Kong

Location: Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong, Pearl River Delta, China
Mentors: Diego Andres Sepulveda Carmona, Luisa Calabrese
Keywords: Hong Kong, Tin Shui Wai, New Town, Poly-centric urban model

Abstract – Due to the restricted collaboration between Hong Kong and the Shenzhen Region as well as within Pearl River Delta, the functional structure of the Hong Kong region becomes a mono-centric system which leads to a serious unbalanced development, in particular between its city centre and its peripheral new towns. The development neglects great potential. However, the new planning documents of both Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong are looking for an advanced cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.  This project explores the arising possibilities that stem from viewing Hong Kong development as part of an extended region in the Pearl River Delta.

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