Our approach to research is characterized by the pursuit of an intimate link between theoretical depth and empirical grounding, with a particular emphasis on concept driven, action-orientated research and case study analysis. We aim to develop knowledge that is valuable not only to the academic community, but also has strong social impact, and helps shape urban futures. Key areas of research are:
- Urban governance
- Critical transport studies
- Political ecology
- Urban sustainability
The empirical field of our research is international in scope, although Amsterdam features prominently as the city in which we are not only located, but also socially immersed and politically engaged. We are institutionally embedded within the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research and the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam, but our research scope and research collaborations reach out to academic institutions in over twenty countries across the world. Within Amsterdam we have active interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research collaboration with, for example, the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, the Free University, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the Municipality of Amsterdam.
All the staff of the Urban Planning programme group is actively involved in teaching the Bachelors programme in Human Geography and Urban Planning and the Masters Programme in Urban and Regional Planning , and the Masters Research Programme in Urban Studies. These programmes target different student groups, but common to all is that they aim at cultivating in students a both critical and constructive attitude towards different ways of understanding and impacting social, spatial and environmental processes in cities.
Mission and aim
The mission of the Urban Planning group is furthering research and teaching on social, spatial, and environmental processes in cities, their interrelationships, and ways of purposefully and positively impacting on them.
The aim of the Urban Planning group is to contribute to the capacity of cities to cope with urgent social, spatial, and environmental challenges.
Strengthening democracy beyond ‘participation’: informal politics and inclusive urban development
Citizens who experience social and geographic exclusion often have difficulty influencing local decision making on urban planning, and this experience can reinforce dissatisfaction with the democratic system and foster societal fragmentation. Although local governments around the world increasingly seek to involve citizens in decision making, studies show that formal participatory processes still fail to include all citizens.
This project turns a lens onto the informal politics by which marginalized citizens already claim their ‘right to the city’, so that those practices can be better recognized by urban planners and their concerns can be heard. How do relatively marginalized citizens informally claim their right to the city in ways that are not recognized by formal participation efforts? How do these informal politics shape formal processes of participation? How can these informal ways be better included in participatory planning?
The project contributes to the scholarship of ‘participation’ by theorizing informal politics via contrasting ethnographic case studies of citizens’ politics in response to participatory urban development projects, in the distinct institutional contexts of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), where participation is highly regulated, and Bogotá (Colombia), where experimental efforts seek to creatively involve citizens. In-depth field research examines informal politics around the edges of formal meetings, in street-level encounters between citizens and public officials, and in other settings, and how these encounters shape formal participatory processes.
The research design challenges two taken-for-granted ideas: that informality in politics is a Southern phenomenon and that citizen involvement is better organized in welfare states. Further, the comparison will illuminate how state institutional frameworks variously enable or constrain citizen participation. Using an innovative approach to the methodology of political ethnography, I involve local stakeholders in knowledge production and utilization, to ultimately generate multi-dimensional understandings of participation from below and above.
- Funded by: NWO VENI
- Duration: 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023
- Fact sheet
TOD-IS-RUR | Transit Oriented Development (TOD) for inclusive and sustainable rural-urban regions
TOD-IS-RUR will produce an innovative contribution to the scientific and societal challenge of sprawl in Europe. The ITN aims to both accommodate mobility and decentralized living while attracting sustainable and inclusive urbanization around sustainable transport. To meet this aim, TOD-IS-RUR transforms current urban and undifferentiated, model-based approach to TOD into a context-based, interdisciplinary rural-urban approach in which mobility-urbanization relations are analyzed and improved in relation to social and environmental qualities of RURs.
- Funded under: EXCELLENT SCIENCE - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
- Duration: 1 January 2021 - 31 December 2024
- Fact sheet
EX-TRA | Experimenting with city streets to transform urban mobility
Across Europe, cities are trying to radically reduce their reliance on car-based mobility in order to address sustainability challenges. Two things are lacking in these efforts towards a ‘post-car’ city: a proactive vision of cities that are both sustainable and accessible without cars, and effective strategies to deal with systematic resistance to change.
EX-TRA will generate knowledge that address these shortcomings. Central to EX-TRA’s approach are transition experiments in city streets, or intentional, temporary changes in street use, regulation and/or form, aimed at exploring systemic change towards a ‘post-car’ city. By way of urban living labs in Amsterdam, Bologna, Milan, Ghent, Munich and London, the project will generate insights into:
1. Possible combinations of physical design and regulation that increase the types of usage and inclusivity amongst users of city streets
2. Transport and land use conditions for the purpose of enabling and improving walking and cycling accessibility in city districts
3. Shared mobility platforms and micro-mobility and freight delivery options which complement attractive streets and accessible districts
4. Strategies of change that can accelerate the transition towards a ‘post-car’ city.
- Funded by: Urban Europe
- Duration: 2021-2024
- Fact sheet
DECYCLE | Towards a circular degrowth economy: explaining the material valorization regime of city-regions
A transition towards a degrowth economy is necessary to tackle the related challenges of resource scarcity and waste accumulation. Degrowth pursues socio-economic wealth while reducing material flows and reusing waste in socially responsible and ecologically regenerative ways. As a concrete approach to realizing these ends, the concept of the circular economy has gathered political momentum. However, this model will have no impact on city-regions' ecological footprint unless it challenges the regulations that dismiss certain materials as waste in the first place.
DECYCLE lays the groundwork for studying the regulatory frameworks that make it possible to revalue waste materials as a resource for city-regional development. It develops an approach termed 'institutional urban political ecology', which combines city-regions' regulatory, spatial, and ecological dimensions, usually studied separately. It interrogates the legal, spatial, and economic regulations that define waste streams' political responsibilities, geographies, and financial architecture.
DECYCLE puts forward a new concept, the material valorization regime, to explain how these regulations govern the valorization of waste across multiple scales. It develops a distinct new method of 'enactment tracing' for critical urban research, which involves mapping actors engaged in defending and contesting regulations. DECYCLE comparatively analyzes how regulations valorize streams of construction, food, and heat waste in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vienna, and Milan. It also explains how transnational regulatory frameworks affect waste reduction at the city-regional scale.
By theorizing the relationship between regulatory change and the urban metabolism in contemporary eco-capitalism, DECYCLE sets out to free urbanization from its dependency on the production of waste and raw materials. In so doing, it lays the foundations for future socio-spatial inquiry into the institutional basis of city-regional metabolisms.
- Funded by: European Research Council - Starting Grant