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.
Programme group leaders
Between self-regulation and formal government: the challenges of self-build housing and facilities - BESEFOGO
A NWO and FAPESP sponsored international collaboration project between the University of Amsterdam and Universidade de São Paulo.
This project deals with the topic of self-build housing and local facilities in Brazil and the Netherlands. Self-build is defined in this research as the practice in which people produce their own house and (collective) neighbourhood facilities.
This can be with or without the hiring of outside expertise (architect, constructor, labourers etc.) or official funding outlets (bank loans, mortgages etc.). Formal institutions and governance systems face increasing difficulties in both countries to satisfy the need for good quality, affordable housing, which is an important condition for sustainable urban development.
Brazil has a long history of low quality informal self-build housing areas that face the challenge to improve regarding tenure security, safety, access to basic needs like sanitation, energy, water and public transport.
On first sight conditions in the Netherlands are completely different. However, also here we see growing attention, and even stimulating policies, to enhance self-building of housing and facilities to create more affordable, consumer-tailored housing options for low-income people.
The main research question is “How is the capacity for self-regulation in practices of self-build housing and facilities related to formal governance and regulation domains and how can this relationship be optimized to create more sustainable forms of urbanization?”
This question is studied more in detail – and with the use of different methodologies – by addressing sub-research questions regarding the mapping of self-build practices, the experience of self-build practices by residents and their socially sustainable effects in terms of provision of affordable housing and enhanced networks in each locale. In all these questions the relationship between the practices of self-regulation and the formal governance practices and regulations play a sensitizing role.
Methodologically, the project aims to combine more class policy and planning studies with ethnographic methods. The work is organized in several distinctive workpackages that have their own end products. Most studies on housing compare systems internationally on the basis of quantitative measurements with little regard for local complexity, diversity and cultural contingency. By introducing ethnographic elements this research project aims to better understand informant discourses and connect them to material, cultural and historic contexts.
PARCOUR - Public accountability to residents in contractual urban redevelopment
Contracts, deeds, by-laws and other regulatory instruments are used as planning tools to regulate actors (from the public, private and civil sectors) involved in the regeneration of previously developed land. PARCOUR argues that contractual relationships create a specific form of governance that have important implications for the democratic legitimacy of projects for Sustainable Urban Development (SUD).
By studying diverse planning tools in Brazil, UK and the Netherlands, PARCOUR will engage in the comparative evaluation of public accountability in relation to residents. It is also important to acknowledge that both the realisation of the public interest through the use of these planning tools and the accountability of the public sector in contractual processes are under researched.
The main outcome of PARCOUR will be the clear evaluation of public accountability, and clear definition of public interest, focusing on dissemination of this knowledge among public authorities with interactive research.
The project has 3 phases:
- Desk research: Understanding different ways in which the public interest is constructed and operationalised in diverse contexts;
- Field work and analysis: Testing the legitimacy of the planning tools that are able to implement actions for the public interest;
- Dissemination: Distributing the results to academy and practice.
A total budget of approximately 5.4 million euros was jointly made available by the research councils FAPESP (Brazil), ESRC (United Kingdom) and NWO (The Netherlands). The joint call is part of the policy of NWO to stimulate research cooperation with emerging science nations and to stimulate research on sustainability.
- NWO funded project 1 Oct 2015 - 1 Oct 2018
Community Data-Loops for energy-efficient urban lifestyles (CODALoop)
There is tremendous urgency for reducing cities’ energy footprint through behavioral change. However, we hardly know how to enable individuals to learn to use energy responsibly in their daily lives. This newly funded project combines information, cognitive and social sciences into a real-life experiment in urban neighborhoods.
CODALoop will provide
- a deeper understanding of learning and behavioral change to reduce energy consumption in an urban setting;
- a tested prototype of an interactive web-based platform for sharing data about individual and community energy consumption choices;
- a tailored set of policy and market recommendations for the wider application of this platform.
UvA/AISSR is the main applicant of this project. The project is coordinated by Luca Bertolini who is also director of the Centre for Urban Studies. Dutch partners are: prof. dr. ir. Luca Bertolini (PI, UvA), Federico Savini PhD (UvA), Karin Pfeffer PhD (UvA), Beatriz Pineda Revilla (UvA), Alessandro Bozzon PhD (TUD), Stefano Bocconi PhD (TUD), Amsterdam Economic Board/Amsterdam Smart City, PBL, Nudge.
- Funded by: the ERA-NET Cofund Smart Cities and Communities programme.
- Project duration: May 1, 2016 - April 30, 2019.
Smart Cycling Futures
The new research programme 'Smart Cycling Futures (SCF)' investigates how smart cycling innovations ─ including ICT-enabled cycling innovations, infrastructures, and social innovations like new business models ─ contribute to more resilient and liveable Dutch urban regions.
Cycling booms in many Dutch cities. While smart cycling innovations promise to increase cycling’s modal share in the (peri-)urban transport system even further, little is understood of their impact or cost and benefit. Cycling innovations benefit urban regions in terms of accessibility, equality, health, liveability, and decreasing CO2-emissions when socially well embedded.
Going beyond analysis, this research consortium will assess the economic, social, and spatial impacts of cycling on urban regions. It brings together four Dutch regions through academic institutions (three general and one applied-science universities); governmental authorities (urban and regional); and market players (innovative entrepreneurs). Together, they answer practice-based questions in a transdisciplinary and problem-oriented fashion.
UU (professor Rob Raven), UvA/AISSR (Marco Brömmelstroet and Luca Bertolini), TUE, Tilburg Universiteit, Windesheim, Min. van WVS, Stadsregio Amsterdam, gemeente Amsterdam, gemeente Eindhoven, gemeente Utrecht, gemeente Zwolle, provincie Noord-Brabant, provincie Utrecht, provincie Overijssel, CROW.
- Funded by: NWO
- Project period: April 2016-March 2021
CYCLEWALKMODE - Sharing best practices and experience on data collecting and processing and involvement of users in order to improve planning of cycling and walking as modes of transport in urban and functional urban areas
During the last decade, the acknowledgement of the social and environmental costs that are connected to transport and mobility patterns based on individual motorised traffic has been consolidated and the shift towards more sustainable mobility is reflected in the policy instruments for the current programming period.
Walking and cycling, and active mobility in general, are being supported to cover shorter distances, as it is normally required in urban and functional urban areas. However, people switching to active mobility have to deal with severely inadequate conditions of walking and cycling infrastructure, often unaccessible, unsafe, discontinuous and not ensuring connections from point A to B.
Their characteristics are completely different in the various countries, but differences are also between neighbouring cities, due to a general lack of standards in approaches and requirements recognised and applied in the EU. Local and regional administrations taking advantage of the funds available are now rushing in building walking and cycling facilities, but do not fully consider all factors influencing the decision on the characteristics that the infrustructure shall have and it urgent to act.
CYCLEWALK MODE will provide an opportunity for the local and regional administrations involved to compare and share approaches and ensure more informed decision making process on walking and cycling infrastructure, with the result of increasing the share of active mobility and low carbon mobility. Through study visits, complemented with assessment walking and cycling tours, technical working tables with stakeholders, and the Urban Cycling Institute providing trainings and full technical and scientific advise to the technical offices and the regional experts and universities, the project will ensure taking up of quality criteria for proper walking and cycling infrastructure in the policy instruments and projects, implemented according to share standards.
Prof. M.C.G. (Marco) te Brömmelstroet
- Funded by: ERDF Interreg Europe
- Project duration: 01-01-2017 - 31-12-2021
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
GPIO : Urban Planning
Noord/Zuidlijn metro impact evaluation
On 22 July 2018 the new ‘Noord/Zuidlijn’ metro line connecting the North and the South side of Amsterdam through the city centre has been inaugurated. What is the impact of such a large-scale new infrastructure for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area?
By comparing the situation before and after it goes into operation, the Noord/Zuidlijn offers a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of a large scale new infrastructure on mobility patterns and behavior, socio-economic and spatial aspects, as well as quality of life. The research project is a collaboration between different universities and local government bodies. The focus of the contribution of the University of Amsterdam is on assessing effects on land use and public space.
- Project duration: 1 June 2017 – 30 July 2021
- Partners: City of Amsterdam, Vervoerregio Amsterdam, Delft University of Technology, University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI)
- Related information: Noord/Zuidlijn
The Mobile City
The Mobile City innovation program caries out experiments that develop and test innovations for the integration of mobility, technology and place in city (regions).
The experiments are organized together with public and private stakeholders, stimulated by five provinces. The practice orientated combination of experiments and knowledge development aims at building a better integration of mobility and the city, on different scales, in urban regions.
Partners: University of Amsterdam, University of Twente, Radboud University, Design Academy Eindhoven, UUM (Formerly Het Noordzuiden), Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Provinces of Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Noord-Brabant.
Strengthening democracy beyond ‘participation’: informal politics and inclusive urban development
Marginal groups are often characterised as politically inactive. Challenging that idea, this study uses innovative methods to involve stakeholders in studying how citizens voice demands in ways that are not recognised by formal participation procedures. The results offer new insights in citizens’ politics and practices for inclusive urban development.
What is Governed in Cities: Residential Investment Landscapes and the Governance and Regulation of Housing Production
This project draws on a precise comparative, inter-disciplinary methodology to examine the inter-relationships between contemporary investment flows into the housing markets of major metropolitan centres and the governance arrangements and public policy instruments that are designed to regulate them. Our case studies are the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, Greater London, and Grand Paris. The project asks what is governed in major cities and draws on two streams of analysis: mapping and explaining the types of investment that are shaping housing production in the 3 cities; and developing understandings of the effectiveness of public policy instruments that are in place to regulate them. The project is timely as major cities have been faced with unprecedented development pressures as their populations and economies have expanded and their built environments have become highly attractive locations for global investment. These pressures have been particularly acute in the production and consumption of housing, where the impacts of investments on markets, citizens, and places are generating a widely perceived crisis and set of governmental challenges to produce affordable housing.
The project follows two streams of analysis. First we examine investment landscapes and the effectiveness of regulations and policy instruments that are designed to control them. We do this systematically and comparatively. Second we analyse the types of investment that are shaping housing markets and their impacts on people and places. We explore its sources, objectives, and designed outcomes. The research meets an increasingly urgent need to develop better understandings of the complex relationships between markets, planning controls, and the quality of life of citizens in a context of escalating political tensions between different socio-economic groups and major global economic and social changes.
The Refugees’ Right To Housing: State Policies and Housing Commons in Istanbul, Athens and Belgrade
Principal Investigator: Charalampos Tsavdaroglou
Supervisor: Maria Kaika
Academic Area: Migration, urban studies, social movements
Duration: 1 September 2018 – 30 August 2020
Funding: EU Horizon 2020 (Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 795992)
The ongoing refugee streams, that derive mainly from the Middle East and North African conflict areas, are a central issue to the growing socio-spatial debate on the different facets of contemporary crisis. The moving populations that cross boundaries heading to the European North, destabilize both territorial certainties and established governance politics. A noticeable body of literature is currently emerging, exploring aspects of social philanthropy, humanitarianism, NGOs’ activities and State immigration policies related to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. In this literature refugees are often seen as passive recipients of state, NGO or philanthropy led practices. However, there is little attempt to research how the refugees themselves self-organize, and enact the production of collective housing and shared common spaces based on principles of self-organization and mutual help. The proposed project aims to fill this gap. Following the recent spatial approaches on “commons” and “enclosures” the research project intends to explore forms and modes of refugee led solidarity housing commons, and compare and contrast these with State-run refugee camps.
The project focuses empirically on Turkey, Greece and Serbia and in particular, in Istanbul, Athens and Belgrade. These cities are at the epicenter of the refugee crisis. Since, March 2016, when the borders in Balkan countries were closed for all third-country migrants and the EU-Turkey deal was signed, thousands of refugees were trapped in Turkey, Greece and Serbia. It is estimated that there are more than 500 thousand refugees in Istanbul waiting to cross the borders to Europe. Athens is the main refugee transit city in Greece with almost 20 thousand refugees whilst approximately 10 thousand refugees are currently trapped in Belgrade.
Main project objectives:
The research aims to examine how the newcomers themselves challenge existing socio-spatial power relations and the provision of housing in State-run camps and produce solidarity and common spaces. The proposed project aims to move beyond current debates on philanthropy, humanitarianism, NGOs and State immigration policies, in order to research the refugees’ self-organized practices and efforts to produce alternative housing
This research addresses the pressing academic and social need to:
1) Enhance qualitative and quantitative data availability in order to compare and contrast refugee housing conditions and rights in different geographical locations
2) Assess the impact and importance of alternative housing
3) Compare and contrast existing strengths and weaknesses in institutional frameworks at national and EU levels.
Responding to this need, this project aims to examine the refugees’ right to housing as it is expressed by the Turkish, Greek and Serbian States housing policies and the way these policies relate to the solidarity housing practices in each country.
CLEAR – City LivEability by Redesign
Within CLEAR, real-life transition experiments are launched in urban streets, taking advantage of the commitment of selected cities.
Small, but tangible interventions in public space as well as the joint introduction of new mobility options as an alternative to individual motorized transport are expected to encourage a systemic change in urban mobility.
One of the key outputs is an inventory of context-sensitive urban design scenarios and effective processes of citizen and stakeholder involvement.
IMS - experimenting with mobility in cities (in Dutch)
Het Innovatieprogramma Mobiele Stad voert praktijkexperimenten uit, gericht op het ontwikkelen en testen van innovaties voor de integratie van mobiliteit, technologie en ruimte in steden en stedelijke regio’s.
TOD-IS-RUR - Transit Oriented Development for Inclusive and Sustainable Rural-Urban Regions
The Innovative Training Network (ITN) TOD-IS-RUR sets up an interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral network to make significant research contributions to the scientific and societal challenge of countering sprawl in Europe.
The network aims to extend the concept of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) to RURs with a context-based approach, in which interactions between mobility and urbanization are studied in relation to social and environmental qualities. The overall objective is to go beyond the urban focus and undifferentiated, model-based approach of current TOD research and practice, and extend TOD to RURs with a context-based approach.
SUPER - Sustainable Urbanization and land-use Practices in European Regions
Land is a finite resource and the way it is used is one of the principal drivers of environmental change. Increasing land take affects fertile agricultural land, puts biodiversity at risk, increases the risk of flooding and water scarcity and contributes to both the causes and effects of global warming. Moreover, the effects of land take differ depending on the value, quality and functionality of the land.
The main objective of this service on sustainable land-use is to build on existing key relevant studies and projects and suggest measures on how sustainable land use can be promoted and how land-take, soil sealing and urban sprawl can be avoided, reduced and compensated in Europe, its cities and regions. The starting hypothesis is that a sustainable use of land would entail that compact and denser urban development would lead to less need for transport, less energy use and more open spaces enhancing the quality of life thus generating benefits and requiring less costs
- What does the current European land use look like? Which cities and regions in Europe show the biggest challenges in terms of sustainable land use, land take and urban sprawl? Which regions and cities showed positive developments on this respect? What factors are responsible for the main changes over the past 28 years and which measures already implemented seem to play a role?
- What are the costs and benefits (economic, social, ecological and territorial effects) of 1) unconstrained land-take (as appeared during the last 10 years) and 2) limiting land-take towards no net land take by 2050. How are these effects linked to the value or quality of land taken? For instance, urban heat, particulate matter, health, climate change, land value, ecosystem services, recreation, total area, etc.
- Which (spatial) strategies, instruments and mechanisms (financial, fiscal and economic) could be used, at national, regional and local level, to limit and contain urban sprawl, to contribute to the EU-wide objective for no net land-take by 2050 and its national targets, to promote sustainable land use and leading towards a more balanced territorial development, maintaining green and open spaces in urban areas and transcending administrative and governmental borders? How can the private sector and public-private collaboration play a role? And how can we benefit economically from measures to avoid further land take?
- What determines the success of policy interventions and measures aimed at reducing land take and containing urban sprawl?
- How does territorial cohesion policy and specific sectoral policies, such as on air-quality or the European Single Market, influence urban sprawl and land-take? And what recommendations towards European Cohesion Policy and sectoral policies could be made so that they discourage further land-take and urban sprawl?
Key messages and policy advice
The key findings and recommendations of the activity are:
- Learn from the past and the future: the case studies show that interventions or practices are often undesirable or unsustainable. Making and using policy scenarios such as those drawn up in the SUPER project to explore the advantages and disadvantages of different developmental trajectories (e.g. compact, polycentric and diffuse) are very important and useful. This also provides a basis for discussing the synergies and trade-offs with respect to sustainability.
- Interventions can and do affect urbanization and land use: the SUPER project found that it is possible to design interventions that adjust the payoffs or orientation of stakeholders, and thus their behaviour in the development process, to more sustainable ends using a combination of carrots, sticks and sermons. Stakeholders involved in the development process overwhelmingly asserted that interventions had an impact on standard development practices.
- European policies can support or undermine sustainability: the analysis of EU policies has shown that, despite having no formal competence for spatial planning, it has substantial impact on urbanization and land use. If the EU wishes to prioritize sustainable land use, it should seek to align its own policies to this end.
- Territorial differentiation needed: no one-size-fits-all solutions: overall judgements about sustainability at the pan-European level are difficult to make, because, the distribution of developments is highly heterogeneous. Also, the effects of developments are highly heterogeneous, and often entail a local trade-off between different dimensions of sustainability. Finally, successful interventions in some regions fail in others.
- Proactive long-term holistic thinking aids short-term implementation: the case studies signalled a need for interventions to be embedded into a clear and comprehensive strategy or vision that covers all relevant topics and involves all relevant stakeholders. Broad-based interventions, if they are successful in achieving their goal, seem to have the best chance to be sustainable in all three dimensions.