Cities and urban regions are in transition. They keep changing their built environment and social structures; they are growing, shrinking, and are being exposed to a growing locational competition and socioeconomic inequality. In addition, they are responding to the challenges and opportunities of intensified urbanisation, technological innovation and novel ecological and technical risks. These fundamental transitions of cities and urban regions, but also their path dependency and obduracy to change, are strongly shaped by urban governance arrangements and the ways that governments and societal stakeholders decide how to plan, finance and manage urban areas.
We bring together knowledge from different fields in planning and governance research. We do this to build and test theories about how certain conditions shape urban sustainability, and to understand and support sustainable urban change in cities in the Global North and South. We aim to expand our understanding of how and why different – often co-existing – modes of governance either do or do not result in sustainable outcomes. We define governance as a process of interaction between public and/or private entities ultimately aiming at the realization of collective goals. How can urban governance arrangements accommodate, proliferate or frustrate sustainability transitions? How can institutional arrangements and planning instruments be improved to deal with rivalrous land uses and complex property right situations in a sustainable way? What are the requirements to increase the governance capacity of cities, i.e. through institutional innovation or smart governance tools?
In short, our research and teaching address the increasingly complex governance challenges in planning, developing and operating urban systems in line with sustainability goals.
In our research, specific attention is given to the role of technical infrastructures as key sites and vantage points of urban sustainability transitions. What are the requirements for decision makers in cities in the Global North and South to change incumbent socio-technical systems? Furthermore, a research focus is in the field of planning support science. What are the roles and added values that Planning Support Systems (PSS), Big (Open) Data and Smart Tools (e.g., Social Media) have in the governance of urban sustainability? Other research areas include informal and community-led planning practices and metropolitan governance. How can local communities promote sustainable urban development in informal ways and how do their practices relate to governmental planning? How do recent metropolitan reforms contribute to changing planning practices?