Rapid urbanization and other global transformation processes bring about new spatial formations and settlement typologies. In parallel, these processes have produced unprecedented challenges in urban development. Moreover, they are the sum of urbanization and economic globalization, resource consumption, climate change and growing social and spatial fragmentation processes.These correlations and associated challenges – such as urban inequality, environmental degradation, and social conflicts – are not confined to a single geographical context; they are local-global phenomena that operate in an increasingly interdependent world.
Consequently, we need to shift our perspective from a one-sided transfer of knowledge towards a multi-based exchange of experiences.
Many of the phenomena – such as rapid urbanization, settlement development and housing provision – that characterize cities within Africa, Asia, and Latin America provide a backdrop of what we may foresee for other cities exposed to similar growth pressures. In this perspective, they can be regarded as laboratories of urbanism; as these cities demonstrate impressive informal planning in a context of limited resources and capacities.
Overcoming the current challenges requires a detailed understanding of planning and urban design tasks. On that account, our teaching and research focus on the governance of urban transformations, on an array of city actors and the informalization of planning processes that may contribute to spatially relevant solutions. Our cornerstone is an integrated approach that combines planning and conceptual design with participation and co-production processes.
The Department of International Urbanism seeks to contribute to critical urban research and policy discourse. We are engaged in addressing a crucial question: what are the fundamentals and prerequisites for urbanism in an international context? Therefore, we provide a knowledge base for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary urban research. As practitioners in the fields of urban design, urban development and international cooperation, we apply our collective expertise to research and reality-based learning in a range of fields. We have a firm commitment to the co-production of knowledge and an undertaking with our students to present them with the necessary tools for critical urban thinking.
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Urban governance and actor-related processes are crucial to our research focus. Global urbanization processes, economic globalization, climate change, and social transformation are all factors that influence urban development and are spatially relevant in cities. In the presence of these influences, how can we conceptualize the city both as a built and a living environment?
Our applied research focuses on improving the quality of urban life and enabling sustainability in urban transformations. Potential fields of action include poverty reduction, social cohesion, cultural diversity, mobility, spatial form, adaptation and mitigation to climate change and informal settlement upgrading. Cross-cutting topics – such as urban governance and related discourses on actor-based planning, informalization, participation, and co-production – are an integral component of our line of research. It is our position that new transdisciplinary urban research formats are required to address the complexities of urbanism; therefore, we aim to reflect, apply these new formats and innovate.
In recent years, we have centered our research on participatory planning. As a result, we have conducted several projects in different contexts. In the frame of informal settlements the “EZBET Project” in Cairo. In the realm of sustainable mobility culture, we experimented with catalytic co-production processes in the “Future City Lab Sustainable Mobility Culture”. In the matter of actor-related processes with “Reallabor Stadt-Raum-Bildung” we aimed to involve municipalities in the debate on how schools – in their capabilities as institutions and buildings – can become a catalyst for social processes in neighborhoods and build upon the education of sustainability. Furthermore, we have advanced in the discussion of spatial relevance in energy transition linked to the access of the Neckar River with the “WECHSEL” proposal. Through “Housing for the Urban Poor: From Local Action to Global Networks,” we have coupled the importance of transnational grassroots networks in the development of housing.
Moreover, we collaborate with INTREPID (an inter-trans disciplinary research network) and conduct workshops to promote innovative research (such as resilience in small and mid-sized cities throughout Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the need to rebuild in post-war Syria).
Our teaching comprises a wide spectrum of topics ranging from sustainable urban development to governance aspects in planning and contemporary challenges for cities. Teaching methods vary from comprehensive reading seminars based on problem-based learning, visionary workshops to urban design studios. Our background in developing tools and techniques in participatory planning influences our teaching style. We see group work, simulations and mappings as essential integral elements of the learning process. The chair hosts the international Master’s Program in Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design (IUSD).
Over the past years we have involved students in studios on border zones in Tijuana (Mexico), and Belfast (Northern Ireland), quality of life in Lviv (Ukraine) and Lisbon (Portugal), the inclusion of refugees (in Stuttgart and Leonberg) and localizing the Sustainable Development Goals in Belgrade (Serbia) and Stuttgart. Our seminars have ranged from media seminars supporting participatory scenario development with visualization techniques and documenting research activities using animated video clips (Future City Lab Sustainable Mobility Culture), seminars on innovative methods and tools for urban research, and critical reading seminars on topics such as the global agendas or the post-apartheid city.
WE ALSO WORK WITH
The Department of International Urbanism has partnered up with other leading international urbanism departments, NGOs and international and national development agencies. What’s more, we are part of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) of the United Nations on behalf of the University of Stuttgart. We are also a member of the Network Association of European Researchers on Urbanization in the Global South (N-AERUS) and TRIALOG e. V. – Association for Scientific Research into Planning and Building in the Developing World.