Current PhD Projects

Spatial Justice within Strategic Metropolitan Planning.

An analysis of ideas, actor constellations, and spatial planning projects.

Nicole Kirchberger, Mag. Arch. MSc., Institute of Urbanism TU Graz

Aiming for justice is at the core of strategic planning of many cities and regions. Yet it is often unclear how justice can be realised with spatial planning. Within my PhD research I want to analyse not only how justice is discursively constructed but also implemented within strategic metropolitan planning projects. The content of the PhD includes the elaboration of the methodological framework, a theoretical embedding of the topic, one in depth case study (Amsterdam Metropolitan Area) to illustrate the topic as well as a collection of examples of interesting practices.Considering justice from a spatial perspective, space can be conceptualized as material configurations that are constantly socially produced and negotiated. Planning practices that aim for justice try to evince and balance hierarchies and inequities inscribed in space. Within planning, the concept of (spatial) justice offers possibilities for political action (Harvey 1973, Soja 2010, Fainstein 2010).The metropolitan level, a crucial scale to deal with issues of justice (e.g. provision of public spaces, transportation equity…), is dominated by informal governance arrangements that do not necessarily enhance democratic planning (Allmendinger and Haughton 2010). Negotiations and decisions on the metropolitan level happen democratically non-legitimized collaborations (mostly), resulting in non-transparent political processes. Very few cases show different forms of governance that allow more democratic processes.The proposed methodological framework combines the review of both, the level of ideas (of justice) in planning as well as the level of actor constellations and institutional settings. Additionally, this investigation is embedded in an analysis of the planning context and a sociodemographic analysis of the chosen metropolitan area. In particular, this includes discourse analyses of strategic visions and plans as well as the review of co-productive forms of governance of strategic planning processes including different actors (public, private, grassroots, …). A specific interest lies on formats of coordinative and communicative discourse on the city regional-level, to understand if and how democratic and deliberative forms of planning work on this level. Debates on spatial justice in urban theory originate from more political-economically approaches (Fischer 2009). This work applies “Discursive Institutionalism” (Carstensen and Schmidt 2016) to planning processes, to add to the discursively oriented communicative dimension of spatial justice and most importantly, to understand, what justice in spatial planning means and how spatial justice comes into being.


This Spatial Planning (Raumplanung) PhD is conducted at the TU Vienna and the TU Graz.Ao.Univ.Prof. Mag. Dr. Alexander Hamedinger, ISRA (Center of Sociology), TU ViennaArch. Univ. Prof. Aglaée Degros, Institute of Urbanism, TU Graz


Allmendinger, P. and Graham, H. (2010). ‘Spatial Planning, Devolution, and New Planning Spaces’ Environment and Planning C, 28 (5), 803–818.
Fainstein, S. (2010). The just city. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Harvey, D. (1973). Social justice and the city. London: Arnold.

Fischer, F. (2009). Discursive planning: social justice as discourse. In P. Marcuse, et al. (Eds.), Searching for the just city: debates in urban theory and practice. London [a.o.]: Routledge.
Carstensen, M. and Schmidt, V. (2016). Power through, over and in ideas: conceptualizing ideational power in discursive institutionalism. Journal of European Public Policy, 23(3), 318–337.

Soja, E. (2010). Seeking spatial justice. Minneapolis, Minn. [a.o.]: University of Minnesota Pr.

Current PhD Project

Smart Spaces — Spatial Smartness

PhD Project

Radostina Radulova-Stahmer, Univ.-Ass. Dipl.-Ing. Architektin

Urban technologies (Information and Communication Technologies ICTs) are globally implemented in cities in order to meet current challenges such as urbanization, global warming, environmental pollution and scarcity of resources. Against the background of global digital and technological tendencies of the last two decades this dissertation analyses on an urban neighborhood scale spatial conditions and spatial transformation in public space. Incurrent Smart City (SC) literature the discourse is divided in two directions of thinking, one is technology oriented and the other is socially oriented. This young field of research is lacking the spatial dimension of the urban process of digitalization. This project contributes to this research gap by systematically analysing the spatial interfaces and interdependencies between physical urban space and the digital technologies. The specific research object are urban SC projects with different implemented technologies. The goal is to identify spatialization delays (Verräumlichungsverzug) of digital technologies on the urban neighborhood scale such as postal logistic services or advancing car sharing opportunities. Following the European SC model by Giffinger et al. different urban SC projects with specific focus on the key fields mobility and environment in the German speaking area are examined. All SC projects include technologies implemented in dense urban areas and in cities with more than 300.000 inhabitants. As part within the PhD research the identified spatialization delays will serve for future urban planning in order to not only improve technological and social convenience but also to assure a robust spatial improvement of quality in public space.



Prof. Markus Neppl, KIT
Prof. Aglaée Degros, TU Graz