Centre for the Just City


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  • Diwen Tan

    Diwen Tan

    Inclusive Urbanism: neglected social-ecological values in urban villages as lived spaces in Shenzhen

    Inclusive urban development emphasises shared prosperity by engaging people of difference. But it is often simplified and narrowed to resource and service accessibility of marginalised groups in urban planning and design, which impedes the broader concept of recognition and respect of difference, or rather, social-ecological diversities. This doctoral research explores the social-ecological values sustained in Chinese urban villages and their implications for inclusive urban development. The rapid urbanisation in China has seen that urban villages act as resistance to the standardised urban planning and generic urban scenes. Offering social opportunities to migrants while retaining spatial patterns that harbour moral and cultural traditions, the islands of villages probably can function as an alternative urban landscape characterised by a mingling of rural and urban identities. By studying urban villages, this research seeks to introduce a new approach that reveals space qualities and implicit values in the Chinese cultural context and provide new thoughts on the term ‘inclusiveness’ in particular as a concept used for spatial strategies. 

    The research uses a mixed-method approach, combining architectural ethnography, in-depth interviews, and archival sources. It maps the spatial-social interactions of diverse groups of people (in terms of age, ethnicity, and migrant background) in urban villages to analyse implicit values. As a case study, the research takes Shenzhen, a metropolis located in Pearl River Delta in southern China. 


    Inclusiveness, cultural practices, spatial planning, urban villages, Shenzhen (China)


    Diwen Tan is a PhD candidate (2021-2025) in the Spatial Planning and Strategy section, Department of Urbanism. Her particular interests are in cultural landscapes and inclusive urbanism which are rooted in her education and career development. She completed her B.Sc. in Physics at Hunan Normal University, China and M.Sc. in Sustainable Energy Systems at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She then worked at UN Environment Programme for about 6 years (focusing on ecosystem management and climate adaptation in developing countries) before perusing an advanced M.Sc. in Human Settlements at KU Leuven (graduating with magna cum laude in 2020). 

  • Fouad Alasiri

    Fouad Alasiri

    Municipal councils in Saudi Arabia nowadays don’t have local authority, and municipalities run cities in a centralized system, yet that was not the case before the 1970s. This shift started in that decade for many reasons, most notably, the shift in socio-economic status. Central government started to rely heavily on oil financial resources rather than resources coming from the different regions.

    Public participation plays a fundamental role that enables dwellers to face these urban problems. In contrast, urban planning and development in Saudi cities is centralized in almost all cases and in the central government’s hands including municipalities. Usually, lacking local people involvement has been formulated by some values inherited form the local culture and the existing social norms such as the level of trust within the society, nomadic social hierarchism that have been converted into systems, urban policies and legislations that run cities in a totally centralized manner. Consequently, restricting the society involvement in cities and the municipalities became an inevitable result.

    The research aims to discover and discuss the link between the local culture and social norms and the existing urban policies. Moreover, the research focuses on empowering people to be part of the decision-making process as one of the most significant principle that influences and enhances urban sustainability through satisfying the society’s different segmental interests and needs. Additionally, the research studies and measures the existing livability criteria in an empirical and quantitative way taking an objective, data-driven, analytical approach to assess the built environment and ascertain the cause and the effect of limited citizens contribution. As a comparative measure methodology, the study will look at how urban policies in the Netherlands have achieved an outstanding record in public participation in city development. That will help to compare them with the urban legislations in Saudi Cities. Finally, Theories from sociology, anthropology and urban-ology will guide the deductive reasoning in exploring the root causes of the existing urban laws.

    Fouad Alasiri is an urban planner with an experience of 20 years. He worked in many public and private sectors including municipalities, regional development authorities and mega projects. His role was to assess and support in master planning, sustainable urban mobility planning, urban policies formation, and real-estate financing and insurance. Fouad last job was an urban planning consultant in the Saudi Investment Fund in two mega projects project. Fouad holds a master in City and Regional Planning from King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals.

  • Yizhao Du

    Yizhao Du

    Building Up a Cooperative Framework

    Engaging Secondary Cities Towards Sustainable Regions in China

    Promoter: Assoc. Prof. Roberto Rocco (Spatial Planning and Strategy)

    Supervisor: Asst. Prof. Rodrigo Viseu Cardoso (Spatial Planning and Strategy)

    The specific socio-economic system of China provides three key characteristics to its regionalisation process: 1) aiming for balanced regional development, 2) taking regional cooperation as a fundamental approach, and 3) sharing leadership across multiple levels of government. These characteristics contribute to the remarkable Chinese achievements in regional development but have also led to conflicts, namely between regional core cities and their respective secondary cities, regional cooperation and competition models, and decision-makers and policy implementers. Under these circumstances, the sustainable development of secondary cities may be severely hindered as they become the weakest link in regional strategies and do not benefit from regional development. However, the potential of secondary cities in promoting a balanced and healthy regionalization process is increasingly recognised and valued. This research project will investigate different aspects of regionalisation and governance in order to answer whether and how a cooperative regional framework can promote the sustainable socioeconomic transformation of Chinese secondary cities.

    The project follows a research trajectory based on defining-analysing-optimising. This means that the sub-questions are designed to address the steps of contextualisation, theoretical underpinnings, evaluation, case studies, and strategic policy recommendations. The corresponding methodological perspectives entail multi-scalar (space) and development dynamics (time) analyses, moving from comprehensive to increasingly specific analytic dimensions. The main aim of the research is to make regional cooperation frameworks play a more significant role in promoting the socioeconomic transformation of secondary cities. The project contributes both to extending the theories and discourses on “secondary cities” in the Chinese context, as well as providing relevant policy recommendations for their sustainable transition.

    Yizhao Du is a PhD candidate in the Spatial Planning and Strategy section. He graduated with an MSc in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences (cum laude) at TU Delft in June 2021. Having been exploring the field of urbanism for 8 years, he constructed a comprehensive knowledge system, both theoretical and practical, including Urban (and Rural) Sustainability, Environmental Technology, and Regional Planning. He got the “Ziqiangzhixing” national scholarship for excellent university student in 2019, and the best award of China Committee of Urban Planning Education in 2018. He has served as the chair-leader of the youth club in World Urban Planning Education Network (Shanghai, China) since November 2021, striving to build a communication platform for young scholars in the field of urbanism. As a PhD candidate, his focus is on regional development and secondary cities in China. He explores regional sustainability through the potentials and opportunities of secondary cities in China’s regional system.

  • SPS Seminars: Cross-fertilisation between Spatial Planning & Cohesion Policy in Portugal

    SPS Seminars: Cross-fertilisation between Spatial Planning & Cohesion Policy in Portugal

    When: Wednesday 9 March, 12.30-13.30

    Where: on campus and online, via Zoom

    Prior registration needed here.

    Please join us for the next SPS Seminar on Wednesday 9 March 12.30-13.30 CET (on campus & online). This time we welcome visiting research fellow Dr Cristina Cavaco, from the University of Lisbon. Cristina is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, a member of the Research Center in Architecture, Urbanism and Design (CIAUD), the co-coordinator of the research group URBinLAB – Urbanism and Territorial Dynamics, and a leading voice in Portuguese spatial planning. We are glad to welcome her at TU Delft and hear about her work on planning and cohesion policy in Portugal.

    Cross-fertilization between Spatial Planning and Cohesion Policy in Portugal: a view from within

    Cross-fertilization between spatial planning and cohesion policy has been receiving increasing attention in Europe, due to the goal of spatial planning becoming an arena for policy integration and territorial coordination as well as the emphasis on the territorial dimension in the allocation of European funding. However, this cross-fertilization is harmed by inefficiencies, lack of local capacity, weak governance cultures and difficulties in matching EU-wide and domestic frameworks and initiatives. This seminar provides insights on the relation between spatial planning and cohesion policy in Portugal, a country that benefits widely from cohesion policy funds but has a deficit in articulation between spatial planning and regional development policies. The Portuguese case is discussed from the perspective of the revision of legal frameworks and agreements guiding planning and territorial development, the existing overviews on spatial planning and regional development policies, and the recent analysis of soft planning practices in Portugal and their relation both with EU Cohesion policy and spatial planning instruments and guidelines

  • Announcing Chasing Territorialism: a new book by Andreas Faludi

    Announcing Chasing Territorialism: a new book by Andreas Faludi

    Followers of this blog might wonder why I seem to have dropped out of sight. Well, in a way I have, but for reasons having to do with this blog. Some time ago, a close colleague at the Department of Urbanism at TU Delft, Roberto Rocco, had proposed to collect the blogs into an Ebook to be published by same TU Delft. I had set this aside first but, observing some other publications of this kind in the making – and considering that such publication channels may gain a more prominent role in future academic publishing – the idea grew on me.
    Well, the long and the short of it is that, meanwhile – and with active assistance of Roberto as the co-editor – there is a book in under consideration by TU Delft as the intended publisher. Its main title is: ‘Chasing Territorialism’, with ‘Book of Blogs’ as the intended subtitle.
    Titles are important. We as the editors have of course giving due consideration to it. Yes, the ambiguity inherent to the term ‘Chasing’ is deliberate. One chases a treasure, a picture, maybe a potential partner. Is this the sense in which we talk about ‘Chasing Territorialism’? Or is it rather in the sense of chasing it away, of exculpating it. Territorialism after all invites nationalism and populism! For readers and followers of this blogs, asking the question may be tantamount to answering it: Yes, the book chases territorialism for precisely this reason, but without the illusion of being able to chase it away. Territorialism will stay with us. The only hope is that, recognizing that this is so, we can tame it.
    Editing the texts meant re-visiting each blog, touching up the text where needed and, most importantly, arrange the texts into chapters, with an new introduction to each. See here the structure that has emerged:
    – Foreword
    – Introduction
    – The Future of European Spatial Planning
    – Borders
    – COVID-19 Closures
    – Souvereignism
    – Territorialism
    – Neomedievalism
    – The Western Balkans
    – Literature
    – Appendix

    As a section, ‘The Western Balkans’ sticks out in that it refers to a – problematic – part of Europe, the main issue being its accession to the EU, promised as it has been longer ago than one cares to remember.geographic area. The reason for singling it out is that, as explained in one of my earlier blogs, an all-too-short visit to Tirana gave me the opportunity to reconnect with a part of Europe that as a young person I had been somewhat familiar with as a young person and which seemed to provide object lessons of territorialism at work.
    The ‘Appendix’ collects the blogs where I have referred to, and sometimes commented on, the reviews of ‘The Poverty of Territorialism’.
    Obviously, readers of this blog will be apprised at the earliest opportunity of the completion of the book with the appropriate link to it. As always, comments will be welcome!

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