13th international AESOP Young Academics Conference: Planning inclusive spaces: an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach

In addition to planners and designers, a variety of key actors are involved in the creation of urban space. Lawyers, politicians, geographers, engineers, social scientists, individuals, and communities, are some of those who play a significant role in designing, planning, and vitalizing urban space. In order to maximise the synergies between disciplines and knowledge being produced outside academia, we have to go beyond a multidisciplinary approach towards the creation of urban space. Here, we argue for adopting an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach, one that seeks integrating bodies of knowledge and methods into an overlapping synthesis of approaches. Planning, as a young discipline, is trying to create a unity of intellectual frameworks to understand and enhance the creation of cities.

This discussion is particularly important when planning inclusive spaces. Inclusion is a multifaceted concept with its various spatial, social, and economic factors. Often what makes a city more inclusive from one perspective has a negative or controversial effect from another. For example, the co-presence of different social groups has long been a controversial topic, as from one point of view it becomes a question of safety, while form the other, it is considered as an issue of exclusion. Though the constellation of factors can often be at odds with one another, there is a need for a balanced and holistic approach that takes today’s changing and evolving narratives of inclusion into consideration. Understanding the ways by which inhabitants of the city- as critical participants- provide unprecedented and innovative urban paradigms is equally crucial to this notion of inclusive urban space. The intrinsic links, conflicts and power relations between all actors through social, professional, and political processes and their interplay within the physical dimensions of the city must be well understood and worked on.

The aim of the conference is therefore to bring different perspectives to the discussion by critically examining the knowledge upon which what we call planning is formed. We hope to offer the participants new insights by bridging the limitations of a single discipline; directing the debate towards an exploration of the countless opportunities but also challenges of inter- and trans-disciplinary thinking.

Website of the AESOP YA Network




‘Public space’ and the dilemma of inclusion

Chair (Keynote): Prof. Dr. Astrid Ley
Co-chair: Dr.-Ing. Anshika Suri

Through opening up a discussion on the relationship of public space to commonly inherent concepts, such as inclusion, accessibility, openness and safety, the aim of this track is to question the validity of the concept of public space from the perspective of inclusion in all its forms. Under whose authority does public space production fall? Is the process of decision-making disputed between advocates of the right to the city and designers of inclusive cities? If spaces are to be claimed through the right to the city, how is the notion of public space affected? And how can this space be socially produced? Which role does the actual public/private legal status play?

Moreover, designing inclusive cities brings up the question of the role of the designer as mediator. Design is understood as transforming the intangible aspects of space into tangible experiences, while creativity refers to connecting both previously unconnected frames of references (Dovey, 2010) and disciplines for better practices. As such, it begs the questions of how could interdisciplinarity, within the design process, maximize the ability of space to accommodate the unpredictable? How can adaptability and change over time be enabled in the process?

In line with that, inhabitants of the city are seen as critical participators in creating both traditional and innovative urban paradigms; practices that fall under terms such as experimental urbanism, tactical urbanism, DIY-urbanism etc. These practices should be integrated in discussions and processes of inclusion. However, these practices should also be critically understood, for example through questioning whether the tactical can also be strategic. The aim here is not to advocate for notions of “the people vs. the state” or “top-down vs. bottom-up”, it is rather to explore how we could learn from practices that simply make a space public.


Health promoting urban planning and design

Chair (Keynote): Prof. Dr. Adriana Allen
Co-chair: t.b.a.

Current urban living has brought with it both health benefits and risks to its dwellers. On one hand, thanks to a broad supply of basic goods and varied services, quality of life and life expectancy have been on the rise for the last centuries. On the other hand, environmental pollution—such as noise found in high-density settlements—and sedentary lifestyle (e.g. long sitting hours in offices and schools) promote obesity, diabetes, respiratory, heart and circulatory diseases, and take their toll on mental health (Faskunger, 2011; Lederbogen et al., 2011; Peen, 2010; Dye, 2008; WHO, 2007, 2014; Pedersen CB & Mortensen PB, 2001). These non-communicable diseases cause 86% of the current deaths around the globe (WHO, 2013) while physical inactivity is the fourth leading factor for global mortality (WHO, 2009).

Previous research has shown that the built environment influences its users’ behavior in many ways. Some of the related questions are: How does the built environment influence the way people move? How do people feel and what kind of emotions are evoked by different contexts? Which environmental and spatial parameters are experienced as stressful or relaxing? Still, there is limited knowledge among local stakeholders, urban designers, and policy makers. Therefore, this track deals with the central question of how to plan, design, develop, and maintain health-promoting cities.

This track aims to stimulate a transdisciplinary discussion towards minimizing negative urban impact on citizens’ physical and mental health. Contributions could also deal with topics such as active travel and walkable cities, urban green and blue infrastructures, new material technologies reducing noise and urban heat islands.


Citizenship and governance in the production of space

Chair (Keynote): Prof. Dr. Roger Keil
Co-chair: Dr.-Ing. Nebojša Camprag

The city is produced by a variety of actors through a complex interaction of scales. Both top-down and bottom-up initiatives and everyday life practices negotiate the management of the space-making process. How should we approach planning in a world where what is spatially created is often a consequence of complex socio-political, and to a certain extent also technical, interactions?

In order to get involved in the ethical dimension of a city’s development, different actions and approaches can be taken. Debates on the just city are very vibrant, while discussions on what a just city is and how it can be achieved can become heavily contested. From focuses on citizen participation, access to services, housing, infrastructure to the very availability of choice, no consensus exists in academic debates on what exactly should be considered within the frameworks of a just city.

Can we create a just city through adaptive structures provided by smart city networks? And when discussing justice in relation to services should we be thinking about the availability of those services in general or about the accessibility of certain groups to those services?


From sustainable to resilient urban strategies

Chair (Keynote): Prof. Dr. Benjamin Davy
Co-chair: Dr.-Ing. Simon Gehrmann

Thinking about what inclusion is and how it can be achieved cannot be separated from reflections on generational equity and discussions on sustainability and resilience. While the sustainability fad seems to be making way for discussions on resilience, this track looks into benefits and challenges associated with both approaches when aiming to build inclusive cities. Resilience continues to gain attention as both concept and strategy and as a moving target that is never fully accomplished, especially when it comes to an ever-changing built environment and political structure. The central challenge of resilience lies not in building the capacity to be robust to hazards and risks; it is rather in dealing with complex urban systems and how their social and ecological subsystems interact.

Going along with the discussions on urban political ecology, cities—rather as human-dominated ecosystems than places where the nature ends—are in turn the places where social-ecological production of urban inequality is spatialized. Considering the ecological and political consequences of global urbanization processes—be it in the form of gentrification, sprawl, or deindustrialization—dualities such as city and rural, urban and suburban, and man-made and natural are currently receiving critical attention from sustainability and resilience standpoints.

The main questions of this track are: How could resilience strategies cope with the relative lack of financial and human resources? How does the discussion on inclusion fit into these debates on sustainability and resilience? In what ways can the concept of urban political ecology be operationalized to enable inclusion? How can the central question of ‘who produces what kind of social-ecological configurations for whom’ be addressed in the urban discipline?