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Department of Spatial Planning
Shaping transformations

Socio-spatial transformation research

“The next 10 years, to 2030, must see the most profound transformation the world has ever known. This is our mission. This is the countdown.“ (Johan Rockström 2020)


Not only climate change and its effects alone are considered one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, humanity will have to deal with a number of ecological and social problems that will massively determine our lifestyles in the future. On the way to a sustainable way of life, the spatial perspective has a special task - the sustainable transformation of our cities and regions, energy and mobility systems, land consumption or the increasing digitalization in all areas of life. The explicitly socio-spatial perspective on transformation processes towards sustainability takes into account that these processes on the one hand take place in our living spaces, change them and at the same time become conditions for future changes as locally specific prerequisites.

The contribution of spatial and environmental planning and thus of the field addresses spatial issues of the built and unbuilt environment in physical-material as well as social-constructed dimensions such as uses, symbolic-cultural characteristics, historical path dependencies or regulatory requirements. Thus, we understand societal transformations as long-term processes that can be initiated, supported and co-designed with the help of planning approaches and instruments. We understand the socio-spatial research of transformation processes in different knowledge dimensions, in the form of analytical system knowledge such as spatial analyses, normative target knowledge such as mission statements or common visions, and transformation knowledge such as procedural control options. In our research on this topic, we always focus on the question of how transformation processes can be designed that are co-supported and co-developed by society and thus generate socially relevant knowledge. Characteristic for this is a transdisciplinary research approach, which not only involves local people in the research process at an early stage, but also provides for cooperation with people from the field already in the research conception. This manifests itself in our research approaches, the questions we ask, the methods we use and the communication of our results.