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Dortmund Conference

DOKORP 2023 | 13.-14. February 2023

"If possible, please turn around!"
Research and Planning for the Sustainability Turn

The Dortmund Conference on Spatial and Planning Research is jointly organized by the Department of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund University, the Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association, Hanover (ARL) and the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS), Dortmund.

Spatial planning and development, despite guiding principles to the contrary, contribute locally and globally to social processes that exceed the planet's carrying capacity and distribute burdens and opportunities unequally. "If possible, please turn around!" therefore is not the suggestion of your navigation system after a missed turn, but the request to consistently question this direction as well as to point out possibilities that necessarily go beyond marginal directional corrections. The Dortmund Conference on Spatial and Planning Research 2023 would like to contribute to the Sustainability Turn and invites you to join the discussion and contribute your input.


Prof. Dr. Antje Bruns Head of Governance and Sustainability Lab, Trier University
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Holz-Rau (Professor emeritus for Transportation and Transportation Planning at the Department of Planning at the TU Dortmund University)

Conference Tracks

In times of growing migration and mobility and in the face of increasing digital possibilities to overcome distance and to further (global) networking, neighbourhoods on the one hand seem to increasingly lose their importance as spaces for (inter)action for individuals and stakeholders. On the other hand, and at the same time, neighbourhoods play an important - albeit very different - role in the everyday routines and practices of many people and social groups. Here, the diverse social groups negotiate whether and how they live together – in juxtaposition, coexistence or opposition - in their everyday practices. Local networks, and the places where they develop and consolidate, play a crucial role for social belonging, coexistence and democratic negotiation processes - but also for processes of social closure and exclusion. For these reasons, in recent years, neighbourhoods have increasingly moved into the focus of politics, planning, science and business - as places of social innovation and as laboratories for collaborative learning processes in dealing, for example, with diversity, inclusion and exclusion, local economy or urban energy transition.

Against this background, we look forward to inspiring contributions on the following (or other) topics:

  • What role do neighbourhoods play in the formation and stabilization of multilocal and translocal identities and practices?
  • What role do infrastructures and public spaces ("third places", "micropublics" etc.) play for social interactions?
  • How do neighbourhoods change in the face of upgrading and gentrification processes?
  • What role do district funds or other formats of participatory planning play in neighbourhood development?
  • How do affiliations, interactions and networks change in the digital age? What role do digital tools such as neighbourhood platforms play?
  • What influence do institutional routines (e.g. of housing companies, educational institutions) have on social dynamics in the neighbourhood?
  • Which innovative methods can be used to investigate social encounters, interactions, networks, routines and narratives?
  • What significance do formats of collaborative transdisciplinary cooperation at neighbourhood level (e.g. “laboratories of social innovation”) have for urban and neighbourhood development?

Do science, politics, planning and civil society actors overestimate the importance of the neighbourhood in all the above-mentioned points and questions?

Chair: Susanne Frank, Sabine Weck

Large cities are seen as focal points of economic and social change in the age of cognitive capitalism. They are the engines of the knowledge society and incubators of technical and social innovation. At the same time, cities are faced with polarization, segregation and social conflicts. Their enormous economic and residential attractiveness – indicated by the recent population growth and an expanding employment base – is more and more constrained by physical and social limits to growth. The lack of developable land and affordable housing as well as commercial spaces in many metropolitan areas reveal the severe difficulties of meeting the expansive demand for urban production and city living. In many cases, infill development and densification is confronted with strong opposition from local residents. Excessively long planning procedures and the tied financial situation of many city governments further hamper the claimed environmental and social transition towards sustainability.

In this session, the manifestations, drivers and impacts of urban change as well as the changing conditions of urban planning will be discussed. We are looking for contributions on current trends of urban change and the opportunities and limitations of public intervention on local tiers. Potential topics are:

  • Housing market developments and local growth management and housing policies,
  • Processes of reurbanisation and emerging patterns of “post-Fordist” suburbanisation,
  • Processes of social change and new forms of socially inclusive urban policies,
  • Challenges of urban shrinkage, especially with a view on urban services and local infrastructure systems,
  • Policies of urban re-development in the context of climate change adaptation at local planning levels – concepts and instruments,
  • Local strategies in dealing with social opposition against public planning and new governance models of participation and empowerment.

Chair: Stefan Siedentop, Johann Jessen

‚Rethinking Space - cities and countryside as a continuum‘

Current discussions on spatial development tend to extremes: On the one hand, the new attractiveness of cities and in particular large or "swarm cities" are at the forefront of the agenda; on the other hand, the political debate is dominated by the discussion about detached regions - mostly structurally weak rural areas. Depending on the survey, the majority of Germans live in rural or urban areas and are either disadvantaged or in need of increased attention. The simple contrast between urban and rural areas is, however, not very helpful for sustainable, differentiated spatial development strategies.

Both Germany and Europe as a whole are developing very heterogeneously - growing, sometimes overburdened areas, and on the other side demographic shrinking, often sparsely populated and peripheral areas. However, there is no clear dividing line between "city" and "country": the prospering areas with growth also include numerous rural areas without larger cities, while many medium-sized and larger cities, which have still not mastered the industrial structural change, still face great challenges. 

This track awaits qualified contributions from science and practice that do not aim at unnecessary polarisation, but rather at an integrative view of spatial categories and keep in mind the responsibility of spatial planning and regional policy - in the sense of equivalence of living conditions - in all spatial types.

Empirical-analytical and conceptual contributions are welcome that describe and explain trends in spatial development - also from the perspective of digitisation - or structural  change in population, labour market, economy, innovation and competitiveness as well as infrastructures of services of general interest. Convergence analyses are welcome, which also take into account the aspect of spatial-functional division of labour. The role of formal spatial planning as well as informal planning and regional policy strategies can be dealt with.

Proposals for the reform of the European Structural and Investment Funds after 2020 may also be presented. The focus may be on topics such as demographic change, economic development, quality of life - taking into account subjective assessments -, the provision of services of general interest, technical and social infrastructure, methodological approaches to planning and spatial development, or novel governance structures. A reference to the guiding principle "equivalence of living conditions" should be presented in each case. Innovative contributions to the methodology of spatial observation are also welcome.

Chair: Rainer Danielzyk, Axel Priebs, Markus Eltges

Current spatial development in Europe is facing multiple challenges, among them the processes of climate change and transition of the economy towards innovation based economy especially the development of the Industry 4.0. These processes have got already clear spatial demonstration and they will be much and much more visible across Europe. The Council of the EU published on April 9th, 2019 conclusions addressing the needs to reflect these development in comprehensive policies across different levels of development policies in Europe. The papers are welcomed in this track, addressing the topic of the interplay between the reflection of global trends and local/regional specific challenges in comprehensive policies.

Chair: Karsten Zimmermann, Maros Finka

In order to implement a sustainability turn, a fundamental rethinking of normative orientations, instruments and ways of doing spatial planning is required. Changing the established framework of one's own thinking also requires changing the perspective, because the previous point of view and known approaches have not led to satisfactory solutions. Not only the goal, but also the way to get there must be questioned.

The planning theory track discusses theory-based approaches for the description, explanation and conception of a changing planning for sustainable development. The focus is on changed spatial policies, actor and governance arrangements as well as new forms of communication and participation. In addition, it is important to reflect the planning contributions for sustainable spatial development in terms of planning theory and to analyze the values ​​and orientations behind it.

We welcome contributions that empirically and analytically reflect the change in planning by means of case studies and aim at a better understanding of planning practice, as well as those that focus on conceptual approaches for the further development of planning theories and thus indirectly on guidelines for planning practice.

Possible topics include:

  • Legitimacy and rationality of planning for sustainable spatial development
  • New actor and governance arrangements
  • Planning contributions to sustainability
  • Strategic planning and emergence
  • Change of planning cultures
  • Alternative theories in and from planning

Chair: Thorsten Wiechmann, Sondermann

Sustainable transport development is an important field of research and practice in spatial planning and research. This includes a large variety of topics: the shift from driving to active travel and public transport use (multimodality with as little driving as possible), climate protection, the reduction of noise and pollutants, inclusion in mobility and access to social and economic activities, new mobility services ('mobility as a service', MaaS), the just distribution of negative transport effects, efficient transport flows, coordination of urban structures and transport provision, improvements in traffic safety, and many more. Increasing automation and interconnectedness can be seen as being of growing importance in this respect.

At the same time it has become clear in past decades that the concepts of sustainable transport policy and planning have been successful only to a limited extent, and they have been accompanied by counter-trends and effects – cars growing in size and weight, longer driving distances and higher speeds have counterbalanced and sometimes outweighed technological developments by rebound effects. To put it briefly: Technical solutions were unsuccessful because mobility patterns have become more unsustainable.

Methodologically rigorous evaluation studies about transport concepts are rare. Therefore a better understanding of transport trends are of great importance for sustainable transport development. This not only includes transport on the local (and, increasingly, the regional) level, but also the ever growing long-distance transport on the interregional and international levels. These connections are highly differentiated as regards their spatial, economic and social structures.

We seek contributions

  • that are dedicated to any topics of sustainable transport development in a spatially, economically and/or socially differentiated way, and based on systematic methods.
  • qualitative as well as quantitative (or combined) approaches are welcome.
  • a special focus shall be on longitudinal approaches (e.g. trend studies, repeated cross-sections, and panel studies) or scenarios of 'new' trends, that trace relevant trends and take into account the spatio-temporal contexts of transport generation.
  • in the face of increasing ambivalences and contradictions within the context of social and technological change, we are interested in the regulatory possibilities of transport policy and planning on the one hand, and mobility behaviour on the other hand.

Chair: Christian Holz-Rau, Joachim Scheiner

Investigations – Strategies – Implementation – Evaluation

Green and blue Infrastructure (GI) is increasingly regarded as prerequisite of a sustainable development of urban and regional areas. On the other hand, urban green and water often is not considered as an important factor to preserve or optimize ecosystem services in daily local decision making. Thus, both trends seem to exist at the same time, the deterioration or even destruction of urban green and water as well as their functions, and the development of new parks and urban/regional green aiming at an improvement of life quality and ecosystem services. We invite researchers and practitioners to contribute to this topic, based on their empirical or practical experience comprising at least one of the following topics:

  • Assessment of Ecosystem Services of Urban Green/GI
  • Urban Green/GI and Climate Change
  • Social, Cultural and Economic Relevance of Urban Green/GI
  • New Trends in the Development of Urban Green/GI
  • Planning and Governance of Urban Green/GI
  • Participatory Approaches in the Development of Urban Green/GI
  • Financial Aspects of Management of Urban Green/GI
  • Urban rivers – starting point for blue-green development/GI
  • Urban water management – chances for green infrastructure/GIFrom roof to streets – blue-green planning strategies in different planning sectors (GI)

​​​​​​​Chair: Dietwald Gruehn, Mathias Kaiser

The changing world is a key challenge for spatial planning and research. In particular, the given interlinkages between climate change and demographic change require a transformative adaptation of urban structures and systems. The impacts of climate change are considerably determined by the concurrence of growing and declining urban structures and populations, the ageing and heterogenisation of the society and a changing landscape on different scales. Thus the established meaning of § 1 Abs. 6 Nr. 1 Federal Building Code ("the general requirements to healthy living and working conditions"), which aims at the avoidance of health-endangering factors by spatial planning, attains a new meaning. Increasingly, however, questions are also being raised about the quality of life in urban and rural areas. This goes hand in hand with a comprehensive understanding of health, as laid down in the Ottawa Charter of the WHO (1986), which includes aspects of health promotion.

Thus, an integrated view on these challenges calls for a collaboration of actors from the disciplines of urban and regional planning / research with those from the public health service and health sciences. This makes, on the one hand, an evidence-based planning of urban spaces possible and fosters on the other hand the establishment of new cooperation modes and their instrumental implementation in political decision making and administrative acting within the context of transformation processes. At this, statutory instruments of spatial planning as well as new non-statutoryapproaches play an essential role. They provide a crucial contribution for the development of life quality and social and environmental justice of the living conditions of the population.

The track is intended to provide an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary exchange between actors from science and practice and to present current findings for discussion. Contributions that address climate adaptation or health and spatial planning are welcomed. Desirable are integrated views on the interlinkages between climate change and health issues.

Chair: Stefan Greiving, Sabine Baumgart

in cooperation with

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with the friendly support of


Society for the Promotion of the Department of Spatial Planning at the TU Dortmund University

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