Socio-Geographic Urban Research

  Grafitti Unterführung Nähe Westbahnhof Copyright: © Kulturgeo  

Post-Corona City: "ACademy for Collaborative Urban Development"

Editing: Prof. Dr. Carmella Pfaffenbach, Prof. Dr. Agnes Förster, Prof. Anne-Julchen Bernhardt, Prof. Dr. Jan Polivka (Fakultät für Architektur) Prof. Dr. Tobias Kuhnimhof (Fakultät Bauingenieurwesen). Das Projekt ist eingebunden in den RRI Hub (Responsible Research and Innovation Hub).

An interdisciplinary team of scientists from RWTH Aachen University and experts from the city of Aachen is investigating the inner city of Aachen, which is characterized by structural change. As the current pandemic is expected to increase the number of vacant commercial premises, the aim is to develop useful new mixes for the vacant spaces.

By elaborating strategies for a sustainable development of the urban space, an increase in the quality of use, living and a good quality of stay for all involved is to be realized. Involving as many stakeholders as possible (traders and service providers, residents, students, cultural workers, associations etc.), the "ACademy for Collaborative Urban Development" will start in the summer of 2021. In a lively process, local experts (city, university and civil society) will jointly develop ideas and solutions and try them out on site.

Further information: Press release of the city of Aachen from 02.16.2021

Funded by the Federal Ministry of the Interior BMI Bund
Duration: summer 2021 until fall 2023


 Suburbanization of Poverty

Processed by: Carmella Pfaffenbach with Prof. Dr. Stefan Fina and Dr. Sabine Weck (ILS Dortmund)

New spatial (de)concentration of low income and poor households in German city regions

Research on the spatial distribution of poor and low income households has so far mainly been discussed in the context of large cities and the rural periphery. Newer studies also observe an increase of affected households in suburban areas. Internationally, this trend is discussed as suburbanization of poverty.

In this project, we focus on three main objectives: 1) analysis of poverty concentrations and related locational disadvantages between suburban and other urban locations, 2) exploration of spatial development specifics and the influence of social policies in Germany, 3) study of locational characteristics as well as stakeholders’ perceptions in three case studies.

Funded by the German Research Foundation
Duration: 2020 - 2021


Spaces for children – also spaces of children?

Editing: Joel Teichmann

Sliding, swinging, climbing, running, digging and playing ball: In Playgrounds and other children's spaces children are supposed to spend their time, meet friends and be active. Such spaces are spaces for children created by adults. The dissertation aims to examine whether they are also spaces of children, i.e. spaces in which children like to spend time, voluntarily and actually do so. The central research question is: How does a space for children become a space of children?

Results of previous studies indicate that children frequent not only playgrounds, but also other places: including schoolyards, streets, construction sites, or parks. Among others, the goal of this work is to find out why children spend time there and and how they change these spaces through their actions. The empirical research methods used are largely qualitative methods such as observations, interviews and the creation of subjective maps. The research will take place in the city region around Aachen.

Duration: Since September 2020


Car-free living and mobility in cities and surrounding areas


PhD Project within Forschungskolleg ACCESS!, RWTH Aachen University

Processed by: Annika Herberg

Since the beginning of mass motorization in the late 1950s, everyday mobility and lifestyle in Germany have been strongly oriented towards the private car. However, around one fifth of all households do not own a car and travel by bike, public transport, rented car or foot. In the context of a necessary transformation of the transport sector on the one hand and alternative and sustainable living models on the other hand, these car-free households will be investigated in the dissertation.

By using qualitative research methods, the aim of the project is to gain a deeper understanding of everyday life, mobility, individual motives and backgrounds of car-free individuals and households who consciously decided to not own a private car. The study area will be the car-oriented city of Aachen as well as the surrounding region, an area that therefore does not offer the best preconditions for a life without a private car.

Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science, North Rhine-Westphalia

Duration: 2021 – 2024


Urbanization and Everyday Mobility in Muscat/Oman

Processed by: Maike Didero and Carmella Pfaffenbach with Sonja Nebel from Berlin

For more than four decades labour migration has contributed – and still is contributing – immensely to the development of the Sultanate of Oman. The Capital Area of Muscat is the centre of attraction for most immigrants, especially those from Europe and Asia regardless of their qualification. Because of this extraordinarily high and rapid growth dynamic, urban society is experiencing very heterogenic processes that in turn accelerate specific forms of fragmentation in urban space and social environment.

This empirical study using qualitative methods focuses on migrants’ biographies and their identity construction. It furthermore looks at the organisation and structure of as well as the social interaction within the migrant communities, for example networks. The integration of its members into Omani society is another focal topic. In migrant communities the individual’s respective position in the hierarchy of the labour market and his/her subsequent social standing vary significantly depending on the ethnic group he/she belongs to. To depict the wide range of migrants’ social and economic positions, Egyptians, Indians, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Europeans were selected as focus groups and interviews will follow. The research project aims at disclosing how and to what extent heterogenisation and fragmentation emerge from migrants’ everyday practices. This information at hand helps analysing the possibilities, conditions and constraints as well as the interests of the different migrant communities towards a social and spatial integration in Omani society.

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: 2015 - 2018


Graffiti-Murals as social innovation

Exemplified on the basis of cooperative and planned processes of urban development in Aachen, Germany

Author: Dipl.-Geogr. Christopher Hilmer

Since the beginning of the 21st century socio-cultural practices towards and related to graffiti in its urban spatial order have been subject to changes. Novel ideas and cooperative practices from various urban actors are leading to a new power constellation that is accompanied by new perspectives and articulations of urban policy and policing of graffiti. Different examples of this new development can be found in the context of urban heritage conservation, commercial street art and graffiti marketing as well as tourism efforts and neighborhood management strategies. In order to analyze the strategic placement of graffiti-murals I focus on actors who are involved in governance arrangements of ‘doing-graffiti’.

View Article: Urban Creativity Scientific Journal Graffiti, Street Art & - AP2 Journals, p. 113ff

Duration: since September 2016