08 May, 2023

It’s showtime—talking about development, planning and housing, and Royal issues as well

I visited the RTL-building on Plateau Kirchberg, Luxembourg, for the very first time on Friday 5th May. I was invited to talk to the “Lisa Burke-Show”, a combined radio-TV-web event which will be posted on the Internet soon (link to follow). Radio Télevision Luxembourg is iconic for the whole ‘relational’ business model of Luxembourg: making the most out of smallness, by building strong economic linkages with actors abroad. Founded by a couple who applied for a private broadcasting license roughly a century ago, this was the starting point of what would become an internationally known trademark, both content wise and by making the tiny country’s name familiar to a wider audience. Effective nation branding long before that term and concept had been invented. While RTL can be considered a cornerstone of relationality, as were decades later the satellite operations established by the quasi state-led SES, the RTL-building demonstrates the fragility of being relational. This is probably due to the lack of critical mass, given that the country’s home market for radio and TV-services is fairly limited. In recent years, Thomas Rabe as CEO of the mother company Bertelsmann, a native Luxembourger by the way, has decided to move all HQ-functions of RTL to the Media-Park Cologne, Germany. This happened despite the Grand Duchy’s government subsidizing Bertelsmann for keeping HQ-related jobs and functions here for quite a while.

Relational places can make a fortune as cleverly as quickly, but they can also lose their competitive advantage likewise, when markets or framework conditions change. Now the two massive towers at the north-eastern edge of Plateau Kirchberg, with their emblematic mosaic-like façade, are occupied by fewer staff than before, and the owner has begun subletting office space to third parties. For example, the European Investment Bank (EIB) uses parts of one of the two towers and has a separate entrance. “Green-fuel” shuttle buses connect the site with the EIB’s main premises at the lower end of Kirchberg. (Also surprised to see that these vehicles have diplomatic license plates—something which apparently also applies to the fleet of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, as I learned the same day). 

The Lisa-Burke-Show, my actual reason for coming to RTL, was a great endeavour in terms of addressing some key issues of the country’s planning, building and housing mess to a broader public. Eloquently moderated by the chair, we spoke about the historical context and political-economic framework conditions of Luxembourg’s development trajectory (complex), what that means for spatial development and planning (enduring pressure), and whether or not planning can perform as the desired “technology of hope”, a term which I gratefully borrow from Andy Inch, UofSheffield.

The chair conceded that she got almost desperate when trying to get some positive signs from my perspective as to the key question: how to resolve these problems? I declared myself guilty of being unable to do so, given their complexity and ‘wicked’ nature, as well as the many vested interests underlying these conflicts. Moreover, if it is utterly unpopular to speak about conflict (as it is definitely the case in the Grand Duchy), one may never even get close to a strategy. Having open conversations about this peculiar character of the problem would be much better than constantly spreading illusions as to how the mess could be managed: 1) a growth-illusion (in rather functional terms, taking into account current demographic and labour-market predictions), 2) a steering illusion (in terms of providing spatial order in a quite difficult setting), and 3) a sustainability illusion (given that adding thousands of wealthy residents and well-paid workers to the region’s imbalanced territory every year can hardly be brought in line with the Paris and other agreements).

As a nice coincidence, my participation in the show was preceded by the appearance of her Excellency Fleur Thomas, British Ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, who talked about the related preparations for the coronation ceremony of His Majesty King Charles III on the following day. In the Studio, the British-Luxembourgish community was also presented by Louise Benjamin, the outgoing president of the British-Luxembourgish Society, and Dr Christian Barkel, the Principal of St. George’s School, the British international school in the Grand Duchy. They have prepared for a major gathering in honour of the King’s coronation, with about 700 people having signed up for the event at the school’s premises in Luxembourg-Hamm (“fish & chips, beans, no parking provided”). The Grand Duchy is officially represented by the Grand Duke’s couple, who attended the ceremony in London. The Society is a key pillar in the strong relationships between the two countries, despite Brexit, or possibly because of it. In topical terms, there were also some nice overlaps between the two slots in the Show and the preceding weekly news overview—housing, taxation, safety of public space and the like are relevant issues not only for geographers and planners, but for the huge expat community in the country as well. 

Special kudos to Lisa for taking me to the second-highest floor of the building (the Gym actually) where I could take pictures of that particular area. The green space that can be seen below, in the western direction, belongs to the last open land reserve on Plateau Kirchberg, certain parts of which are now subject to development. The view from above was a perfect round-up of a rather insightful visit, and the building will hopefully remain in focus of our ongoing FINCITY-research project, which studies global financial centres’ development through the lens of commercial property markets. More on that research coming soon.

Markus Hesse

13 April, 2023

INURA 2023 in Zurich upcoming in June. Registration Open

Between May 29 and June 4, 2023 the INURA Conference will take place in Zurich, Richterswil and Salecina, Switzerland. For a week, an international crowd of researchers, scholars, activists and urbanites will gather to imagine, discuss and reflect upon new forms of urban living and models of everyday civic activism for sustainable urban life. What are those new possible spatialities that can provide the necessary openness to act toward social, economic and ecological responses to the current multiple planetary crises?

Since 2010, when the 20th INURA Conference was organized in Zurich with the topic “New Metropolitan Mainstream”, the planetary crises have deepened. There are many reactions to these crises that crosscut old habits for urban living and ineffective spatial practices such as commodification, gentrification, exclusion, evictions, extended urbanization, and many more. In some cases their associated challenges are overcome, however, through collective civic practices that are capable of reversing the course of destruction.

Guests from India, China, Australia, African, Latin and North American countries, and from various European countries will be joined by local activists and scholars, to explore critical topics related to housing and the social question, to developments beyond the inner city, and to current crises and urban actions. From the city of Zurich, past the cantonal borders, and all the way to the Alpine region of Maloja, the conference participants will immerse themselves in present Swiss realities. These intense exchanges and synergies created during the conference will expand in future visions, projects, conferences and publications, a practice of the INURA network proved throughout its last three decades of existence (see inura.org).

Find the program here: https://inura23.wordpress.com/city/

Press Release here: https://inura23.wordpress.com/press-release/

06 March, 2023

INURA Bulletin No. 33 is out

Our post-conference reflections from the 30th Anniversary Conference of the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA) in Luxembourg is out. Download the INURA Bulletin No. 33, edited by Carr and Madron, here:

24 January, 2023

Call for Applications for our next ARL Summer School 2023 in Luxembourg!

The ARL in co-operation with the Department of Geography and Spatial Planning invite applicants for the ARL International Summer School 2023, entitled,

A CONTESTED RELATIONSHIP? Urbanisation & the Digital vs. Digitalisation & the Urban 

in Luxembourg, 6 to 8 July, 2023.

We invite advanced doctoral students from all disciplines to apply and we are looking forward to having an inspiring event!

For more information, check out the Summer School website or have a look at the call for application.


18 January, 2023

Fundraising for the Faculty of Geography, Taras Shevchenko National University, damaged by missles

Missile attack on the Taras Shevchenko National University (open source photo also published at zn.ua, 2023)


We are sad to report that as a result of missile attacks on the City of Kyiv on December 31, 2022, the building of the Geography Faculty of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (TSNUK) was damaged, destroying windows, stained glass windows, and wrecking furniture.

Employees of the Faculty of Geography, students and graduates gathered on New Year's Day to clean it up – repair work carried out by everyday people, donating their time, their labour, and material and financial resources.

Professor Serhii Zapotoskyi, Dean of the Faculty of Geography (TSNUK) launched a fundraiser to assist in repairs and reconstruction.

IBAN: UA353052990000026203750212012
Bank Name: JSC CB Privatbank (Bank of beneficiary, 1D Hrushevskyi Street, 01001 Kyiv) // JP Morgan AG (Intermediary Bank, Germany, swiftcode CHASDEFX)
Country of bank: Ukraine
Name of beneficiary: Serhii Zapototskyi
Address of beneficiary: Lomonosova, Building 71v, flat 12, 03022 Kyiv, Ukraine


Photo by Sergii Zapototskyi, 2023


Photo by Sergii Zapototskyi, 2023


Photo by Sergii Zapototskyi, 2023

Photo by Sergii Zapototskyi, 2023

13 January, 2023

Lasst uns doch mal die alten Artikel (wieder-)lesen. or: Let's re-visit the old stuff.

Im Herbst waren Kollege Florian Hertweck und ich zu Gast bei einer zivilgesellschaftlichen Initiative, die sich für mehr Denkmalschutz, einen besseren Umgang mit dem Baubestand sowie weniger Abriss im wachstumsgetriebenen Luxemburg einsetzen. Über einen dort anwesenden Redakteur des 'Luxemburger Wort' und sein Interesse an einem Interview wurde mein Kontakt zur Zeitung wieder aufgefrischt. Das Ergebnis wurde am 13. Januar 2023 veröffentlicht. Ein längeres Gespräch über das Planen, Bauen sowie die Politik, mit einem teaser auf der Titelseite.

"Länger" heißt auch bei einem fast zweiseitigen Interview, dass ein derart komplexes Problem wie das Wachstum der small-but-global city Luxemburg nicht erschöpfend behandelt werden kann. ("Immer an die Leser denken"). Vor allem kommen die spezifischen Produktionsbedingungen von Stadt sowie die entsprechenden Praktiken der maßgeblichen Akteure dann zwangsläufig zu kurz. Es geht ja nicht um das schönste Gebäude oder das grünste Quartier, sondern um soziale Prozesse und wirtschaftliche Dynamik, und es geht darum, welche Spielräume diese beiden den städtischen Akteuren zur Stadtgestaltung lassen bzw. ob und inwiefern diese genutzt werden.

Ist alles dazu gesagt? Im Prinzip ja. Es gibt auch - unwissenschaftlich formuliert - haufenweise Publikationen und Berichte zu diesem Thema, wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen (mit und ohne peer review), solche die ans Allgemeinpublikum gerichtet sind u.v.a.m. Sage niemand, dass sich die Uni nicht mit dem Land auseinander setzen würde.

Gelegentlich ist auch der Blick zurück instruktiv. Das letzte Mal wurden Inhalte aus unserer Forschung auf der Titelseite des Wort am 8. Juli 2017 präsentiert. Damals hatte ich eine Einladung als Chefredakteur für einen Tag -- ein wirklich interessantes Unterfangen, gemeinsam mit der Redaktion über eine Auswahl von Beiträgen zu i.w.S. urbanen Themen zu beraten. Außerdem war mit dieser Rolle das Privileg verbunden, den Leitartikel des Tages zu verfassen. Der steht hier rechts, und aus Gründen der besseren Lesbarkeit kommt der Text hier unten im Original nochmal. (Der Text wurde übrigens 1:1 von der Redaktion übernommen, mit Ausnahme des an den Beginn des Titels gerückte "Und". Das klang dann vielleicht doch zu sehr nach Johannes R. Becher).

Damit verbunden ist die Preisfrage des Tages: stimmt die Diagnose noch? Sind die Bewertungen korrekt, oder hat sich seither Substanzielles geändert? Gelegentlich, so finde ich, ist es erhellend, die alten Texte zu konsultieren...

Der Zukunft zugewandt 

Von Markus Hesse
Ausgewählte Beiträge in der heutigen Ausgabe dieser Zeitung werfen einen Blick auf Vergangenheit und Zukunft des Großherzogtums. Diese Übung ist mit einigen Perspektivwechseln verbunden: Es geht nicht nur darum, für die Zukunft aus der Vergangenheit zu lernen, oder Geschichte im Licht der Gegenwart besser zu verstehen. Im kleinen Land geht es immer auch um das Verhältnis von innen und außen, um das Wechselspiel zwischen den eigenen Interessen und denen Dritter, um die geschickte Positionierung des Kleinen in Nachbarschaft zu den Großen. 
    Mit Blick darauf liest sich die jüngere Vergangenheit Luxemburgs in der Tat als Erfolgsgeschichte, wie sie die Selbstbeschreibung des Landes bestimmt und wie sie auch von vielen, wenn auch nicht allen, Beobachtern von außen geteilt wird. Über mehr als ein Jahrhundert hinweg war man offen für die Zukunft und hat sich geschickt international positioniert; bemerkenswert auch die Fähigkeit, sich immer wieder neu zu erfinden. Als nur ein Beispiel unter vielen: der Sprung vom Satellitenbetrieb zum Weltraumbergbau erscheint fast als ein logisches Kapitel im Fortsetzungsroman des erfolgreichen Wandels.
    Was in der Vergangenheit gelungen ist, muss aber nicht ewig gelten, selbst wenn man die Finanzkrise elegant umschifft hat, das Rentenproblem vorläufig vertagt und beim Propheten Rifkin eine neue Zukunft bestellt wurde. Doch die Erfolgsgeschichte hat schon heute massive Bildstörungen. Das Land ächzt unter der Ungleichzeitigkeit von wirtschaftlichem Wachstum und den sehr viel trägeren Infrastrukturen; Letztere sollen den Betrieb nicht nur am Laufen halten, sondern Stadt und Land lebenswert machen. Verkehrsstaus und Immobilienpreise sind allerdings nur die oberflächlichen Signale dafür, dass das Erfolgsmodell „Nische im globalen Netz“ an seine objektiven Grenzen stößt. Von den Großbaustellen Schule und Bildung, Sprache oder nationale Identität ganz abgesehen.
    Die Spielräume für weiteres Wachstum im Innern erscheinen ebenso aufgezehrt wie die stetige Mobilisierung der Ressource Arbeitskraft von außen. Geradezu heroisch mutet der Versuch an, Arbeitsplätze und Wohnraum (in dieser Reihenfolge) für künftiges Wachstum zu schaffen, die nötigen Verkehrswege zu planieren und zugleich Lebensqualität und soziale Kohäsion sicherzustellen. Ob das tatsächlich funktioniert, oder ob die Erfolgsgeschichte zur Illusion wird, wissen wir nicht. Es ist aber offensichtlich, dass Landesplanung, Urbanismus und Lokalpolitik im selbst gewählten Schatten der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung stehen. Die mitunter großen Hoffnungen auf eine Ordnung des Raumes sind kaum einlösbar, sollen Wirtschaft und Wohlstand weiter wachsen wie bisher. 
    Die politisch Verantwortlichen sind um diese Herausforderung nicht zu beneiden: Das Problem hat sich längst verselbständigt, einfache Rezepte zur Lösung gibt es nicht, und gute Ratschläge sind in der Politik unpopulär. Kann die Vergangenheit eine Lehre für die Zukunft bereithalten? Diese Erwartung erscheint verwegen, und doch lohnt es sich darüber nachzudenken, die nach außen erfolgreiche Öffnung auch im Innern zu praktizieren. Wer modern sein will, muss Transparenz statt Kontrolle ausüben, produktiven Streit zulassen und die Bürgerschaft auch an wichtigen Entscheidungen beteiligen. Und die richtige Mischung aus konkreter Utopie und Realitätssinn im Auge haben. Die Zukunft so anzunehmen wie sie ist, nämlich widersprüchlich, facettenreich und kaum planbar -- dies heißt ja nicht, dass Politik nur daraus bestehen würde, das zu tun, was ohnehin geschieht.

07 January, 2023

Project Announcement - Digital urban futures: The role of emerging tech-ecosystems in Kyiv reconstruction (KYIV-DIGIURB)

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Olga Kryvets received support form the FNR to continue her work with the DIGI-GOV team, with a project entitled "Digital Urban Futures: The Role of Emerging Tech-Ecosystems in Kyiv Reconstruction (KYIV-DIGIURB)."

This project is a continuation of Dr. Kryvets' initial work with DIGI-GOV, which focused on understanding the gendered dimensions of urban digitalization led by large digital corporations and the innovation ecosystems in which they are embedded (GEN-DIGIURB). Conceptually, an initial crucial point was to understand how tech-ecosystems impacted urban digitalization at different scales, what type of challenges these could represent, and how stakeholders tackle them. Orienting to the city of Kyiv as her empirical focus, her work necessarily generated an analysis of tech-ecosystems and urban reconstruction in the context of war.

With her project extension, Kryvets develops a new pillar of DIGI-GOV looking at tech-ecosystems in Kyiv and surrounding region. She will be examining the role of tech-ecosystems in Kyiv's reconstruction efforts, with a particular focus on the activities of large digital corporations like Amazon and Google. By analyzing the relationship between urban digitalization, governance, and new forms of urban reconstruction and resilience generated at different temporal and spatial scales, she aims to provide valuable insights for policy-makers in Ukraine and abroad interested in the variegated nuances of urban reconstruction for resilience. 

We look forward to the valuable contributions from Dr. Kryvets.

06 January, 2023

New Master Student Assistant for DIGI-GOV

In December, DIGI-GOV welcomed a new research assistant to the team. 

Golnoosh Darvish is completing her second Master in Geography and Spatial Planning at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a MSc in Urban Planning from Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran, where she is come from, and a BA in Urban Planning from University of Mazandaran, Mazandaran Iran. She has also 2 years of professional experience as an Urban Planner in Iran.Her research interests include Smart Cities, Energy Efficiency, Low Carbon Cities, Urban Governance and Sustainable Development among other subjects.

Welcome Golnoosh!

14 October, 2022

Publication for general public: Reflecting on research and activism in times of uncertainty and crisis: The 30th Anniversary conference of INURA in Luxembourg

photo by Karinne Madron-Neumann, 2022

From June 25 to 28,  the 30th INURA Conference was held in Luxembourg. More than 60 participants gathered to learn about Luxembourg and to celebrate 30 years and the 30th conference. In a new report published in human rights magazine, Brennpunkt Drëtt Welt,  members of the organising committee reflect on the conference, and the state of urban research and activism in times of uncertainty and crisis. Key  moments and conversations are recalled. 

The report is available here.

Full citation: Madron-Neumann, K., Kryvets, O., Nicotra, E., Reiter, C., Syrus, A.M., Carr, C. (2022). Reflecting on research and activism in times of uncertainty and crisis: The 30th Anniversary conference of INURA in Luxembourg. Brennpunkt, 318, 37-38

23 September, 2022

New Article - Technocratic Urban Development: Large Digital Corporations as Power Brokers of the Digital Age

Earlier this year, Carr and Hesse published, "Technocratic Urban Development: Large Digital Corporations as Power Brokers of the Digital Age," in Planning Theory & Practice, VOL. 23, NO. 3, 476–485

"Large digital corporations like [Amazon and Google] are forging their central position in cities by asserting themselves as the sole providers of so-called essential urban infrastructures, i.e. new technologies. ... In this paper, we reflect on ..[a] .time period of dramatic infrastructural change in North American and European cities, and highlight the similarity between patterns of urban development at that time and those we see today unfolding under the leadership of LDCs, [and reflect] on the similarities in behaviour and styles of urban governance. We recall the American “tech giants” of the early to mid-20th century in the north-eastern United States and how they pushed for a certain spatial development, which for some represented the height of state-of-the-art innovation and modernity at the time. Robert Moses was one such 'giant'.... ” 

Read full article (open access) here.

20 September, 2022

Project announcement and welcome Dr. Olga Kryvets

Over the summer the Urban Studies Group was pleased to welcome Dr. Olga Kryvets from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Olga joined as a Research Scientist in July 2022 to work on the FNR-funded project entitled, "Gendered dimensions of digital urban development (GEN-DIGIURB), an add-on to DIGI-GOV. With an expertise in Gender Geography, Innovation Ecosystems and Urban Studies, Olga hopes to conduct research on gender dimensions across the institutional networks of the innovation economy, exploring the ways that emerging institutional networks of the innovation economy impact women, their opportunities and, by extension, overall socio-political and institutional patterns of contemporary digitalized urbanity. Her research aims to uncover the gendered dimensions of urban digitalization led by LDCs, and the innovation ecosystems in which they are embedded.

31 July, 2022

Media: Nitin Bathla (ETH) interviews participants of INURA 2022 for the Urban Political Podcast

One of the many highlights of 30th Conference of the International Network of Urban Research and Action in Luxembourg, 2022, was participating in Nitin Bathla's project for he Urban Political Podcast.   Listen to it on Spotify (I highly recommend to follow this great podcast) or listen directly at the website of the Urban Political, 

Thank you Nitin! And also thank you to Ross Beveridge (Urban Studies Department of the University of Glasgow) and Markus Kip (Georg-Simmel-Center for Metropolitan Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin) for their support.


28 July, 2022

New from Carr, C., Bast, D., Madron, K., Syrus, M. (2022) Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers Journal of Maps. Available, Open Access

New from Carr, C., Bast, D., Madron, K., Syrus, M. (2022) Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers Journal of Maps. Available, Open Access here

As a preview, here is the abstract:
The social spatial geographies of telecommunications and their infrastructures have long interested scholars in the social sciences, and in urban geography specifically. This paper focuses on data centers. Much effort has been placed in preserving the notion that data centers are ‘clouds’, a terminology that obfuscates the real human geographies of cyberplaces. In this map-making exercise, we visualize the sociopolitical human geographies of data centers, and provoke the reader to consider the impacts that data centers have on residents and their environments. The maps shown in this paper suggest four trends. First, hyperscale data center owners are building near large waterways, signifying a shift in location preferences. Second, data centers stress local administrations, financing, and availability of upstream resources, as hyperscale data centers step up their input needs. Third, data center development is state-led. Fourth the competition for data center industries unfolds across a multi-level governance context. 

Keywords: Amsterdam, cyberplace, data centers, hyperscale, Luxembourg, Seattle 

The article maps the power consumption of data centers in Luxembourg, Seattle, Quincy and Amsterdam.  For a preview, one map is shown below 

08 July, 2022

Media - Carr interviewed by Feargus O'Sullivan at Bloomberg CityLab



A thoughtful piece about Luxemoburg's free transit from Feargus O'Sullivan at CityLab, Bloomberg. The full article can be found here.

05 July, 2022

INURA Conference in Luxembourg - Lots to report! Among other things, Carr elected to the Board

photo by Ute Lehrer (2022)

During the final week of June 2022, Constance (Connie), Markus, Karinne, Mafaz, Olga, Chris and Elide welcomed international guests from the International Network of Urban Research and Action (INURA) to Luxembourg. Originally planned in 2020, the 30th conference of INURA finally took place at the Youth Hostel in Luxembourg City. 

A big thank you to the Department of Geography and Spatial Planning, the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE), the Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning, the Luxembourg National Research Fund and the Department of Architecture, ETH, and the INURA Common Office in Zurich.  Also thank you to all the organizing help (https://inuraluxembourg.blogspot.com/p/abo.html)

On Day 1, Markus led guests around Kirchberg, while Connie and Karinne introduced the group to Eis Stad and planning contradictions at Stärplatz and Stade Josy Barthel. Both tours aimed at introducing INURA — a membership of urban scholars and activists— to contradictions in Luxembourg urban planning and governance.

The following days were a series of panel discussions on urgent topics, ranging from climate change and urbanization, to housing and financialization, authoritarian aggression. Also critical discussions about the contradictions inherent between activism and urban governing were addressed, and the challenges being faced by the urbanization of disaster.  

At the conference, Constance and Fred Robinson of U Durham were elected to the INURA Board of Directors, joining Ileana Apostol (ETH), Christian Schmid (ETH),  and Andreas Wirz (Archipel).

More news about the conference to follow in the upcoming INURA Bulletin.

Media - Carr interviewed by Julian Dörr at Der Tagesspiegel

Nice article by Julian Dörr in Der Tagesspiegel, "Das Null-Euro Ticket". The full article can be found here (behind a paywall unfortunately).   Interest in Luxembourg's public transit has been revived again by Germany's 9€ ticket.  Colleagues in the USA also tell me that interest in Luxembourg transit is garnering attention in projects at the University of Georgia.

23 June, 2022

Final countdown to the 30th conference of the International Network of Urban Research and Action in Luxembourg

Just two days until INURA2022.  Download the full program here (thank you Karinne!)

Join scholars and activists from all over Europe, Canada, Australia, Cuba, and Hong Kong, for lively discussions on urgent urban issues as social spatial injustice and inequality, infectious disease, climate crisis, housing exclusion, perpetual uncertainty, and authoritarian aggression. 
Visit our conference website at: https://inuraluxembourg.blogspot.com

Also, on the evening of June 27, we will head to Ancien Cinema Cafe Club in Vianden, where TUNi Production  will premier in Luxembourg, “How the Poles became White”. 

Day Registrations (free, but meals are not included) for the public part of the conference (July 25-27) are still available. Register by emailing luxembourg2022@inura.org

10 June, 2022

Geographers apply: New post at Trier University

Colleagues at the Department VI, Spatial and Environmental Sciences of Trier University are seeking for candidates to fill the post of a full professorship (W3) in Cultural and Political Geography

The job ad reveals what they are looking for:
"an outstanding scholar in the field of new cultural geography and political geography with a research focus on theory-led empirical analysis of cultural and political practices of spatial (re)production addressing problems of high societal relevance. Candidates should be internationally recognized scholars in at least one of the following areas: (i) spatial constructions of identity, (ii) reproduction of inequality, (iii) territoriality and political borders. We are particularly interested in candidates who offer synergies with the existing research profile on society-environment relations within the human geography unit of the Department." It may also be important that "applicants need to be able to deliver teaching in German".

More information on what is offered and expected can be found at the website of the University. Contact person for topical inquiries is Professor Antje Bruns (brunsa@uni-trier.de).

08 June, 2022

„Nichts haben sie getan“

“They have done nothing”, is the complaint of a representative of the Luxembourg real-estate industry made recently in a conversation with the country’s largest newspaper.(1) It seems as if this massive revelation has so far gone without public commentary but was probably debated behind the scenes. Therefore, it deserves some reflection. Was it made just for the purpose of rolling out the red carpet for the property lobby? Or is there more to it? Maybe it is both, since on the one hand, the interview is logically one-sided (nothing wrong with that). On the other hand, the coverage provides insight as to some important patterns of argumentation and discourse. Hence, it is a useful read if one wants to track the lines of the current debate.(2 for a recent take on this) This does not necessarily mean that one must agree to every point identified in the press interview. 

    The complaint is simply that a) public institutions such as state and communes have failed in providing sufficient housing so far, and b) that private market actors would have contributed to resolving the problem if someone, particularly the state with its regulatory practice or the communes that hold back developable land, would let them. This is a common but incomplete pattern of discourse, to say the least. The points one could most easily agree to are firstly that the country is facing a severe housing crisis that renders not all but many parties desperate, especially those who are in need of housing, in particular affordable housing. Secondly, in the light of the country’s economic and demographic growth paths, which were quite strong in recent times, it is rather unlikely that current housing policies and activities can be effective or sufficient at all in covering existing demands, not to talk of future growth. There is no solution in sight, and this cannot be highlighted too often.
    However, there is obvious dissent when it comes to a) contextualising the problem, b) ascertaining who benefits from the dilemma, and who must pay the bill, and c) identifying the possible consequences which flow from that. As to a), it is always striking to see how little attention is being paid in housing debates to the evolution of country and capital city as a top-notch European financial marketplace and a hot spot of economic growth.(3) This creates a rocketing demand for office and housing space, particularly in small city and country, increasingly at high-end levels. Even a concerted action of public and private actors would be hard-pressed to meet this demand. Balancing the use of limited resources (land, planning, construction) available for different purposes, and setting clear priorities, would be the only way of getting out of the dilemma. As to b), housing seems to be the most concerning issue creating rising degrees of inequality in the country that is otherwise so wealthy, most notably in economic terms. It is a matter of truth, even though rarely admitted, that the globalisation dividend that is funnelled through Grand Duchy’s land and property sectors over the past decades has made many private and corporate players impossibly rich. Landowners, real-estate developers and agents are on the sunny side of this development, while house-seekers and others are left behind on the darker side of the problem. Most recently, the housing drama has swept over to the state, with parliamentarians and political parties prompted to do more in order to manage this crisis.

    However, under current circumstances this is hardly possible, given the extraordinary support and protection business affairs in general—and property issues in particular—enjoy in the Grand Duchy’s big politics. Those who call for action and bemoan inertia in politics ought to know better; likewise, the complaint that “they have done nothing” is certainly not a sufficient explanation. First, while it can be easily revealed that public concerns and state and communal action on the issue have dramatically increased compared to previous years, it is simply difficult to break the long historical path of private landownership and missing public politics of property. Renting has represented a mere niche for a long time. Path dependence is an issue worth considering as well. Second, housing clearly represents a wicked problem, one that could only get closer to ‘solutions’ if strategies reflect upon the country’s political economy and include strategies and measures as variegated as, for example, developing a public politics of land; introducing effective taxation on property related income; questioning the focus on office space but increase housing supply; help a better use of the existing housing stock to emerge. This is a highly unpopular inconvenient truth among the business community.
    Media stories like this one indicate that while certain voices increase their volume and are becoming more explicit in tone, they are probably not willing to serve as a scapegoat. Do we need a more balanced distribution of ‘guilt’, or responsibility, among the key players in this topical area? Do we need a more radicalised discourse? Not sure about the latter. A more open and honest discourse would indeed be useful. There is a striking deficit when it comes to open debate on a range of matters in this country, which seems to be altering only slowly. (Mobility in general and biking in particular might be a case in point). Land in Luxembourg is an extraordinarily complex and increasingly contentious issue, to which the prevailing discourse still responds with rather simple answers. To this end, published opinion ties in with the historically grown tradition of land ownership. In the current situation of maximum rents and prices, however, property ownership has become a fiction for large sections of society. It is a rhetorical construct, hardly playing a material role in the reality of many people's lives. It is an imaginary, immaterial discourse that is possibly representative of the longing for the good old days. It is also constrained by communicative barriers which have been erected to protect particular interests. The mobilization of land-based profits and the limits of the political model based on private property have effectively remained without echo so far. 
    If one takes the land problem and the related housing shortage in the country seriously, this discourse would have to be opened, moving away from the outdated image of home ownership, single-family homes and the demand to simply "build more". Then the radical transformation of the country in the recent past would be the topic, especially the dominance of office space, the financialization of land development and ownership (also by external investment capital), and the associated disconnection of use value and exchange value from property. A proper response to this would necessarily include two elements: first, honesty about the fact that the housing problem is not solvable by neither big player (state, local, private) under the given conditions of the real estate market; second, it would involve the strategic, long-term build-up of resources in public, not private, land. These would be the questions that an ideally free discourse would have to raise (evoking the concept of "herrschaftsfreier Diskurs" once claimed by Jürgen Habermas). Of course, discourse is not everything. But without open communication about the problem, its causes and alternative strategies, nothing will change – regardless of what “they” have done or not.

Markus Hesse

(1) Luxemburger Wort, 24.5.2022, pp. 1-3.
(2) Hesse, M. (2022): Sprachregelungen. Grund und Boden als diskursives Phänomen. forum 424, pp. 28-31. 
(3) Deloitte (2020): Real Estate Predictions 2020. Prepare to adapt to the market. Luxembourg.

06 June, 2022

Job Advertisement circulated through the IGU Urban commission

Hi all,

I would be grateful if you could share details of the following:


1. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Te Taiwhenua o te Hauora | Geohealth Laboratory, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury,  Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa | New Zealand.

  • Full-time (37.5 hours per week)
  • Fixed-term position to June 2026

We are seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow to work on a range of policy-relevant research projects being undertaken by the Geohealth Laboratory in collaboration with the health sector e.g. Canterbury District Health Board and the Ministry of Health. The position will preferably start before the end of 2022.

More details at https://jobs.canterbury.ac.nz/jobdetails/ajid/F1b58/Post-Doctoral-Fellow-Geohealth-Laboratory,10047



2. Fully funded PhD scholarship available at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury,  Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa | New Zealand.

The impacts of a low-emissions transport future on urban amenity access, equity, and wellbeing

This project will add to the knowledge base on achieving equitable amenity access while developing sustainable, inclusive and healthy cities. To achieve this we will employ Geographic and Health Science perspectives and methodologies to: 

  1. Consult and engage with local communities, including iwi, to develop working definitions of places and activities that are valued as amenities.
  2. Work from these newly defined- and conventional amenities (e.g., food outlets and community gardens; green- and blue-space; gathering, arts and cultural spaces) to quantify the current state of equity in amenity access, beginning locally in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
  3. Assess the impact of a low carbon transport future on equity of accessibility to key amenities associated with wellbeing.
  4. Identify and evaluate barriers to and opportunities for interventions, exploring the co-benefits and role of improved access in supporting the SDGs of building sustainable, inclusive cities and transport systems that enhance health and wellbeing.

Funded as a UC Sustainable Development Goals PhD Scholarship, this scholarship consist of a stipend of $28,000 and tuition fees (up to 3 years FTE, domestic or international). The student must be able to start the PhD by 30th Sept 2022.

Applications will be assessed as they are received with a closing date of July 15th 2022.

To apply, send a copy of your academic transcript and application letter to Dr Lindsey Conrow (contact details below).


For more information contact:

·         Dr Lindsey Conrow lindsey.conrow@canterbury.ac.nz

·         or Prof Simon Kingham simon.kingham@canterbury.ac.nz

·         or Dr Matt Hobbs matthew.hobbs@canterbury.ac.nz

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury

Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa  | New Zealand



02 June, 2022

New Publication forthcoming: "Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers" in Journal of Maps

Happy to announce a second publication from DIGI-GOV, forthcoming in Journal of Maps.

Carr, C., Bast, D., Madron, K., Syrus, M. (in press) Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers
Journal of Maps.

As a preview, here is the abstract:
The social spatial geographies of telecommunications and their infrastructures have long interested scholars in the social sciences, and in urban geography specifically. This paper focuses on data centers. Much effort has been placed in preserving the notion that data centers are ‘clouds’, a terminology that obfuscates the real human geographies of cyberplaces. In this map-making exercise, we visualize the sociopolitical human geographies of data centers, and provoke the reader to consider the impacts that data centers have on residents and their environments. The maps shown in this paper suggest four trends. First, hyperscale data center owners are building near large waterways, signifying a shift in location preferences. Second, data centers stress local administrations, financing, and availability of upstream resources, as hyperscale data centers step up their input needs. Third, data center development is state-led. Fourth the competition for data center industries unfolds across a multi-level governance context.

Keywords: Amsterdam, cyberplace, data centers, hyperscale, Luxembourg, Seattle

12 May, 2022

Welcome Elide Nicotra

Elide Nicotra joins the DIGI-GOV team in May as a Student Assistant during her first year of Master in Geography and Spatial Planning at the University of Luxembourg.

Before starting her journey at the UL, Elide concluded her undergraduate studies in France in geography and management. She interned at the municipality of Reims (FR) in the department of sanitation and managament of resources, more specifically water.

Elide takes this latter issue to heart and being fascinated by urban processes, she hopes to work in a sustainable development-oriented sector in the future. She joins the DIGI-GOV team feeling inspired by the contemporary approach, hoping to learn more about Large Digital Corporations (LDC’s) and their impact on a local and regional planning.

Elide grew up living in suburbs of large cities, such as Catania (IT), as well as small ones like Luxembourg. She mostly travels by camper, which is something she appreciates because it allows to cross different countries and observe how their territories are differently shaped.

08 April, 2022

Welcome Chris Reiter!

Chris Reiter joins the DIGI-GOV team this April as a new Student assistant during his first year of the Master in Geography and Spatial planning at the University of Luxembourg. 
Prior to joining the University of Luxembourg, Chris completed his undergraduate studies in Applied Geography at the University of Trier following a track in human geography with emphasis on spatial planning and development. During his Bachelor studies he interned and worked at a local spatial planning and architecture office in Esch-sur-Alzette (LU) for circa one year before continuing his Master studies.
Chris comes to DIGI-GOV hoping to expand his knowledge on large digital corporations, such as Google or Amazon, and their impact on local, regional decision-making processes as it has been the case in Bissen with the google data center. With him joining his Master’s program and  DIGI-GOV, he seeks to further diversify his skill sets and knowledge and to be part of new team building experiences. His interests include smart cities, digitalization, and housing issues especially in his home country – Luxembourg, where he has lived for most of his life. 
As an enthusiast for walks, hikes or just wandering, he spends as much time outside as the weather here in Luxembourg allows for, so you might encounter him one day on one of Luxembourg’s many trails.

19 March, 2022

Call for Papers: Special Issue "Urban Science and the Future of Sustainable Urban Systems"

Cities Journal

Guest Editors: Céline Rozenblat, Jose Lobo

Deadline delayed: 30 April 2022

All information available on the Journal website:

Summary of issue:

Humanity’s success in addressing the related challenges of climate change, sustainability, poverty alleviation and shared prosperity will be largely determined by what happens in cities. “Urban science” is now a well-defined field that is examining a shared set of phenomena across many disciplines, developing common theoretical ideas and analytical methods, treating cities and urbanization in a unified way across the globe and history. Urban areas are multifaceted entities, involving biological, social, economic, infrastructural, and cultural aspects. Individual cities, furthermore, are part of regional, national and international cities’ and regions’ systems comprising interdependent urban and rural areas and every community category between urban and rural.

This special issue aims at advancing the integration of insights long accumulated from research on cities and urban phenomena by various academic fields, and those being generated by the new field of urban science, in order to highlight current explanatory strengths and identify needed new research to better understand urbanization and sustainable urban development.

Urban science” seeks to understand the fundamental processes that drive, shape and sustain cities and urbanization. It is a  multi/transdisciplinary approach involving concepts, methods and research from the social, natural, engineering and computational sciences, along with the humanities.[1] Urban science goes further than simply stating that cities are “complex", explaining in what they are complex, by questioning the interactions between different levels of factors and why in some places they interact differently than in others. The complexity approach enlightens the different levels of forces that can explain the uneven diffusion speeds, reactions and consequences in different cities. These interactions are “universal” but take forms that are fitting to the local conditions affecting spatial and temporal scales and levels.

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3526940

If “Urban science” aims at a fundamental understanding of the processes that shape and sustain cities, the ultimate applied objective of this body of knowledge must be to help create global urban sustainable systems. The website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America describes sustainability science as “. . .an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems.” Nowhere are these interactions more intense, stark, concentrated and consequential than in urban areas. “Urban sustainability” at the moment remains more a collection of methods and aspirations than a science (Waldrop, 2019). The ecological, energetic, physical, biological and social aspects of cities need to be integrated into a consistent theory, but one that grounds the treatment of cities as social systems embedded in physical and biological networks. We echo the call made in 2018 by the National Science Foundation of the USA for the development of a field of urban sustainability science that seeks to study the various opportunities and challenges that cities, urbanization and urban systems pose for the transition to sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development.[2]

[2] https://www.nsf.gov/ere/ereweb/ac-ere/sustainable-urban-systems.pdf 

Technological and social developments have combined (intentionally but also as unintended consequences) to generate unprecedented amounts of data concerning what people (individuals and organizations) do when they agglomerate in cities. To some, this “big data” revolution, seemed to hold the promise of more effective urban management. But experience has reminded us, once again, that data — even enormous amounts — without associated theory to interrogate and make sense of it, does not generate predictive insights. At the same time that “urban big data” was capturing the imagination of urbanists and city managers, another intellectual movement that we refer to as “Urban science” was taking shape. A number of streams came together in this new approach to a long-standing area of inquiry: the increasing availability of diverse urban data; the realization that the city should be treated as its own unit of study (Romer); a revival of Jacobs’ view of the city as a “complex system”; the flowering of work on network science; and the growing importance of multi-disciplinarity.

By this special issue, we seek to advance the capacity of “Urban Science” to contribute to the development of urban sustainability science, and even ask whether the two emerging fields of research are in effect the same. We propose to examine a shared set of phenomena across many disciplines, developing common theoretical ideas and analytical methods,  addressing cities urbanization in unified ways (but adapted on local situations) across the globe, across history, and working towards a common set of goals. A common starting point for the varied efforts that are now bundled up as “Urban Science” is the recognition, well-articulated by Paul Romer, that the city deserves, and can be treated, as its own unit of analysis. As cities and urban communities will bear the brunt of the effects of climate change and adapting to climate change, how can urban science and urban sustainability science help cities adapt to climate change?

We welcome submissions exemplifying interdisciplinary frameworks and utilizing a variety of methods such as the spatial statistics, network models, comparative historical analyses, information theory, dynamical systems, multi-agent models and econometric analyses. Authors are encouraged to address questions about the drivers and consequences of urbanization throughout history, the role of technology in urbanization, the diminished importance of transportation costs and the effect on  urban occupations of the rise of digital communications, the relationship between urban development and inequality, and the  relationship between urban sustainability, adaptivity and resilience. The papers are expected to formulate hypotheses and pose ambitious questions — but also to engage with why many of the questions posed by “Urban Science” are difficult to answer. Contributions to the special issue should also address the potential and urgency in researchers collaborating with varied stakeholders (including organizations representing the urban poor) in order to co-produce knowledge which is both scientifically rigorous and capable of informing decisions and policymaking.

Keywords: Urban science, Urban Sustainability Science, Cities, Systems of cities, Urbanization, Complex systems, Resilience

CONTACT: celine.rozenblat@unil.ch and/or jose.lobo@asu.edu