10 June, 2021
15 May, 2021
The urban geographies of Luxembourg’s financial centre: Talking about the same subject in front of two different audiences
Similar stuff, different people
Comments made by the audiences
19 April, 2021
Also joining us is Karinne Madron who is currently completing her Master in Architecture, European Urbanisation and Globalisation here at the University of Luxembourg. Prior to coming to Luxembourg in 2019, she worked in architecture for nearly 11 years in Mauritius where she is from. She holds a BA in Architectural Studies from Newcastle University and an MSc in Development Studies from the University of Mauritius. Her research interests include spatial justice, planetary urbanization, urban innovation, urban governance and participatory development among other subjects.
Having obtained a scholarship from the Government of Mauritius in 2004, Karinne moved to the UK to study architecture in Newcastle upon Tyne. She developed an early interest in the relationship between the built environment and social change and chose ‘the rise and fall of high-rise mass housing in the UK’ as the subject of her dissertation. Pursuing her interest in housing, she worked as a trainee architect for a housing association in Newcastle for about a year after completing her degree.
She returned to Mauritius in 2008 and had the opportunity to work with communities living in informal settlements on slum upgrading and social housing projects. Over the years, she also worked on a variety of other projects ranging from the renovation of the Bank of Mauritius to luxury gated communities. Her work experience in both social and luxury projects allowed her to develop her insight into the socio-political underpinnings of land use and inequality in the small island of Mauritius. Seeking to deepen her understanding of these issues she decided to do a Master in Development Studies in 2012. Her dissertation titled ‘an analysis of the relationship between inadequate housing and the intergenerational transmission of poverty in Mauritius’ gave her the opportunity to discuss with local authorities, civil society groups as well as inhabitants of informal settlements. Having again an opportunity to pursue her academic interests in 2019, she chose the University of Luxembourg for her Master in Architecture because of the interdisciplinary nature of the programme.
Karinne has otherwise had the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher most of her life. As a teenager she used to teach the children in her neighbourhood. She was also an assistant teacher in English classes given to refugees and asylum seekers in Newcastle. Back in Mauritius she helped with academic support to children from underprivileged families with non-governmental organisations.
We are glad to welcome Karinne and Desmond and are really looking forward to their creative and critical contributions to DIGI-GOV!
15 April, 2021
If you are reading this post because you are registered on the Feedburner and thus receive email updates, please know that Feedburner is terminating this service in July. Thereafter, you will not receive any email notifications that we have updated this blog.
I just received notice about this today, so I am only just beginning to figure out what to do about this.
(It is also a kind reminder that the platform services we depend on can be revoked at any moment. I wouldn't be surprised if Google terminated blogger at some point...)
Comparing smart city development in Toronto versus that in Barcelona is such a great comparison. There is so much to explore, address and discuss concerning scale (of corporate size, of financial power, of targeted technological reach), centralization versus fragmentation, knowledge differentials across institutions in charge of urban development, and the visible/hidden agendas of those in charge. Fascinating directions at the nexus of an old triad urbanplanning, urbanpolitics and techinnovation. If you missed it, it can be found at the University of Stavanger YouTube channel for smart cities (see below).
08 April, 2021
01 February, 2021
"Urbanisation, crisis and resilience: the multiple dimensions of urban transformation in Beirut, Lebanon"
Special issue of 'Urban Planning' (Cogitatio Press)
28 January, 2021
Applicants must apply online at: http://emea3.mrted.ly/2mgfn
***We are aiming for a start date in the spring or summer 2021. The deadline for application is March 10. If you are interested in this position, applicants must apply online but do not hesitate to inform me via email (email@example.com).***
The Urban Studies Group at the Department of Geography & Spatial Planning (DGEO), Faculty of Humanities, Education & Social Sciences (FHSE), University of Luxembourg (UL) invites applications for a Doctoral candidate (PhD student) to work on the research project entitled, “Digital Urban Development — How large digital corporations shape the field of urban governance (DIGI-GOV)”
Project Summary is available for download here:
Area Urban studies, urban governance, human geography or related field.
- Complete a dissertation in urban geography on a topic the fits the framework of DIGI-GOV, and submit it for defense inside of 4 years.
- Join the DGEO’s Urban Studies group and meet regularly with primary supervisor.
- Enroll in the UL Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences (DSHSS) — and join the activities of the Geography PhD Seminar
- Achieve 20 ECTS awarded through participation in the DSHSS.
- Assist the PI with in organising of conferences and meetings in the framework of DIGI-GOV
- Organize meetings with her/his international advisory board throughout the programme
- Master or Diploma in Geography or Spatial Planning, Urban Planning or related field, linked to geographical issues of urban development, policy and planning, including experience in interdisciplinary work and qualitative methodology
- Excellent command of written and spoken English is required. Knowledge of either Luxembourgish, French, German, or Dutch would be considered an asset
DGEO is a 45-person strong international group of Professors, post-doctoral and senior researchers, and PhD students. Research follows different trajectories of human geography and spatial planning, notably institutional and actor-centred approaches, theories in the context of chains, flows and networks, and also approaches that are related to the cultural and spatial turn. Major fields of research include environmental economic geography, urban studies and metropolitan governance, spatial statistics and modelling, and architecture.
The UL offers the opportunity to participate in the development of a newly created university, an exciting international and multi-lingual environment, well-equipped research facilities, competitive salaries, and is an equal opportunity employer.
Contract Type: Fixed Term Contract 36 Month - extendable up to 48 months if required
Work Hours: Full Time 40.0 Hours per Week
Internal Title: Doctoral Researcher
Employee and student status
Job Reference: UOL03910
Applications should be submitted online and include:
- CV and copies of diploma;
- Motivation Letter;
- Support letter from at least one recent scientific advisor/professor (preferably three);
- A PhD proposal that fits the objectives of DIGI-GOV (max. 2 pages, single spaced, 11 pt font) including: 1) Introduction and literature review; 2) Research objectives and expected contribution to the field; 3) Methodology; 4) Work plan and expected timetable; 5) Bibliography.
Early application is highly encouraged, as the applications will be processed upon reception. Please apply ONLINE formally through the HR system. Applications by email will not be considered.
The University of Luxembourg embraces inclusion and diversity as key values. We are fully committed to removing any discriminatory barrier related to gender, and not only, in recruitment and career progression of our staff.
Questions? Don't hesitate to contact Dr. Constance Carr, firstname.lastname@example.org
27 January, 2021
Project Summary available for download here
Abstract DIGI-GOV is a research project that aims to understand (I) the role of large digital corporations (LDCs) in digital urban development, (II) how the presence of LDCs in urban planning practice challenge pre-existing modes urban governance, and (III) how LDC-led urban development constitutes a new relational geography of digital cities. DIGI-GOV is thus a chance to call attention to this critical shift in the ways that contemporary digital cities are constructed, planned, mediated and governed. DIGI-GOV expands on prior research that examined Alphabet Inc.’s digital city project in Toronto that raised a number of important issues for urban planners, development practitioners, and urban studies scholars – even if this particular digital city project was ultimately unsuccessful. DIGI-GOV expands this research because the range of services that LDCs provide has increased in both volume and centrality; more and more public and private institutions rely on LDCs for essential digital infrastructures. There is an urgent need to study the trajectories of urbanization that are rolled out under the leadership of LDCs and the tensions in urban governance that are unleashed. DIGI-GOV will shed light on four further cities in addition to Toronto, which have been challenged by the presence of LDCs—namely, Seattle, Washington DC, Bissen, and Eemshaven. The selected cities are some of the few exemplary cases available where LDCs have secured their position in the local urban field. Through qualitative methodological approaches, DIGI-GOV will tease out how these cities are relationally connected through LDC-led urban development, and what scholars and practitioners can learn from these experiences. Examined together, one can scratch at the surface of, and unearth, this new emerging relational geography.
05 January, 2021
Department of Geography & Spatial Planning (DGEO), Faculty of Humanities, Education & Social Sciences (FHSE), University of Luxembourg (UL) invites applications for two Master Student Assistants on a Fixed-term contract, renewable up to 36 months, part-time (10h/week).
Research Project: Digital Urban Development — How large digital corporations shape the field of urban governance DIGI-GOV
The DIGI-GOV research team is searching two motivated graduate students to join the team as assist with carrying out a variety of tasks associated with the project.
- To provide on-going project management support assist the DIGI-GOV team (see urbanunbound.blogspot.com).To assist with Office Management, (e.g. web blog management, translations, database management)
- Assist in organizing conferences and meetings related to the project (administration of registrations, reception, advertising)
- Be professional and act as a liaison between the project team and outside bodies.
- You are currently enrolled full-time as a Master student at the University of Luxembourg and have a Bachelor degree in Humanities/Social Sciences
- You are knowledgeable of online dissemination methods
- You are interested in building a long-term team, and focusing on qualitative social scientific research methods
- You have excellent command of written and spoken English and knowledge of either French/German/Luxembourgish.
- Be inspired by the potential societal impact of DIGI-GOV
Applications must include the following:
- CV and copies of Degree Certificates;
- Motivation Letter;
- 1-3 Reference Letters of previous employers or academic supervisors
17 November, 2020
BIVEC-GIBET Transport Research Days 2021 (TRD 2021).
The Benelux Association of Transport Researchers (BIVEC-GIBET) invites you to submit extended abstracts for the next 'Transport Research Day' 2021, which will be held online only.
Because of COVID-19, several scientific meetings have already been cancelled or postponed during the past year. The safety measures currently applied in the Netherlands and at TU Delft do not allow the organization of any physical meeting. It is also unclear what the future holds. In order to create any clarity for TRD participants, we have therefore decided to continue with the TRD on 27-28 May 2021, but we will switch to an online conference. The registration fees have been adjusted accordingly. If the safety measures in May 2021 allow us to organize a physical event again, then there may still be a hybrid form of the conference (partly online for those who prefer not to travel to Delft, partly on-site but subject to compliance with the safety measure in place at that time). This will be communicated in due time.
In addition, the deadline for submitting 'extended abstracts' has been extended to 15 December 2020. You can submit your abstract on https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf_3PwgBwIo1JCj3bBN74f8HBuop5t-dxPgjP0JrcZsvdT3Jg/viewform. This allows everyone to consider participating in the TRD in a safe way.
The TRD are an ideal moment to get an overview of the state-of-the-art of mobility and transport research in the Benelux. Moreover, you can get to know colleagues at universities and research institutes just across the border in an easily accessible way.
We hope to ‘see’ you all at the Transport Research Days 2021.
Veronique Van Acker, secretary of BIVEC-GIBET
08 November, 2020
New Project retained for funding, "Digital Urban Development — How large digital corporations shape the field of urban governance (DIGI-GOV)"
Principal Investigator: Dr. Constance Carr, Department of Geography & Spatial Planning (DGEO)
Carr, C., Hesse, M. 2020a. When Alphabet Inc. Plans Toronto’s Waterfront: New Post-Political Modes of Urban Governance, Urban Planning, 5:1, 69-83.
Carr, C. Hesse, M, 2020b. Sidewalk Labs closed down - whither Google's smart city? RSA Regions 10.1080/13673882.2020.00001070
Digital Luxembourg 2020a. “Harnessing digitalization as a tool for positive transformation” https://digital-luxembourg.public.lu
Digital Luxembourg 2020b. Infrastructure, foundations for the future. https://digital-luxembourg.public.lu/priorities/infrastructure
EC 2020a. “A Europe fit for the Digital Age” https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age_en
EC 2020b “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future” https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/shaping-europe-digital-future_en
FNR 2020. CORE 2020 Programme Description. https://storage.fnr.lu/index.php/s/wTjSHEqbzwcFOwN/download
09 October, 2020
The places and flows of labour: essential work, fragmented life-worlds, constrained mobilities -- Call for papers AAG 2021
Session Organizers: Nicolas Raimbault (University of Nantes), Peter V. Hall (Simon Fraser University) and Markus Hesse (University of Luxembourg)
Type: Virtual Paper Session
The Coronavirus pandemic has made more visible the importance – as well as the difficulties – of the so-called "essential workers" (Sparke & Anguelov, 2020, 3). This notion, which is not scientific, covers a fairly wide range of jobs, mostly held by working-class people. Alongside care workers, it refers to employees, temporary and self-employed workers involved in activities essential to daily life. Typically, they cannot work remotely from home. They include manual workers, mainly blue-collar, in processing activities (manufacturing, food & meat industries, agriculture and construction) or in the physical distribution of goods (warehousing, transport, deliveries). And they include employees in direct consumer services (clerks, restockers), whose tasks are also physically intense. These workplaces are scattered in (sub-)urban spaces, from urban centres to peripheries, from public spaces (making deliveries) to warehouses, in a huge variety of old and recent industrial lands. The pandemic has thus underlined the diversity and the fragmentation of current working-class spaces (Rose-Redwood et al., 2020, 3).
This special session calls for papers engaging in the changing geographies and mobilities of the current essential workers – a problem epitomised by COVID-19, but that had long-existed. The session aims to connect analysis of the essential workers and working-class communities with the understanding of the production of the different industrial spaces in which they are embedded. Research shows that the jobs of the working-class communities have changed significantly: from the decline of the manufacturing sector, to the rise of the service sector, from casualization to the rise of the gig economy (Srnicek, 2017), which clearly contrasts with the imaginaries and the political power once attributed to the Keynesian blue-collar middle-class (De Lara, 2018). This session seeks to engage in conversations in geography and the social sciences more broadly on what is considered a new services precariat (Strauss, 2020). Moreover, the session also offers an opportunity to discuss the urban policy ramifications of these processes: the ongoing re-conversion of industrial lands, brownfield sites and waterfront areas is likely to increase the related pressure on working-class people, by creating spaces of affluence and exclusion rather than being part of a city for all.
In order to connect these conversations and to contribute to a better understanding of the recent evolution of working-class communities in urban regions, the special session looks for papers tackling one or several topics and dimensions alongside this broader agenda. Here is a sampling of some topics that might be addressed, but please do not feel constrained to these examples:
- The transformations of working-class labour markets and workforces and the dynamics of the contingent employment.
- The case of the delivery workers both linked to digital platforms (such as UBER, Deliveroo) and also in logistics and freight distribution (such as Amazon), which seem to be especially emblematic of these changes.
- The nexus of precarious work, precarious livelihoods and mobility inequality.
- The production of current workplaces, from mixed-used buildings in the context of urban redevelopment projects to scattered warehouses or specialized industrial parks.
- The urban condition of working-class communities, considering residential as well as mobility inequalities, and spatial mismatch leading to the emergence of transit deserts.
- The engagement of working-class communities and workforces in urban politics and the articulation of space and work in current urban and labour struggles.
Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by October 24, 2020 to Nicolas Raimbault (email@example.com), Peter V. Hall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Markus Hesse (email@example.com). Feel free to ask any questions you might have.
De Lara, J. (2018). Inland shift: Race, space, and capital in Southern California. Los Angeles, University of California Press.
Korsu, E., & Wenglenski, S. (2010). Job accessibility, residential segregation and risk of long-term unemployment in the Paris region. Urban Studies, 47(11), 2279-2324.
Sparke, M., & Anguelov, D. (2020). Contextualising coronavirus geographically. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. DOI: 10.1111/tran.12389
Srnicek N. (2017), Platform capitalism. Cambridge, Polity Press.
Strauss, K. (2020). Labour geography III: Precarity, racial capitalisms and infrastructure. Progress in Human Geography, 44(6), 1212-1224.
Rose-Redwood, R., Kitchin, R., Apostolopoulou, E., Rickards, L., Blackman, T., Crampton, J., ... & Buckley, M. (2020). Geographies of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(2), 97-106.
05 October, 2020
Find it here
21 September, 2020
Figure 1, taken by 'Zinneke' on 16 September 2017, CC 3.0
Luxembourg City is still struggling with the consequences of its rapid growth, as a range of large-scale urban projects are currently in planning, being built or finalised, while major pieces of infrastructure renovation (road, water, sewage) and hundreds of cases of micro-construction are going on simultaneously. The Capital City actually looks like a huge construction site, and the outcomes of some recent projects are disputed to say the least. There is disillusion about what has evolved recently in the shape of the 1980s urban design and motor-car dominated street layout of the district called ‘Cloche d’Or’. There are also high hopes as to flagship projects such as the light rail ‘Tram’ that will not only produce a smooth connection between the main central train station 'Gare' with the banking district on Kirchberg in due course, but will also turn the city centre quite visibly into a site of urban regeneration.
Moreover, after more than a decade of silence, rumor and speculation, one of the biggest fillets of urban development and property exploitation gets back to life: Place de l’Etoile, or Stäreplatz in Luxembourgish.(1) Having been a mere urban brownfield or empty spot for a long time (see Figure 1), this western entry point to the city centre already got some attention in the media a few years ago, when the lot was purchased by the state-led Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 2016. For some time, it was supposed to host another large-scale urban project fit for commerce and office, following Hamilius and Cloche d’Or that were completed in the 2010s and the massive Porte de Hollerich that still looms on the planning stage. Given the peculiar mechanisms of the real estate economy, the new owners have obviously been waiting for a good moment to get market transaction and development unleashed, which seems to have arrived now.
Last Monday, city and government officials presented their plans for the Place de l’Etoile(2): a massive mixed-use development project comprising housing, office and retail, complemented by smart and clean public spaces. While its appeal seems to be in line with the projects mentioned above, a couple of interesting innovations could be noted on this occasion, also compared with earlier planning practices of the Capital City. First, the focus is switching from the once most lucrative office and commerce sectors towards increasing housing supply. Obviously, a significant market change makes luxury apartments and condominiums a promising addition to the city’s real-estate portfolio; due to humble policy goals, only a ten per cent-share of housing floor space is required by regulation to be devoted to housing at “moderate” cost (moderate by the country’s measure). By increasing focus on luxury housing by elevating the share of housing from 12 to 47 per cent of the total floor space provided, the existing building plan needs to be adapted to changing demands from the developer. (To apply such amendments after plans are politically agreed upon is actually a rather common pattern in the city’s planning practice).
Second, a green transport package is applied with which this project is sold to the public, which also explains the pro-active role taken over by the Minister for public works and transport who is from the Green Party. The package includes an additional leg of the tram system, connecting the city centre with the western suburbs. This is considered a smart move, as it legally ensures a major part of the infrastructure to be financed by the state, not the city or the developer. In addition, a sort of underground bus terminal will transform the Place de l’Etoile into a mobility hub, where major bus lines will feed into the tram system as long as this is serving the inner city only. Tram, trees and green roofs give the whole project an environmental appeal, without knowing how seriously this can be taken.(3) Third, it happened for the first time that we observed the developer in charge joining the press conference of Mayor and Minister. Usually this actor group remains as discrete as possible or invisible, even though there is some indication that they play a central role in the planning and building circuit of the country. It is not totally clear what this means, but it is of course pretty unusual and not often seen before, if at all.
Two questions remain as a consequence of this observation. One concerns the negative externalities of the project. Actually, the government’s official rhetoric deems a politics of ‘decentralised concentration’ necessary, in order to re-balance the overheated spatial economy of the country, with the Capital City being the sponge in the middle.(4) However, in fact Mayor and Ministers work exactly on the opposite: to shift an increasing amount of investment to Luxembourg City. While land is scarce and building high-rises is not considered appropriate, this also means that much of the construction goes to the underground: basement levels, parking garages, delivery zones and the like. “Urban fracking” was the term the former planning director of the city of Munich, Germany, used for this phenomenon.(5) As to the project as such, there are further questions: Who needs another polished, posh shopping district in the Capital? Who needs more of the same – office space, luxury lofts – while the real crisis is the dramatic lack of housing for both middle and working class? In case one is concerned about issues of affordability or social inequality, this is simply the wrong perspective: It’s the economy, stupid – particularly in an environment where the market rules, supported by the facilitating hands of the public sector.
This judgement leads to the second question that calls for making sense of the particular policy, or governance arrangement, that is at play here. Among the many frames academic debates have provided in the past for proper interpretation, feel free to choose what fits. Of course, one might be reminded of the “growth machine” approach from the 1980s, observing coalitions of public admin and politics, business and the media joining in their interest to foster economic development. This approach became outdated for a while but has been re-discovered more recently.(6) One of the currents that might particularly fit here is “entrepreneurial municipalism”,(7) backed by the enduring power of financialization.(8) While the former includes a rather pro-active role taken over by public actors, the latter emphasizes the influx of foreign capital into cities, simply for the purpose of creating revenue: Buying in and selling the city out for profit. As the new loft owners may rarely touch base in the city (which is often the case), this also means that housing construction for this target group won’t solve any related problem, but perhaps even increase scarcity.
Entrepreneurial municipalism represents a public administration composed of small state and capital city, being pro-business but only partly operating like an entrepreneur. Our take here was to merge the two in the concept of the ‘city-state formation’.(9) Luxembourg is a perfect example of this. At both levels of policy making, the undisputed goal is to create and maintain the definitive place for attracting businesses of all kinds (the triple-AAA rating being the holy grail of national identity); this desire is only poorly buffered by a re-dressing of public space and measures to make the city beautiful. Yes, the market rules, but it unfolds in real life only through the facilitating hands of city and state. This is a central framework condition for any practice in planning, building and urban terms. Therefore, it should not be neglected when present and future challenges are being discussed, such as climate change, social equity, or COVID-19.
Last but not least, the way the plans for Place de l’Etoile are brought to us like a revelation also poses key political questions.(10) One may wonder about the City’s promise to have citizens involved in major issues of urban development: It is not so long ago that the public realm was flooded with participation on the new land use plan (PAG) – highlighting thousands of details without discussing the general direction to take. Now, when plans are getting concrete and binding, citizens are not asked at all whether this would be appreciated or not. The new outline of Place de l’Etoile comes as tailor-made in the light of what development demands for. Hence the public will most likely miss the chance to intervene. Or is this wrong? One may ask whether this is better or worse compared to the projected new neighbourhood at Route d’Arlon, which is close by. For that development, one might recall that citizens were asked for their opinion on selected plans; however, the specific outcome of their involvement hasn’t been revealed to the public yet.(11)
Overall, this practice appears quite specific, as many other things going on in this country in urban terms. Sometimes it looks as if the urban process is driven by the controlled environment of a gold mining town, which is reluctant to become a city for all, not to speak of a real metropolis. Mir wëlle bleiwen …, yes or no?
1) See our related entry on this Blog from June 2018.
2) Details on the project can be obtained from the City’s webpage .
3) Suspiciously, the green tone in which the roofs appear has already been used for many other projects’ design brochures.
4) The scenario favoured by the government is termed ‘Organisé et harmonieux’, that is, a development of the country’s territory that is organic/evolutionary and harmonic. In fact, it doesn't really conform to that.
5) I am indebted to Stephan Reiß-Schmidt for framing this issue so nicely.
6) Lambelet, S. (2019). Filling in the resource gap of urban regime analysis to make it travel in time and space. Urban Affairs Review, 55(5), 1402-1432.
7) Thompson, M., Nowak, V., Southern, A., Davies, J. & Furmedge, P. (2020). Re-grounding the city with Polanyi: From urban entrepreneurialism to entrepreneurial municipalism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 52(6), 1171-1194.
8) Aalbers, M. B. (2020). Financial geography III: The financialization of the city. Progress in Human Geography, 44(3), 595-607.
9) Hesse, M. & Wong, C. (2020). Cities seen through a relational lens. Exploring niche-economic strategies and related urban development trajectories of Geneva (Switzerland), Luxembourg & Singapore. Geographische Zeitschrift (GZ), 105, 78-92.
10) Hesse, M. (2017). Herausforderung partizipative Stadtplanung. Ons Stad Nr. 115, 16-18.
11) See the establishment of a new NGO on participation exactly evolving from this case, also the press coverage in the Luxemburger Wort, 21 September 2020, 18.
01 September, 2020