Academic research

Academic research of the Center of Mobility and Spatial Planning (AMRP) is organised around its main theoretical ideology of the actor-relational approach.

Rooted in innovative post-structuralist relational and evolutionary scholarship in the field of planning, economics, social geography and governance, the actor-relational approach builds upon notions from complexity theory and philosophy of science (e.g. actor-network theory), such as co-evolution, resilience, self-organization, the commons and transition management. The approach focuses on the process of network building, in which various actors and spatial entities are brought together around new and innovative business cases and spatial associations, in order to attract new, robust and sustainable market alliances.

Reaching beyond the current debate on state controlled versus neo-liberal planning, AMRP takes the position that not only governments, but also (and sometimes predominantly) citizens, entrepreneurs, artists, communities and businesses pro-actively contribute to spatial transformations. The actor-relational approach has already been applied to diverging topics, ranging from water and flood risk management, environmental health, energy transition, open space and sprawl, housing, heritage, regional (mainport) economy, climate change, mobility issues, civic initiatives, urban regeneration and complex spatial transformation processes. Researchers at AMRP have been among the pioneering spatial planning scholars annunciating the emergence of citizen-led initiatives in urban development, addressing the major impact this emergence has on the profession of spatial planning, and as such, laid the base for the now widely spread and applied notion of urban self-organization.

AMRP engages in further developing the actor-relational approach along two lines. On the one hand, research it focussed on the further theorisation of the approach through cross-disciplinary research touching on philosophy, performance arts, engineering and geography. On the other hand, the actor-relational approach is continuously applied to new, emergent spatial challenges and ongoing planning discourses in the Flemish urban landscape and Eurodelta (Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt). Research takes place in continuous interactions between these two lines. It searches for less static and more adaptive and complexity sensitive planning approaches, and concrete perspectives for planning action in a world of complex, undefined spatial becoming. AMRP takes a pro-active and operational research approach, in which participation, stakeholder involvement, daily urban and planning practices, experiments and Living Labs are key principles – in addition to the usual retrospective case studies.

Within AMRP, the following doctoral studies are conducted:

Finalised PhD's: