This theme undertakes comparative analysis of varying forms of intervention through spatial planning and territorial management in Europe and developing regions in the world. There is an emphasis on building valid methodology for international case studies, comparison and policy transfer.

There is a continuing demand for international comparison and cases as countries and regions seek to learn from other places in a context of increasing global integration. The need for more effective intervention through spatial planning and broader territorial governance has never been greater, whether tackling fragmented metropolitan development in Europe or the needs of widespread informal settlement in developing regions.

International cases and comparisons have an important role in providing theoretical insights through the deeper examination of culture-bound concepts (such as ‘plan’) and thus the avoidance of overgeneralisations and domination of western theory. International comparisons can reveal the importance of national conditions otherwise taken for granted and to establish conceptual equivalence. Many researchers need to address the methodological and ethical questions arising from international working.

Three broad geographical areas are of particular interest: Europe, South-east Asia and Latin America. The international planning theme is closely connected to the other urbanism research themes where they involve international comparisons and case studies. The theme brings a particular specialism in comparative methodologies and the understanding of the cultural context for urban development and spatial planning, especially in developing regions.

Research in this theme concentrates on three sets of questions:

How are approaches and tools changing to deal with critical territorial challenges, particularly risks associated with climate change, the spatial dimension of the knowledge economy and the networked metropolitan region? To what degree are approaches converging?

How well do spatial planning concepts travel? To what degree are planning concepts equivalent (or universal) and to what extent are they culturally-bound locally?  How does this affect the policy transfer process and learning process, especially from west to east and south.

How can integrated territorial management be provided in more difficult contexts where there is rapid urbanisation weak governance, or urban emergencies following environmental and other disasters?

Track record

The international nature of the Urbanism research group with staff from more than 20 countries provides a strong basis for international case studies and cross-cultural comparison. The group is involved in numerous active international research collaborations in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The European dimension of the theme benefits deeply from the extensive work of Professor Andreas Faludi (Spatial policy systems) of the OTB Research Institute.

Recent projects include

RUFUS: Rural Futures: European Union 7th Framework Project led by Leibniz University comparing the interaction of sectoral policies on rural territories TU Delft led on the multidisciplinary conceptual framework.

Comparative European Spatial Planning Systems and Housing: providing comparative information on the role of spatial planning systems in the delivery of new housing in five European countries, funded by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU) of the UK Government in collaboration with Leicester De Montfort University, UK.

Innovation in area development in England: Lessons for the Netherlands: providing recommendations on the private sector led development process in England for Bouwfonds MAB in collaboration with Real Estate and Housing.

Track record

The team has a good record of publication with papers published in Disp, European Planning Studies, and Ruimte & Maatschappij. Examples include:

Fernández-Maldonado, A.M. and Bredenoord, J., (2010) Progressive housing approaches in the current Peruvian policies, Habitat International, 34(3): 342-50

Fernández-Maldonado, A. M. (2011) Trends toward Urbanization in the Americas, in H. Tarver (ed.) World History Encyclopedia, Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.

Nadin, V. and Stead, D. (2012) Opening the compendium: an eveluation of international comparative planning methodologies, European Planning Studies.

Nadin, V. and Stead, D. (2011) Nationale ruimtelijke ordening in het Verenigd Koninkrijk [National spatial planning in the United Kingdom], Ruimte & Maatschappij [Space and Society], Vol. 3: 49-72.

Stead, D. and Nadin, V. (2010) Planning cultures between models of society and planning systems, in Othengraften, F. and Knieling, J. Planning Cultures in Europe: Diversity and Convergence, Ashgate: 283-300.

Phd research

Recent promotion

–        Organisatorische condities voor een wendbare overheid: de case van het ruimtelijk ontwikkelingsbeleid, Roy Mierop (2011)

–        Timespace matters: exploring the gap between knowing about activity patterns of people and knowing how to design and plan urban areas and regions, Jeroen van Schaick (2011)

–        The significance of public space in a divided city: concepts for an urban design strategy in the slums of Buenos Aires, Flavio Janches (2010)

–        Globalisation and the Andean urban systems of the south of Peru: marginalisation or resistant spaces?, Amerigo Villegas (2009)

–        Urban peace-building patterns and future scenarios: the case of Jerusalem, Rami Nasrallah and Amin Amin (2009)

–        Urban sprawl and planning: confronting the challenges in a context of inequality, Cecilia Marengo (2008)

–        Structures for the displaced: service and identity in refugee settlements, James Kennedy (2008)

–        Tansformation of cities with a colonial past, Devisari Tunas (2008)

–        ICT related spatial development in Latin American cities, Fernández Maldonado (2004)


Recent PhD candidates

–        High-tech space, the organisation of space and spatial planning: a comparative analysis, Wei-Ju Huang (Astor)

–        Deltas in transition: territorial management across planning cultures, Suwanna Rongwiriyaphanich

–        A comparative analysis of approaches to resilience in coastal metropolitan regions, Peiwen Lu

–        Conditions for re-conceptualising the contemporary urban local scale, Marta Mendoca

Current PhD candidates

–        The spatialisation of civic participation: an international comparison of Western Europe and the US, Gabriela Rendon

–        The role of spatial planning in climate adaptation: the potential for policy transfer between Europe and Taiwan, Yutzu Lin (Keats)



There are many international projects in the urbanism programme. This theme is concentrating on two projects:

Models of spatial planning – a project to update the fourfold typology of spatial planning in western Europe (CEC 1997) to embrace territorial management practices across the world and provide a basis for international comparisons.

Global Compendium/Atlas of Spatial Planning: using many international cases to explain the role of spatial planning/territorial governance in the transformation of metropolitan regions.

Future research

Our priority questions for new PhD research are

What is the comparative effect of neoliberal politics on territorial governance and what is the role for strategic planning in a context where the market plays a dominant role in the development process?

What is the meaning and role of ‘spatial planning’ in the context of extensive informal settlement and poverty?

How can comparative typologies or classifications of spatial planning and territorial management assist in evaluating the operation of planning?


Urbanism research on comparative planning and international cases provides a rich source of knowledge for masters students and particularly the graduation studios on Complex Cities and Urban Regeneration, and the metropolitan regions semester of the European Masters in Urbanism. Students from many countries contribute to the stock of cases and apply methodological lessons on comparative planning.

For our research programme, please click HERE.