CityScienceLab, a cooperation with the MIT Media Lab

The CityScienceLab at the HafenCity University Hamburg investigates the urban challenges in the era of digitalization in cooperation with partners from civil society, politics, economy, and science. It pursues an inter and transdisciplinary perspective by linking technical issues with social and cultural developments (more details about our team).

CityScienceLab develops digital city models– so-called CityScopes – based on comprehensive urban data to make future cities more livable and efficient. And, CityScopes help to visualize and simulate complex urban development processes (more details on the research and teaching). For more information on our projects, read the projects page or watch our project videos on Youtube.

The city-state of Hamburg is a ‘living lab’ in which urban transformations are being investigated, and new solutions are developed up to the level of urban applications. The CityScienceLab has close cooperation with the City Science Group of the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge/USA). Furthermore, the research network of the CityScienceLab includes various partners from civil society, academic, and private sectors (more details on our cooperations).

The CityScienceLab is founded at HafenCityUniversity Hamburg in 2015 supported by the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg as a new research department to investigate the digitalisation in cities. The Lab is a cooperation with the Media Lab of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge/USA. The president of HafenCity University, Dr.-Ing. Walter Pelka, and the director of the MIT Media Lab, Joichi Ito, signed the arrangement in the townhall of Hamburg in 2015. The former major of Hamburg Olaf Scholz and vice major Katharina Fegebank joined this signment.

The FindingPlaces project on the participatory process for finding space for refugee accommodation in Hamburg started in May 2016 and won the Good Practice Award of the EU's URBACT programme upon completion. This have been the beginning of more innovative research projects at the CityScienceLab with topics like digital participation, urban data platform or e-culture in context of urban digitalisation.

The City Science Lab has a transformative research approach on the topic of Digital Cities. Using this approach, we analyse the current and multifaceted challenges a city may face as well as develop innovative solutions and advocate for the sustainable transformation of urban livings spaces. In the face of increasing urbanisation, cities have an increasingly important role in shaping global change. Our goal is to facilitate this transformative power. Together with local and global partners, we develop digital tools that are applied and explored in virtual and urban spaces. Our methods capture existing complexities and make them comprehensible for different target groups without simplifying reality. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals guide our work.

In addition, the following values and concepts navigate our research:

We use data-based technologies to strengthen the resilience of urban spaces:

We aim to shape social, ecological, and economic developments such that cities can become more adaptable, climate-neutral, and liveable. In addition, we develop innovative governance tools that enable us to understand further, model, and collaboratively steer complex urban systems.

We work from multiple perspectives and commit ourselves to the common good:

We cooperate with experts in civil society, politics, economics, administration, and science and engage in a data-based exchange with informed partners. In doing so, we question power relations and try to include marginalised groups. In our projects, we are interested in debates about public welfare-oriented measures and their implementation.

We consider citizens as sovereign project partners:

Our idea of digital political decision-making processes promotes the inclusion of citizens and media literacy as we believe it is crucial to the democratic development of societies. Our research process aims to engage citizens as sovereign partners.

We operate transparently and promote the independence of data:

We advocate for the disclosure of urban data to make it more accessible. However, we also pledge for an ethical approach to personal data and know that data protection is essential for enabling collaborations.

We integrate artistic practices:

We create mixed realities and produce physical as well as virtual spaces. In the process, we pay attention to the design and aesthetics of our research as well as its results to inspire stakeholders to take action, to generate practical knowledge, and to make a large impact.

Multistakeholder Collaboration

Citizen Engagement

Digital Participation & Co-Creation

Citizen Science

Transdisciplinary Research


Narratives & Interfaces

Transmedia Storytelling

Experience Creation & Communication

Mapping & Visualization

Analysis & Production of Relations

Curating Qualitative & Quantitative Data

Data & Modelling

Open-source Tool Development

Exploratory Modelling

Data Ecosystems & Digital Urban Twins

Spatial Data Science & Machine Learning

Scenario Creation & Discovery



HafenCity University Hamburg
- CityScienceLab -
Henning-Voscherau-Platz 1
D-20457 Hamburg

You will find the CityScienceLab in the Elbarkaden: Hongkongstraße 8, 20457 Hamburg.

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