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DFG-Research training group "Urban future-making: Professional agency across time and scale"

The research training group (RTG) “Urban future-making: Professional agency across time and scale” is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and jointly organized by HafenCity Universität Hamburg (HCU) in cooperation with Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH) and Universität Hamburg (UHH). It investigates the agency of built environment professionals in the face of pressing challenges for transformative change. The project will join scholars and doctoral researchers from the social sciences and from academic disciplines related to the built environment.


Prof. Dr. Monika Grubbauer (Spokesperson) (History and Theory of the City)
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Annette Bögle (Design and Analysis of Structures)
Prof. Dott. Arch. Paolo Fusi (Architecture and Urban Design)
Prof. Dr. Gernot Grabher (Urban and Regional Economics)
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gesa Kapteina (Building Materials Technology)
Dr. Joachim Thiel (Urban and Regional Economics/Urban Planning)

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Carsten Gertz (Transport planning/mobility)

Prof. Dr. Katharina Manderscheid (Sociology)
Jun. Prof. Dr. Franziska Müller (Political Science)

An overview of the people and areas of expertise involved can be found here.

Urban areas have become crucial sites where aspired pathways towards desirable futures are imagined, forecasted and variably negotiated. Through the lens of “urban future-making”, the proposed research training group investigates the activities of experts and administrators who seek to respond to the expected threats and risks to urban societies with measures related to the urban built environment. The central question is how, or whether, reflexive and responsible professional agency with regard to urban future-making can be possible under present conditions of heightened uncertainty and multiple crises.

Here you can find the abstract.

The research training group will investigate strategies and interventions through which experts and administrators seek to respond to the expected threats to urban societies with measures related to the urban built environment. We specifically focus on the group of built environment professionals. We recognise these professionals as a highly diverse group of urban future-makers, operating in public administration, the private sector, the non-profit sector and in civil society initiatives. We maintain that their actions are shaped by fundamental temporal and scalar tensions.

A summary of the profile of the RTG is found here.

One the one hand, we see a temporal tension, as demands for transformative change clash with maintenance requirements of the existing urban fabric. On the other hand, we see a scalar tension, as the urgency to act requires taking into account a global context of multiple interdependencies whereas the urban built environment is place-bound and local. Against the conceptual backdrop of these temporal and scalar tensions, the research training group will investigate the agency of professionals in the interdisciplinary dialogue between reflection- and solution-oriented fields of research. By doing so, the training group will foster conceptual and methodological crossfertilisation across social sciences and built environment disciplines.

A summary of the research programme is found here.

The research training group is organized into three tracks. Track 1 “framings” focuses on the perspectives of the social sciences and asks which narratives serve to legitimate urgency and how problems are framed. Track 2 “strategies” builds on systematic exchange between reflection-oriented and solution-oriented approaches and investigates how professionals act in the face of heightened uncertainty to engender transformative change. Track 3 “interventions” focuses on the perspective of built environment disciplines. It examines the methodologies which allow professionals to take decisions and navigate evident urgencies in reflexive and responsible ways. Empirically, three forms of phenomena, i.e. labs, architectures and infrastructures, will be studied. These are currently mobilised and addressed in urban future-making as key sites, objects and vehicles of transformative change, each marked by distinct spatio-temporal modes of action.

An overview of the themes and guiding questions of the three tracks is found here.

Cooperation partner


Prof. Dr. Monika Grubbauer
HafenCity Universität Hamburg
Henning-Voscherau-Platz 1
20457 Hamburg
Tel: (040) 42827-5223
E-Mail: monika.grubbauer(at)hcu-hamburg.de