11th AESOP Young Academics Conference
10 April - 13 April 2017
Technical University of Munich
Munich, Germany




Between 10 and 13 April 2017, The Chair of Urban Development at the Architecture Department of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) will host this year's edition of the international AESOP Young Academics Conference in Munich. AESOP is the Association of European Schools of Planning, and the Young Academics conference is the largest gathering of young scholars – PhD students and PostDocs – from urban planning and other related fields in Europe, which attracts researchers from all European countries and beyond.

We encourage inter-/multi-disciplinary contributions on the conference theme that present empirical research and/or theoretical discussions. We invite PhD students, post-docs, early-stage career researchers but also young activists or practitioners to submit their contributions to the YA Conference.

The conference is a four-day event around the successful frame developed by the YA: four keynote talks, two parallel tracks for presentation of 40-50 papers by young academics, as well as workshops and roundtables.

The conference is free of charge for participants whose abstract was accepted. The track chairs will decide on a best paper prize to be awarded, which has the chance to be published in DISP - The Planning Review.


Theme: Planning and Entrepreneurship

Widespread scepticism towards planning and technocratic government interventions on behalf of businesses and the public has led the discipline in crisis, from which it has not fully recovered. Entrepreneurs, in the form of commercial and civil initiatives are sometimes filling the void that planning leaves - hence, we embrace a 'wide' definition of 'entrepreneurship'. At the same time, technological innovations are accelerating social change. It is time for new planning theories and practices.The Young Academics community is a particularly suitable forum to discuss these trends.

Europe has left the years of rapid economic growth and large city expansions long behind, and its cities are facing new challenges of urban quality improvement, the management of economic stagnation, increasing social inequality and environmental change under the condition of a shift of power from governments to local stakeholders and global players. Also outside of Europe, the focus of action is increasingly changing from developing the new to transforming the existing.
While most planners are aware of these new challenges, their response suffers from inadequate instruments and concepts. Many planning systems have been established to respond to the challenges of rapid modern urban development. In the case of Europe, planning had its heyday after the destruction of its cities during the Second World War, with the aim to create healthier, lighter, more efficient cities on the rubble of the old. Planning has often strived for desirable end-states, neglecting the fact that what appears to be worthwhile today, may not be desirable for future generations. And indeed, large parts of the public haven’t been thankful for the planning efforts of the past, instead planning has been penalised and marginalised.

Avoiding the mistakes of the past requires a new paradigm of focussing on the transforming, the fluid, and the temporary. Perhaps, planning must embrace a new entrepreneurial spirit? The conference invites young planners, who try to push forward the discipline of urban planning. Is there a Silicon Valley for planning? Can there be a new generation of urban pioneers? Are economists really “the enemy” for planners (Kunzmann, 2015)? Of course, abstracts that are critical of the term 'entrepreneurship' and what is commonly associated with it are very welcome!


Tracks, Workshops and Debates

Track 1 – Entrepreneurial Theories and Economies of Planning

Track chair: Prof. Dr. em. Klaus Kunzmann

Shifting the planner’s focus from desirable future states to the transformation process requires an entrepreneurial perspective. With increasing frequency, planners are situated in complex stakeholder environments, in which steering urban development becomes further out of reach than ever. Planning through regulations makes way for planning through incentives and skilful combination of funding sources. At the same time, the still ongoing financial crisis demonstrates the shortcomings of market-based mechanisms with little state control. Will planners need to take on more managerial, communicative, and enabling roles, or will we see a resurgence of more hierarchical modes of planning?


Track 2 – Technological Innovation for Planning Practice and Research

Track chair: Prof Richard Kingston

Technology has decisively shaped our society in recent years. It has become ubiquitous in our personal and professional life and tech companies move quickly into the market of urban planning and governance, sometimes with naïve assumptions about the engineering of space. From large-scale, often business-led “Smart City” initiatives to small technology start-ups, the exploitation of spatially referenced big data will change urban research and planning. In which way can planners react to, benefit from, or become part of this development? This track invites on the one hand papers exploring the technological potential of the future in applied cases, but also theoretical papers discussing critically the implications for our discipline and society in general.


Track 3 – Public Space as the Facilitator for Urban Innovation

Track chair: Assoc. Prof. Dr. phil. Sabine Knierbein

Design plays a crucial role for the innovation process. It is the thoughtful combination of technical, social and organisation elements into a fun-to-use product or service. Companies are successful, if they do not sell the mere functionality but an experience. The same can be stated about the urban environment: A street or a square does not only represent a means to move in space, but also a sphere in which public life takes place. More and more private investors have understood the importance of place qualities and invested in the design of public spaces. Hereby, private enterprises become providers of urban space. This track invites papers, which critically explore the shift from state-driven provision of urban environments to privately funded public space and the role of urban design.


Track 4 – Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship for Urban Planning

Track chair: Prof. Dr. phil. Ignacio Farías

Where urban planning fails to fulfil the needs of today’s urban societies, bottom-up initiatives are nowadays quick to fill the resulting void. This do-it-yourself urbanism can take many forms, from guerrilla gardening, squatting, or more formalised self-organisation of civil society on a diverse range of issues, to commercial businesses that also exploit new technological possibilities. Planning often has an ambiguous relationship to such initiatives: Should they be supported and encouraged, tactically used, or should they be confronted? Or should they be left alone? This track tries to explore the emerging and volatile relationships between entrepreneurial urban initiatives and formalised planning.


The conference will offer two parallel workshops catered towards PhD researchers as well as practitioners and postdocs. In the early stage of research, methodological questions are crucial for success in research. Planning draws increasingly often from other fields of interdisciplinary research. Science and technology studies have been especially influential over the past year. Together with the TUM Munich Centre for Technology in Society (MCTS), we will organise a workshop on actor-network-theory (ANT) and research methodology in architecture and urban planning in planning.

At the final stages of doctoral research, many might wonder, how to utilise the findings in practice – besides a career in academia or planning practice, some might also think about developing their own business idea or to change existing practice. UnternehmerTUM helps young researchers to turn research inventions into practical innovations. In this workshop, participants can learn to develop a business idea out of their own research.

AESOP Young Academics Roundtable

The Young Academics network within AESOP is still growing and now has more than 1400 registered members - PhD students, young PostDocs and practitioners. At The Young Academics roundtable event, organised by the YA coordination team, current issues of the Young Academics network are debated.

Best Paper Prize and Publication

As in the previous years, the track chairs will jointly decide to award a best paper prize among all entries to the conference that are marked by the authors to be considered. The awarded paper, along with other nominated papers, has the chance to be published in DISP - The Planning Review.