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1) “GLOBAL: Relational cities and enclave urbanism in the 'Singapores of the West'. How niche-sovereignty strategies and political economy help minor metropolises to globalise. The cases of Geneva (CH) and Luxembourg (L)”

This project is funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR), Luxembourg, and commenced in May 2016. GLOBAL complements previous research undertaken in the domains of sustainable development in general and regional governance in particular (see the research projects SUSTAINLUX and SUSTAIN_GOV), and it adds to our research trajectory on the link between city-regions and flows. These flows include not only material flows, but also the circulation of money or political ideas, and it specifically aims to link concepts of relational cities with a new understanding of how urban space is organised and governed.

The project addresses three main issues. First, the research deals with the increasing degree of global integration of local places, an integration that is not related to their economic or population size but which is an outcome of their specialisation and the politics of niche-sovereignty. This will be done by drawing on the idea of relational cities and the example of three cities: Luxembourg, Geneva and Singapore. Second, the project emphasises the urban-regional implications of the integration of these cities into global processes, with particular attention being paid to the emergence of specialised locales that are rather distinct and, in locational terms, separated from others. Here, it is the concept of enclave urbanism that will be mobilised to frame the development and implications of actually existing enclaves in the three relational cities investigated. And third, the project will interrogate the links between the macro-scale notion of the relational city and the meso-level concept of enclave urbanism by exploring how both of these imply similar governance attitudes and practices. This is being done by juxtaposing the traditions, beliefs and dilemmas of the key actors involved in both the original development of the case study cities as relational and of those responsible for the generation of enclave urbanism.

By investigating three enclave spaces in each of the three relational cities, the project will both strengthen the central concepts, develop a theoretical link between them on the basis of governance practices and generate insights on the three cities and their urban systems. In so doing, it will also contribute to detect both the “other” in globalisation, which is its local or regional imprint, and also the processes and dynamics that are going on “out there”, and study the manifold forms in which these two are linked together.

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Markus Hesse (; Post-doc research collaborator: Dr. Catherine Wong (

2) “Contemporary Suburbs – from ‘slum speak’ to life-cycle approaches” 

The research deals with spatial inequality, growth and decline in the case of suburban areas, in the first instance in the U.S., but also in Western Europe. Starting point was the observation that a substantial proportion of older, inner-ring suburbs in North American metropolitan areas now suffer from degradation and decay, as inner cities did before. Given most recent developments on the real estate market, even newer sub- and exurban areas have experienced abrupt decline, due to imploding “subprime” mortgages and the effects of related foreclosures. Against this background, my research explored the Stockton Metropolitan Area in Northern California as a case study. (Stockton was one of the places most severely hit by the credit crunch nationwide and reveals both structural adaptation and more acute, abrupt changes). The findings of the case study are discussed in the context of cycles of urban change and the need for regenerating suburban areas as a core component of the North American city. A scientific paper had been published in the Geographische Zeitschrift (GZ) 99, 2008 (effectively appeared in 2010).

A related extension of the project was undertaken in order to explore Western European, notably German cases facing comparable problems due to life-cycle changes – while being aware that they are considered completely different in terms of socioeconomic framework conditions, urban setting and governance or regulation. The project was commissioned by the Federal Research Institute of Building, Urban and Spatial Research (BBSR), Bonn, and jointly conducted with Professor Christa Reicher from the Technical University of Dortmund and her staff members. The full report was published online on behalf of the BBSR and also as a book by Asso-Publishers, Oberhausen, Germany. A recent summary of the findings appeared in German in the paper “Suburbia – quo vadis”, co-authored by M. Hesse, I. Mecklenbrauck, J. Polivka and C. Reicher, inInformationen zur Raumentwicklung3.2016, pp. 533-545.

3) “Observatoire  Belval” (emerging, see more information HERE , German readers see HERE )

4) Book “Cities, regions and flows” (Peter V. Hall/Markus Hesse, eds., Routledge Publishers, Oxford 2012)

Urban regions have always been significant nodes for organizing the exchange of goods, services and information. Cities have also acted as gateways for providing commodities and services to more distant hinterlands. However, the ability of cities to concentrate services and facilities – once a key factor of urbanization – has been subject to change. This is, first, a consequence of the shift from a rather place-bound economic system towards a strongly flow-oriented network economy, which evolved against the background of new technologies and globalization. Second, increasingly diversified patterns of urbanization have contributed to the emergence of metropolitan city-regions and also to a repositioning of cities in the urban system. Operating at both the inter- and intra-urban scales, together these changes suggest that the heightened flows act both as integrative and disintegrative forces shaping cities. Driving and responding to such changes, new logistics concepts and practices have been developed, connecting the interrelated but often dispersed locales of production and consumption.

Yet the fundamental role of physical flows, networks and chains in city-formation has long been overlooked by researchers. More recently, interest in these issues has increased, emphasising port development, linkages between world cities and air travel, and the changing geographies of freight distribution. This literature too emphasises the twin processes of integration and disintegration that result from goods movement within and through urban space. “Cities, regions and flows” ties these debates together in a single volume and presents a theoretical framework for understanding the changing relationship between places and movement, and thoughtfully prepared case studies from different continents on how cities manage to become part of value chains and how they ensure accessibility in an increasingly contested policy environment. Moreover, it will be discussed how urban policies attempt to solve related conflicts in terms of infrastructure provision, land use, local labour markets and environmental sustainability.

Book link                     Book review links

5) Focal firms and grand coalitions as global city makers: globalisation vs. new localism in Hamburg’s maritime network

Port cities and port institutions are traditionally viewed as core agents of globalization. In this respect, the case of Hamburg, Germany, is characterized by a strong sense of local players for global issues, trying to generate local benefits as much as possible. However, related policies have come under increasing pressure of global competition. Maritime services tend to be increasingly fluid, de-coupling their traditional links to the mainport. As a paradigmatic case in this respect, the “Albert Ballin Konsortium” is being investigated further. The Konsortium was founded by the city, banks, insurances and private investors in 2008, in order to ensure local stakes in theHapag-Lloydshipping line and to avoid its takeover by a global competitor. For this purpose, the city invested more than €1bn Euros of public money in 2008 and 2012, claiming that the shipping line would be essential for Hamburg’s maritime cluster and thus require local control. Such attempts however appear rather limited, given the overarching topology of the maritime services networks. Against this background the research discusses local frames of globalization and the extent and legitimacy of state intervention.

This research adds to my participation in the OECD’s Port-Cities Programme and evolved from the case study on port and city of Hamburg, Germany. A recent post on our blog provides interested readers with more information and also a link to the OECD-Programme and related documents.    

Last updated on: 24 oct 2016