Skip to content

PhD projects

Pauline M. Bezemer

My PhD study intends to test the hypothesis that public indigenous housing estates in Sub Sahara cities represent an unmissable, though largely unknown aspect of 20th century Architecture History. 

Public housing for native citizens became a serious planning and design issue in large Sub-Sahara African cities from the 1920s. The material results mirror a unique hybrid of international dispersed concepts and locally-bound house building and dwelling practices; determined by the degree of resistance faced or not faced by foreign – colonial – models. It starts from the assumption that human and non-human actors equally determined the meant hybridization by meeting in a confrontation of power and – hidden – agendas. This fits within the supposed transfer-processes as part of a more global Architecture History. 

I will critically analyze and compare a selection of estates, planned and/or built between the 1920s and 1980s, in six different cities and countries. In order to identify, categorize and compare actors and agencies, I intend to apply external theoretical tools, within an architectural historical framework. The resulting, innovative method stimulates to organize the research as a methodological laboratory (1) and present its outcomes in a non-conventional way, as written texts but also as maps (GIS, reconstruction) and as actor-diagrams (2). The latter can serve as mediator between factual/mental history and future, sustainable interventions.

Arida Yasmin

Understanding the Historic Urban Landscape: the heritage of the railways and their impact on town planning in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia 1864 – 1949

The construction of the railway network in the Dutch East Indies, present-day Indonesia, began in 1864. It reflects the European influence during the triumph of western industrial technology in the nineteenth century and made Indonesia the first rail-dependent country in Southeast Asia. Although first introduced as a tool of empire, the railways soon developed into a reliable means of public transportation. It profoundly transformed the layout of cities and stimulated urban development, including population growth and urban expansion. Consequently, this phenomenon triggered architects and planners to alter the unplanned, unhygienic, and disorderly city into a more coherent, harmonious, and aesthetic one – it led to the gradual modernization of Dutch Indian town planning. Today, the heritage of the railways and their impact on urban planning create the framework for the future development and revitalization of Indonesia’s cities from the colonial periods. This calls for an urban management method based on the assessment of the cultural values of this heritage. The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach provides the theoretical basis – it integrates urban heritage values with sustainable development strategies. The purpose of this project is two-fold: a) to examine the impact of the rail infrastructure on architecture and town planning in the Dutch East Indies between 1864 and the end of the Dutch presence in 1949, and b) to understand the implementation of the railways and spatial heritage values to the current heritage practice, incorporating and adopting the latest developments (notably the HUL approach) in this rapidly evolving field.

Yufang Zhang

We are living in a time of continuing urbanization and increasing health challenges in urban areas. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities today, it is urgent to understand how the urban built environment impacts residents’ physical activity and health. Since the 1980s, the World Health Organization has proposed the “Healthy Cities” initiative, which has promoted many projects and practices in creating a healthier environment, such as the establishment of the National Healthy Cities Network of the Netherlands (Netwerk Gezonde Steden, in 1987) and the proposal of China’s “Healthy China 2030”. In thiscontext, my research analyzes the impact of the built environment on physical activity at a neighborhood level, given that the Neighborhood is of a geographical level that is closely connected with people’s daily living.

A thorough review of existing studies offered the evidence bases for this research. Even though many research on the relationship between the built environment and people’s behaviors and health have been undertaken in transportation, mobility, and health studies, the results remained inconclusive, thus a deeply explore is needed to reveal the underlying relationship. We first re-explored the built environment parameters which have been proven to be positively related to physical activity, for example, whether better street connectivity promotes people to do more physical activity such as walking and cycling? We also investigated how the built environment influences people’s health. Taking green areas as an example, dose people benefit from the quantity of green spaces, or the quality?

Built on the findings, we then took neighborhoods in both China and the Netherlands as study cases, to further explore the relationship between the built environment and physical activity. A combined framework of two major perspectives was taken, with a historical perspective to select the study cases and analyze the neighborhood forms, and a social-ecological perspective to look at a neighborhood as a whole social ecosystem rather than separate parts. In the end, learning from the Dutch experiences, recommendations were proposed for creating health-promoting neighborhoods in the Chinese and broader context.

Dina Dorothea

In my ongoing research I’m looking at emancipatory moments in GDR school construction. In the 1950s to 1970s education was valued as a means in transforming society. Schools and their architecture were considered a politically charged building assignment throughout different phases of history of the second German state. The school was considered to be part of a planned neighborhood which accommodated socialist every day life. The rise of new technologies, the placement of a political narrative within the Cold War and the reconciliation of family and work life were important issues. Although the authorities clung to the ideal of a centralized building type, this aim was never fully realized: regional solutions persisted and with them a variety of spatial concepts. Furthermore, the local population often participated in the planning and building process of their school.

Dogni Zhang

Use of social media data to characterize the Historic Urban Landscape

This research explores the use of social media data to urban landscape characterization by documenting the spatial distribution of tourist uses and perception of urban heritage. Via the hashtag #TraveInXi ‘an#, created by Weibo, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) data consisting of geo-referenced images will be collected. The analytical approach applies an online machine learning algorithm – Google Cloud Vision – to categorize Weibo’s photographs according to their content and analyze them according to their spatial distribution patterns. This analysis will identify the different hotspots in the historic city of Xi’an. Beyond a focus on hot and cold spots, the assessment of results will help understanding the perception of the environment and recognition of cultural value attributes by the visitors to the urban landscape and assessing the vulnerability of heritage attributes of urban areas to socio-economic pressures.

The proposed analytical framework will provide insights that may prove valuable for the management of urban heritage. Considering both user activities and vulnerability contents, to integrate urban heritage values and their vulnerability status into a wider framework of city development. It highlights the potential of social media data as a tool for generating, sharing, visualizing and communicating knowledge about citizens’ spatial uses and preferences. It is hereby considered that it will help to develop a better understanding of the usefulness and application of this rich data source to urban governance.

Key words: social media data, urban plan, Weibo, heritage conservation, HUL

Patrick Klinik

In this project, we aim to gain a better understanding of the complex entanglements between the design of the built environment and the health of citizens. Central to this research is an understanding of planning and designing that puts individuals and communities at the center of the evaluation and creation of the built environment, viewing cities and other urban agglomerations rather as living environments or adaptable habitats than fixed entities in which citizens are placed as helpless subjects. With a focus on lifestyles, we will explore the significance of the built condition of these environments in the daily lives of citizens, identifying the obstacles but also potentials that present themselves for their health on a daily basis. To this end, we will map the daily routines of citizens in terms of destinations, activities, distances, and modes of transportation, aiming at tracking down some of the factors of the built environment that (co-)determine the degree to which citizens can establish and sustain healthy lifestyles. As a starting point for this mapping, publicly available geodata will be used and complemented by more in-depth information from interviews with people in the field labs of HLaS (Appingedam, UMCG, Enschede, Bloiezones Friesland). To determine exactly where and when spatial and design factors have an impact on their behavior and well-being, participants will also be offered sensors for GPS data and heart rate. The theoretical framework for the research will be based on a thorough literature review in the areas of ‘Smart Cities’, ‘Healthy Cities’, and ‘Co-creation and Participation’.