Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective

Research Project

Future Cities Laboratory Singapore, Module V: Urban Sociology

Nao­mi Hana­ka­ta, Pas­cal Kal­len­ber­ger, Ozan Kara­man, Anne Kockel­korn, Lind­say Sawy­er, Chris­ti­an Schmid, Moni­ka Streu­le, Rob Sul­li­van, Tam­my Wong

The last two deca­des have seen a sharp increase in the speed, sca­le and scope of urba­niza­ti­on that has fun­da­men­tal­ly chan­ged the cha­rac­ter of the urban are­as. Tran­s­cen­ding various phy­si­cal bor­ders, poli­ti­cal juris­dic­tions and social sphe­res, urba­niza­ti­on has beco­me a pla­ne­ta­ry phe­no­me­non. While it is often assu­med that this phe­no­me­non leads inex­orab­ly to uni­form and undif­fe­ren­tia­ted cities, evi­dence shows that it also gives rise to sur­pri­sing forms of dif­fe­rence, diver­si­ty and varia­ti­on within and bet­ween urban are­as. This simul­ta­neous pro­li­fe­ra­ti­on and diver­si­fi­ca­ti­on of urban forms has important impli­ca­ti­ons for urban plan­ning and design. In the first ins­tance, it demands a more sup­p­le con­cep­tu­al frame­work that can both hold the pro­ces­ses of pla­ne­ta­ry urba­niza­ti­on and remain sen­si­ti­ve to the diver­si­fy­ing local mani­fes­ta­ti­ons. While many urban stu­dies have exami­ned par­ti­cu­lar cases in this emer­ging situa­ti­on, a com­pa­ra­ti­ve and syn­op­tic approach that cap­tures both glo­bal and local dimen­si­ons is still lacking.

This modu­le aims to redress this lack. It not only ana­ly­ses the emer­gence of new urban forms, but ela­bo­ra­tes the pro­ces­ses of urba­niza­ti­on to explain how gene­ral ten­den­ci­es are mate­ria­li­zed in spe­ci­fic places. Metho­do­lo­gi­cal­ly, the modu­le is struc­tu­red around com­pa­ra­ti­ve ana­ly­ses of pat­terns and pathways of urba­niza­ti­on. Nine metro­po­li­tan are­as are exami­ned as case stu­dies: Tokyo, Hong Kong / Pearl River Del­ta, Sin­ga­po­re, Kolk­a­ta, Istan­bul, Lagos, Paris, Mexi­co City, and Los Ange­les. It will do so by: first, deve­lo­ping a metho­do­lo­gi­cal frame­work for com­pa­ra­ti­ve ana­ly­sis; second, ana­ly­zing the mecha­nisms and dif­fe­ren­ces of pla­ne­ta­ry urba­niza­ti­on and estab­li­shing a typo­lo­gy of con­tem­po­ra­ry urba­niza­ti­on pro­ces­ses; and, third, exami­ning the ran­ge of pos­si­ble urban deve­lo­p­ment models and explo­ring their prac­ti­cal impli­ca­ti­ons. Spe­cial atten­ti­on will be given to the ana­ly­sis of urban poten­ti­als and the framing of pos­si­ble stra­te­gies for a sus­tainable urban development.

New artic­le

Towards a new vocabulary of urbanization processes: a comparative approach.

Schmid, Chris­ti­an, Kara­man, Ozan, Hana­ka­ta, Nao­mi, Kal­len­ber­ger, Pas­cal, Kockel­korn, Anne, Sawy­er, Lind­say, Streu­le, Moni­ka, Wong, Kit Ping (2017) Towards a new voca­bu­la­ry of urba­niza­ti­on pro­ces­ses: a com­pa­ra­ti­ve approach. Urban Stu­dies 55.1: 19–52.

» Down­load: Article

NSL Kolloquium Herbst 2016:

Planetary Urbanization in Comparative Perspective

Novem­ber 11, 2016, 13:00 — 19:00


It is a gre­at plea­su­re to announ­ce the upco­ming NSL Kol­lo­qui­um which offers the gre­at oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet two excep­tio­nal scho­lars and rese­ar­chers in urban stu­dies: Abdo­u­Ma­liq Simo­ne and Wing Shing Tang. In the second part of the event we will pre­sent in detail our com­pa­ra­ti­ve rese­arch pro­ject that we con­duc­ted in the last five years in the frame­work of the ETH Future Cities Labo­ra­to­ry Sin­ga­po­re. We are loo­king for­ward to sha­ring with you an after­noon full of inte­res­t­ing insights and deba­tes.
Chris­ti­an Schmid, Urban Socio­lo­gy, Depart­ment of Archi­tec­tu­re, NSL, ETH Zurich

Planetary Urbanization

In the last deca­des, urba­niza­ti­on has beco­me a pla­ne­ta­ry phe­no­me­non. Urban are­as expand and inter­wea­ve, and novel forms of urba­niza­ti­on emer­ge. In this pro­cess, new urban con­fi­gu­ra­ti­ons are con­stant­ly evol­ving. The­r­e­fo­re, an ade­qua­te under­stan­ding of pla­ne­ta­ry urba­niza­ti­on must deri­ve its empi­ri­cal and theo­re­ti­cal inspi­ra­ti­ons from the multi­tu­de of urban expe­ri­en­ces across the various divi­des that shape our con­tem­po­ra­ry world. Urba­niza­ti­on has to be con­side­red an open pro­cess, deter­mi­ned as much by exis­ting struc­tures as well as by con­stant inno­va­ti­on and inven­ti­ve­ness. This NSL Kol­lo­qui­um pres­ents dif­fe­rent rese­arch per­spec­ti­ves on recent urban developments.


Abdo­u­Ma­liq Simo­ne is an urba­nist and rese­arch pro­fes­sor at the Max Planck Insti­tu­te for the Stu­dy of Reli­gious and Eth­nic Diver­si­ty and visi­ting pro­fes­sor of socio­lo­gy at Golds­mit­hs Col­lege, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don. He has work­ed for three deca­des with prac­ti­ces of social inter­ch­an­ge, cogni­ti­on, local eco­no­my, and the con­sti­tu­ti­on of power rela­ti­ons that affect how hete­ro­ge­neous Afri­can and Sou­the­ast Asi­an cities are lived. His work deals with a mul­ti­pli­ci­ty of pro­po­si­ti­ons and capa­ci­ties for rela­ti­onships that remain untap­ped in popu­lar dis­tricts across urban Asia and Afri­ca, even though they are deploy­ed everyday.

Wing Shing Tang has a Ph.D. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, Eng­land. He is a pro­fes­sor at the Bap­tist Uni­ver­si­ty of Hong Kong whe­re he tea­ches Urban Geo­gra­phy and Plan­ning. His rese­arch is on glo­ba­liza­ti­on and Chi­ne­se cities, urban plan­ning in Hong Kong, Shen­zhen, Guang­zhou, Shang­hai and Bei­jing. He enga­ges, beneath other approa­ches, with Hen­ri Lefebvre’s theo­ry of the pro­duc­tion of space. In his talk he argues that Hong Kong has a distin­gu­is­ha­ble path of urba­niza­ti­on inflic­ted by Bri­tish colo­nia­lism, yet in a space regu­la­ted by the Chi­ne­se spa­ti­al admi­nis­tra­ti­ve hier­ar­chy of town-within-coun­try and cus­to­ma­ry land practices.

Comparative Urbanism

The second part of the col­lo­qui­um pres­ents an encom­pas­sing insight into the work and the results of the rese­arch pro­ject Pla­ne­ta­ry Urba­niza­ti­on in Com­pa­ra­ti­ve Per­spec­ti­ve con­duc­ted in the frame­work of the ETH Future Cities Labo­ra­to­ry Sin­ga­po­re. It is a com­pa­ra­ti­ve stu­dy of urba­niza­ti­on pro­ces­ses in eight lar­ge metro­po­li­tan are­as across the world: Tokyo, Sin­ga­po­re, Hong Kong / Shen­zhen / Donggu­an, Kolk­a­ta, Istan­bul, Lagos, Paris, Mexi­co City, and Los Ange­les. Accor­ding to the broad sam­ple of cities brought tog­e­ther in this rese­arch, a spe­ci­fic metho­do­lo­gi­cal design was appli­ed main­ly based on qua­li­ta­ti­ve methods and a spe­ci­fi­cal­ly deve­lo­ped method of map­ping. The main goal of this pro­ject is an ana­ly­sis and com­pa­ri­son of the varie­ga­ted pat­terns and pathways of pla­ne­ta­ry urba­niza­ti­on in order to deve­lop a new voca­bu­la­ry that allows a bet­ter under­stan­ding and appre­hen­ding of the con­tem­po­ra­ry urban con­di­ti­on. In the cour­se of this pro­ject, which is now in its final stages, the rese­arch team deve­lo­ped a series of new cate­go­ries of urba­niza­ti­on. It will pre­sent and dis­cuss the fol­lo­wing cate­go­ries: popu­lar urba­niza­ti­on, plot­ting deve­lo­p­ment, bypass urba­nism, mul­ti­laye­red patch­work urba­niza­ti­on, incor­po­ra­ti­on of urban dif­fe­ren­ces, and mass housing urbanization.

Rese­arch team: Nao­mi Hana­ka­ta, Pas­cal Kal­len­ber­ger, Ozan Kara­man, Anne Kockel­korn, Lind­say Sawy­er, Chris­ti­an Schmid, Moni­ka Streu­le, Rob Sul­li­van, Tam­my Kit Ping Wong

Regis­tra­ti­on by 3. Novem­ber: Clau­dia Gebert, gebert@nsl.ethz.ch

Detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: The NSL col­lo­quia are a bi-annu­al pre­sen­ta­ti­on of excep­tio­nal work under a rota­ting the­me deter­mi­ned by the invi­ting professor.

tokyo hongkongcomparing comparisons

Fri­day, Sep­tem­ber 26, 2014 – ETH Zürich

Panel Dis­cus­sion:


Stra­te­gies for Under­stan­ding Urba­niza­ti­on in the 21st Century

Modu­le Workshop:


Theo­re­ti­cal and Metho­do­lo­gi­cal Perspectives

The event con­sits of a panel dis­cus­sion and a work­shop and is part of the Future Cities Labo­ra­to­ry 2014 Exhi­bi­ti­on and Sym­po­si­um, 24–26 Sep­tem­ber 2014. For fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on plea­se visit www.futurecities.ethz.ch

Comparative Urbanisms – Research Conference Singapore – 7 February 2013

 comparative urbanisms

Con­fe­rence Program

Planetary Urbanization – Summer School – 9 July 2012

planetary urbanization summer school 1planetary urbanization summer school 2

Planetary Urbanization – Research Conference – 30–31 January 2012

planetary urbanization research conference


Global Urbanization in Comparative Perspektive – Summer School – 11–16 July 2011

global urbanization in camparative perspektive