Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies


The Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies was founded with the aim of an interdisciplinary perspective to catch the complexity of cities. Therefore, research activities and projects within the Georg-Simmel Center are based in different academic disciplines.

Current Projects



Past Projects


Current Projects


Urban Paradoxes in Times of Crisis


State interventions oscillate between control & care, also in the current pandemic: (new) control measures are implemented for the protection of the population. Partners in São Paulo, Santiago, Abidjan, Barcelona & Berlin use their expertise on contexts of different authoritarian - & democratic regimes to develop a research agenda that explores this tension. The focus is on the consequences for urban citizenship & inequality of health opportunities.


Corona Crisis and Beyond - Perspective fpr Science, Scholarship and Society: Urban Citizenship-Making at Times of Crisis


We are pleased to announce that we will start another project in 2021 on the social and political consequences of the Corona crisis in the urban context. The focus will be on the role of neighborhood organizations in providing access to information and resources under pandemic conditions, especially for migrants. The project is comparative and will work with case studies in Berlin, Copenhagen and Tel Aviv. The aim is to take into account different frameworks for local action.

It is led by Dr Henrik Lebuhn (Berlin), Dr Nir Cohen (Tel Aviv) and Dr Tatiana Fogelman (Copenhagen). The project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and runs within the program focus "Corona Crisis and Beyond - Perspectives for Science, Scholarship and Society".


Berlin Center for Global Engagement, Inaugural Call, Berlin Univerity Alliance: Modern Heritage to Future Legacy: Conservation and Conversion of Modern Industrial Heritage Sites as an Integral Part of Urban Development in the Middle East: The Case of Iran and Egypt. 


Relics of modern architecture and urbanism are playing a crucial role in shaping new urban identities that integrate historic structures and search for more comprehensive outlook on quality of lives. In 2001, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) and DOCOMOMO (Working Party for the Documentation and onservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) launched a joint program for the documentation and promotion of the built heritage of the 19th and 20th century, recognizing their cultural value. The vast majority of cities in the Middle East experienced major growth periods in this period, partly under foreign rule. Functional and industrial structures especially bear witness to this highly productive and politically complex intertwining of the flow of resources and ideas between what is now termed the Global North and Global South.

Yet they remain a neglected part of urban heritage. Changes in global and national economic structure have made many sites redundant while their pragmatic and non-representative status has precluded them from entering maintstream debates so far.


Project partners are: Tarbiat Modares University, Iran

Dr. habil. PD Heike Oevermann (GSZ, Humboldt-University zu Berlin)

Dr. Hassan Elmouelhi (TU Berlin Campus El Gouna)

Martin Meyer, M.Sc. (TU Berlin Campus El Gouna)


Cost Action Network Project: CA18204: Dynamics of placemaking and digitalization in Europe's cities


This action will explore how place-making activities such as public art, civic urban design, and local knowledge production reshape and reinvent public space and enhance citizen participation in urban planning and design. Placemaking implies the multiplication and fragmentation of actors that shape public space. The aim of the action is to enable citizens to contribute to different ways of interpreting local identities in European cities through citizen knowledge, digitalization and placemaking. The added value of digitization-here essentially understood as the ongoing process of transforming any kind of data from an analog to a digital format (Jannidis/Kohle/Rehbein 2018:179)-is analyzed in terms of how it affects urban placemaking processes of local communities. By examining the urban placemaking and digital practices of different local communities in cities across Europe, this action will understand and analyze the processes of urban placemaking:

  • The impact of digitalization on the shared placemaking practices of urban communities,
  • The changing processes of local knowledge production by citizens in placemaking,
  • The impact of digitalization on the governmentality of local neighborhoods and the co-creation of public space by different social actors.

Based on recent theoretical findings that point to the importance of placemaking, the expansion of citizen*s knowledge, and the broader application of digitization and digital communication, the action seeks to develop new methods for studying and comparing the impact of the diffusion of local urban knowledge across cultural and social boundaries. In this way, it advances European urban research both theoretically and methodologically by finding ways to incorporate the results into the broader urban planning and management processes. 


Open Heritage: Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment

The management of heritage assets has become a significant concern in urban development. With a long-standing experience in this research topic, the Georg-Simmel-Center for Metropolitan Studies partners in the international project „Open Heritage: Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment” from June 2018 to May 2022. The project promotes the re-use of neglected, non-touristic heritage sites by providing a replicable and adaptable management model and building heritage communities around them. The EU supports the European consortium of 16 partner institutions through the funding line of Horizon2020 with a total of about 5 million Euros.

Four objectives guide this international endeavor: (i) the project wants to combine concerns of social inclusion, community building and heritage protection. (ii) Operating with an open definition of heritage, it seeks to overcome the gap between listed and non-listed heritage. (iii) “Open Heritage” supports cooperation between communities, policy makers, academia and various stakeholders. (iv) Tools are to be created that support the sustainable management of heritage assets in the project and beyond.

Building on their expertise in urban heritage studies, two scholars represent the GSZ in this European consortium. GSZ’s Vice-Director Dr. Heike Oevermann and Dr. Markus Kip, member of the Urban Research Group on Urban Commons, will focus on the methodological challenge of transfering insights from European case studies to practice. A management model will be co-created and tested in six “Cooperative Heritage Labs” that are ongoing projects, implemented under the consultancy of consortium partners.


Converting historic textile-industry complexes in European cities: A typology of urban spatial structures of textile-industry complexes, and best conservation and enhancement practices for their conversion

Converting historic industrial complexes is a new and important task in many European cities. Architectural and planning practices show that historic industrial complexes are composed of urban spatial structures that might be conserved and enhanced during conversion to new uses. For research, the question arises, of what constitutes best practice for conservation and enhancement when converting historic industrial complexes. Best practice will be discussed and identified on basis of five criteria coming from debates in architecture and conservation.


The research project will achieve two aims:

  1. To identify the historic urban spatial structures of textile-industry complexes. Accordingly, a typology will be developed, with contribution to historic urban design research.
  2. To identify best practice in converting historic industrial complexes the following questions will be answered: How are the conservation and enhancement of historic urban spatial structures handled in practice? Design and planning practices will be comparatively analyzed and best-practice will be identified (contribution to discourse on architecture).


The project will analyze 25 representative case studies from European cities, focus lies on case studies of conversion of former spinning and weaving mills of eight textile cities. Some further case studies function as reference group. The cases will be systematically captured through data sheets/catalogue and comparative analysis. Additionally, the findings will be discussed in terms of their relevance for monument protection and urban development. The research builds on the DFG project: Historical industrial architecture and conflicting objectives of urban development, creative industries and architectural production (MI 788/4-1,2).


Past Projects

DFG-Research-Project: Urban Development and UNESCO-World Heritage: Transformation of Industrial Sites (2017 untill 2018)

The DFG research project studied transformation processes of historic industrial architecture of four cases in Europe (DFG-Projekt: MI 788 4-1,2). The research question was how to bridge conflicts between monument protection, urban development, creative industries, and contemporary architecture. This project showed, among other findings, firstly, that monument protection and urban development can be understood as distinct discourses and, secondly, how so-called bridging values (e.g. accessibility, conservation, development) support to resolve conflicts between discourses. The DFG knowledge-transfer project applies findings about discourse interactions between cultural heritage and urban development planning to heritage management of the UNESCO-World Heritage Site Industrial Complex Zollverein, Germany. Since the IBA Emscher Park (1989-1999) Zollverein has been holding a pioneer role in setting standards for industrial heritage management from a national and international point of view. Co-operation partner is the Foundation Zollverein (Stiftung Zollverein) that is responsible for the site. The integration of concerns of conserving a listed heritage site with urban development planning is one main task of heritage management and is assessed through best practices. The knowledge-transfer project supports the definition and documentation of an exemplary industrial heritage management, which is not worked out so far.

The work program includes:
(i) a process: in cooperation with Foundation Zollverein criteria for best practice will be defined and a toolkit for heritage management developed;
(ii) a product: main product is a web-based collection of best practices, displaying best practices in the heritage management of Zollverein and reflect them with findings and experiences from the national and international discussion on heritage management (Oevermann, Mieg 2015);
(iii) as a scientific feedback: to deepen knowledge about (sustainable) urban transformation processes (cf. Mieg, Töpfer 2013). Process and product both include an extension option with regard to further industrial heritage sites. The results of the project should contribute to advance post-graduate education at the Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Specific objectives of the knowledge-transfer project are:
 1. Practical task: to develop a toolkit for heritage management and best practices collection, furthermore to care for the long-term use of the web-based best practices collection.
2. Applied research: to research into how to integrate heritage management and (sustainable) urban development planning in the context of urban transformation processes.

Prof. Dr. Harald A. Mieg (Department of Geography, HU Berlin) is the project manager and is working togehter with Dr. Heike Oevermann (Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies).


Research Project: Claiming the Public Space: Urban Interventions and the Shift from Vertical to Horizontal Urban Planning (2016 untill 2018)

Main goal of the research project 'Claiming the public space: Urban interventions and the shift from vertical to horizontal urban planning' is the analysis of conflicts around and in urban public spaces based on an empirical research of urban interventions developed and implemented by organized groups of activists and professionals (artists, historians, sociologists, etc.) in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In the framework of this project urban interventions are understood as tools of a new approach to urban development. Urban interventions mean a challenge both for the practice and for the agents of vertical urban planning, and they entail an approach for horizontal urban planning.

Urban interventions imply the multiplication and fragmentation of agents claiming access to the urban public space. New forms of urban action performed by multiple agents not only can lead to a resolution of classical conflicts rooted in the hierarchical forms of urban planning and design, but they can also bring about a horizontal urban development, which is characterized by increasingly liquefying structures. Thus, a further aim of this project is to investigate the potential, power and effect of urban interventions in the process of urban development, moreover to study their impact on the classical hierarchical forms of urban planning and design in various European and non-European cities.

This project is a cooperation project of the Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies (GSZ), TACT (International Research on Art and the City) and CISR (Centre for independent Social research). Dr. Eszter Gantner (Department of Ethnology HU Berlin, GSZ), Dr. Oleg Pachenkov (Open Urban Labaratory, CISR, Sankt-Petersburg) and Dr. Heike Oevermann (GSZ) work from 2016 till 2018 on this project.

The project is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Research Group Linkage Programme.

Research Project: SEiSMiC (2013 untill 2016)

With the support of the EU-Project SEiSMiC this project based on the Department of European Ethnology develops a network for social innovation in urban spaces.

Project Management: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba, Prof. Dr. Jörg Niewöhner

Research Assistent: Christoph Sommer


DFG-Research-Project: Transformations of historical Industrial Sites in the City (2011 untill 2014)

The management of industrial heritage sites requires rethinking in the context of urban change, and the issue of how to balance protection, preservation/conservation, and development becomes all the more crucial as industrial heritage sites grow in number. This brings into play new challenges—not only through the known conflicts between monument preservation and contemporary architecture but also with the increasing demand for economic urban development by reusing the built heritage of former industrial sites.


The DFG Project 'Industrial Heritage and divergent' aims of urban development, creative economy and architecture production. With the method of discourse analysis Prof. Harald A. Mieg und Dr. Heike Oevermann work in this project from 2011 to 2014. Co-operation partner is Prof. Johannes Cramer from the Technische Universität Berlin. Sub-projects are: Cities and Change and Challenge: urban development, architecture and industrial heritage sites in European cities and Synchronic discoures analysis.






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