Foto: micharl_foto/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0/

_New Possibilities for Research and Archives _Contemporary Witnesses in Research on Urban History _Facebook as a Forum for Debates on Urban Design _Researching and Experiencing Urban Authenticity _Citizen Science in Archival Work

Foto:Christian Müller/
Research on Society and Space

Research at the IRS is focused on the spatial aspects and contexts of social action. In doing so, spatial phenomena are explored in terms of both processual and historical dimensions using social-scientific methods.

Foto: Andreas Berheide/

The Research Area examines how spaces are constructed and transformed by interactive, innovative, creative, knowledge-based and entrepreneurial activity. It focuses on the complex interaction of civil society, public and private sector actors.

Foto: Animaflora PicsStock/

The Research Area analyses the political negotiation, planning and transformation of the social and spatial development of cities and regions. It primarily examines the governance of increasingly uncertain, complex and ambiguous constellations.

Foto: Andreas Praefcke /Eigenes Werk/CC BY 3.0/

The Research Area addresses problems of design, planning and appropriation of spaces in recent history. The focus is laid on the history of urbanisation, architecture and urban planning in the GDR, the significance of materiality in the historical transformation of the built environment, and cross-border cooperation in spatial development.


20. December | 2022
21st IRS International Lecture on Society and Space with Sami Moisio, University of Helsinki

The 21st International Lecture of the IRS addressed the topic of the ‘Colonial Geopolitics of the „Global“ Knowledge Economy’. In the talk, Professor Sami Moisio of the University of Helsinki proposed to debunk economic centered perspectives on the knowledge economy by advancing a geopolitical understanding of the knowledge economy as a political productive ‘technology-force’. Or in other words: as a performative vision of the future which valorizes certain types of knowledge as key drivers of economic growth. This is an important lens to look through, as it can help to highlight how the distribution and control of knowledge underlying the expansion of capitalism – through high technology sectors, start-up entrepreneurs, universities, consultancies, international organizations, nation states, local states etc. – is geographically unevenly distributed. more info

26. October | 2022

On 19 September 2022, the symposium and final conference on the BMBF-funded research project "From Shrinkage to Immigration. New Perspectives for Peripheral Large Housing Estates", or "StadtumMig" for short, took place in Berlin. Together with the Institute for Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR) in Dresden, the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM) and the B.B.S.M. Brandenburgische Beratungsgesellschaft für Stadterneuerung und Modernisierung mbH, the IRS had investigated local integration policies, open space development, the need for adaptation of the social infrastructure, the prospects for people to stay and the opening of urban societies to newly arrived refugees in large housing estates in eastern Germany. The project has now entered a two-year implementation and continuation phase. more info

29. September | 2022
A Look Back at the International IRS Summer School 2022

The five-day summer school "The Socialist City: Planning, Transformation and Aftermath" at the beginning of August 2022 dealt with matters of urban planning and housing construction from a comparative perspective. Participants discussed both urban planning and housing policy issues in the context of the Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia and with counter-examples from France. Excursions in former East Berlin to the focal points of urban planning and architecture in Karl-Marx-Allee (former Stalinallee), monument protection (Nikolaiviertel and Gendarmenmarkt) and state surveillance (Hohenschönhausen) gave the researchers additional insights into the topic. more info

01. September | 2022

Media professionals interested in the development of cities, villages and regions now have the opportunity to work for two months at a spatial research-oriented Leibniz institute on a topic of their choice. They have the resources of the institution at their disposal for research. In addition, they can get to know spatial research activities from the inside in close exchange with scientists. The work is remunerated by a scholarship funded by the Leibniz Association. The first host institution is the Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association (ARL) in Hanover. more info

New Publications

13. November | 2022

arge parts of the old building stock in the GDR were in catastrophic condition in the late 1980s. The state leadership did not succeed in preserving these inner-city neighbourhoods of old buildings on a large scale. In the last years of the GDR, citizens' groups, mostly under the umbrella of the church or the Kulturbund, fought against this decay. The work of these citizens' groups as well as other reform actors, their successes as well as how they and the old towns were dealt with in the transformation period after 1989 are analysed in an anthology co-edited by Harald Engler and with the participation of other IRS staff members of the "Stadtwende" project. more info

22. September | 2022

Climate change is not perceived, understood and evaluated in the same way everywhere. Accordingly, the practices of dealing with it differ considerably. Today, such climate-cultural differences are found less between nation states than between different groups of actors and socio-political coalitions. A new anthology edited by Thorsten Heimann, Jamie Sommer, Margarethe Kusenbach and Gabriela Christmann focuses on such "climate cultural formations" and their great diversity in North America and Europe: from cultures of climate adaptation in rural areas of Southern Europe and among the indigenous population of Northern Europe to culture-specific strategies for more climate protection in German cities or in the southern states of the USA. more info

29. August | 2022
Two New Articles Show, how Cities Become Forerunners of Climate Policy

Two new articles from the Research Group Urban Sustainability Transformations shed light on how cities are becoming pioneers in climate policy, both in climate protection and in climate adaptation. Instead of the metropolises often mentioned in this role, such as Paris, the authors take a look at smaller cities in Germany. In doing so, they show that even cities with difficult starting conditions can find their way into the top group. more info

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