The 'Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning' (IRS) was established in 1992. It emerged out of the former Institute for Urban Planning and Architecture (ISA), which belonged to the GDR Academy of Architecture, following a positive evaluation by the German Council of Science and Humanities. The IRS was given a modified research agenda to its predecessor institution. Until the mid-1990, the IRS had offices in two different Berlin locations: on Wallstraße in the district of Mitte, and on Plauener Straße in the district of Hohenschönhausen. In 1995, the institute began its gradual relocation to its current site in the town of Erkner in the federal state of Brandenburg. It has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1995. The IRS has been positively evaluated by the German Council of Science and Humanities in 1999, and by an expert committee of the Senate of the Leibniz Association in 2003 and 2010.
In September 2015, the IRS General Assembly decided to rename the institute to 'Institute for Research on Society and Space'. This change took effect in the beginning of 2016. The new name marks an important step in and reflects the dynamic development of the institute in the world of academia, to which it contributes by continuously formulating and pursuing novel research questions. After German reunification, the institute chiefly provided assistance for spatial development and planning in federal states that had belonged to the former GDR. Two decades later, the IRS has evolved into an international research institute that explores the spatial aspects and contexts of social action.