Qualification project

Machines of Spatial Imagination. Digital Agency in Urban Planning. Comparing Planning Practices in New York, Frankfurt and Lagos.

Research Department: Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development

IRS Research Topic: Shared Knowledge - Locally and Over Distance New Social Practices

Project Leader within IRS: Martin Schinagl

Duration: 01/2018 - 12/2021

GIS Layerstruktur_ CC
Simulation_ KPF UI Screenshot MS 2019
GIS Layerstruktur_ CC
Simulation_ KPF UI Screenshot MS 2019

Since the 1960s, a large number of electronic and digital tools have found their way into planning work in urban planning, urban development, landscape planning and architecture. Nowadays, geoinformation systems (GIS), Computer Assisted Design (CAD), simulations, databases, 3D visualisations and 3D printers are just some of the new digital planning tools and infrastructures. Planning tasks and processes change. Digital maps, simulation software, data sets on cities and design software, which are sensibly integrated into the planning process by means of practice, convey visually experienceable and planned representations of spaces.

Martin Schinagl is interested in the implications that this digital mediation of planning action has for the planner’s practices of the production of space. In other words, how do digital infrastructures, knowledge repertoires (data sets) and software (CAD and GIS programs) shape the planners' understanding of the city and the way they plan it? Martin Schinagl investigates the connections between digital mediation of planning actions and how planners analyse, understand and plan urban space. He therefore examines the local contexts and concrete workplaces of planners of structural and design planning in public and private offices.

New York City, Frankfurt am Main and Lagos (Nigeria) are very different yet all dynamic cities on three different continents. Within the framework of empirical social research, the above question will be investigated through and beyond cross cultural comparison. Since the 1980s, scientific discussions on the integration of digital technologies in the workplace, such as in workplace studies and human interface studies, have become institutionalized. In addition, the dissertation builds on debates from various research areas, namely from sociology of technology and sociology of space, science and technology studies (STS), as well as planning sciences and cultural anthropology. Within ethnographic workplace studies, Martin Schinagl applies a variety of methods, including interviews, participatory observation, videography and mapping of workplaces and practices. In the circular process of empirical survey and analysis in the sense of the Grounded Theory approach, the context of spatial constructions and digital situations will be conceptualized and theorized.

The dissertation at the Technical University of Berlin will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Martina Löw and Prof. Dr. Gabriela Christmann.


Mélix, S., & Schinagl, M. (2019). Imagining Space and Envisionting Futures: A Bi-Disciplinary Approach to Digital Urban Planning. 57-63. Alternatives to the Present , Cleveland, United States.