Doctoral Research Group Urban and Cultural Area Research

As the oldest expression of culture in the world, architecture occupies a decisive position in our society. According to the German Federal Foundation for Building Culture, building culture means responsibly shaping our environment. Essential topics that will be discussed in this context include: urban space design and amenity value, building design and artistic expression, international cultural relations and international and cross-cultural studies, spatial perception and representation of space, and social responsibility for building culture.

The culture of a given space is characterized, on the one hand by natural factors and, on the other by human activity. The cultural sciences analyze the functional intersection of mutual influential factors as they impact space, and the cultural shaping of that space that results. From this geographical perspective, cultural landscape research also has an historical-geographical aspect. Urban spaces with urban geographic issues are addressed not only from an historical perspective. Emphasis is also placed on geographic traffic research and the examination of economic geography issues.

Areas of Research

Building culture

  • Sustainable settlement patterns (international)
  • Participation in construction planning processes
  • Digital media in urban space

Cultural spaces

  • Transportation geography
  • Economic geography
  • Urban geography
  • (Historical) cultural landscape research


  • Travel / holidays as a leisure activity and appropriation of space
  • Leisure as late modern phenomenon
  • Touristification of spaces
  • Control of tourism areas
  • Travel behavior and safety
  • Tourism marketing/management
  • Wasting Space

Doctoral Degree

The respective faculty confers the doctoral degree Dr. phil.


  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ursula Kirschner

Doctoral Candidates and their Topics

Anna Carena Mosler

Collective Lighting: Application of the ecological/enactive approach regarding lighting in public space (working title)

Nocturnal space is shaped and continuously reshaped by light. The current situation of fundamental change in the appearance and function of luminous public space opens up the possibility to rethink the roles of lighting.

The doctoral project argues that the resulting questions and challenges could be beneficially grounded in an enactive-ecological framework to cognition. 

This approach is in stark contrast to the currently prevailing information-processing model to cognition, on which a large number of current lighting research and practices are built upon. Having its foundation in the information-processing theory has led to a reduction of the non-neural body to a recipient of external stimulation and an emphasis on the self-contained individual.

This is of special relevance in public space where most of the time, not one, but various participants are engaged. The dissertation explores the implication of an underlying model that takes the fundamental embodied and intersubjective nature of cognition into account.

  1. Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
  2. Mentor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Römhild, Hochschule Wismar

Anika Slawski

Placemaking in East and Southeast Asia.

An analysis of everyday and strategic placemaking in the urban space of metropolises

Challenges such as the steady population growth and the resulting spatial growth in East and Southeast Asian cities highlight the necessity to develop fast-growing cities in a sustainable way. In addition to an infrastructure that secures livelihoods, it has been stated by e.g. UN Habitat that lively, safe and inclusive public spaces are needed to create individual and social well-being as well as quality of life in cities.

The dissertation focuses on the overall humane development of public spaces in 21st century East and Southeast Asian metropolises. In particular, the focus is on an analysis of the appropriation of the material-urban environment by people in different East and Southeast Asian public spaces. The analysis aims to identify the local-specific and socio-cultural appropriation of public spaces in everyday situations and researches how spatial structuring is carried out by society (everyday placemaking). Another focus is strategic placemaking, which is understood as a planning approach for the design of public spaces by a collective. The aim is to find out to what extent strategic placemaking can serve as an instrument for fostering social and sustainable urbanisation in the metropolises of East and Southeast Asia.

  1. Mentor: Prof. Dipl. Ing. Frank Schwartze, Technische Hochschule Lübeck
  2. Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Univerität Lüneburg

Luisa Hilmer

Potentials and Challenges of digital and hybrid Participation tools in European Urban Planning

Citizen participation and co-creation is a common strategy in urban planning to empower citizens to shape their neighbourhoods. Online platforms and apps are being developed that allow hybrid ­­­­– digital and in-situ – interactions and encourage citizens to participate in so-called e-Planning.

The PhD project investigates these hybrid tools and applications that support citizen feedback and highlight the extent to which they can remove barriers concerning participatory design. The study contributes to both technology-mediated citizen participation and effective methods of participatory urban planning in Europe by exploring case studies that are linked to mobility strategies.

  1. Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Univerisät Lüneburg

Haeun Shin

Cultural Space as an Element of City: from Diversity to Sustainability

As long as Culture is how people live, cultural spaces are also mandatory to sustain human life. Society has imposed the new rule to address contemporary problems, such as epidemics and abnormal climates, and even though the measure to limit gathering people together dealt a severe blow to the cultural industry. This paper starts to investigate what are culture and space. Beginning at the definition of those notions, it draws the understanding of cultural space. This research analyses the expected role of Cultural Spaces in a city. It examines what value they have from the view of diversity and sustainability. This paper also deals with both theoretical and empirical inquiries by the case study in cultural spaces in Hamburg.

  1. Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Yousef Alsaad

The Influence of NGO ́s on Sustainable Tourism Development. A Case Study: Petra, Jordan.

Modern tourism is expected to follow the principles of sustainability. NGO’s often play a leading role in the development of sustainable tourism in developing countries. The project investigates whether NGOs can contribute to the implementation of long-term structures in sustainable tourism, using the UNECSO World Heritage Site of Petra in Jordan as a case study.

Doctoral defence at: 22.09.2015

Mentor: Apl. Prof. Dr. Martin Pries, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Edgar Kreilkamp, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Frank Nagel, Universität Hamburg

Dipl.-Ing. Helal Alwaz

Establishing New Government Norms Concerning New Urban Plans Replacing the Traditional Settle-ments in Damascus.

The government authority, through its planners, implements its housing and urbanizing policy at the macro level by preparing the master plan and zoning processes. And how can externalities be minimized in the process of transformation from the traditional quarter to the new settlement? How can the quality of life in the old city be applied to new settlement methods? Political values, whether tacit or explicit, are manifested in the resultant designs. A theoretical base for new urban planning guidelines involving a comprehensive study of housing in Damascus with emphasis on social and cultural factors is the ultimate aim of this research. The research areas are residential areas in the city center, outside the old city of Damascus.

Doctoral defence at: 29.03.2018

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Dr. Reinhard Goethert, Massachusettes Institute of Technology

Mentor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Anton Escher, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz

Dipl.-Ing. Sophie Naue

Between Transformation and Stagnation - Urban Practice and Methods of Appropriating Space During the Process of Urbanization in the Villa 31 in Buenos Aires.

The main question examined in the dissertation is the impact that the urbanization process of the Villa 31 - an informal settlement in the center of Buenos Aires - has on the settlement and the people who live there. The aim is to critically analyze the process of urbanization by viewing the urban everyday life of the inhabitants of the Villa 31 on the one hand, and discovering and questioning the mechanisms of the formal planning and of the government-regulated urbanization on the other hand. The focus will also be on the methods of appropriation of the space for housing and the analysis of the housing market inside the Villa 31.

Doctoral defence at 21.12.2016

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Max Welch Guerra, Bauhaus Universität Weimar

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Michael Koch, HafenCity Universität Hamburg

Tanja Peickert

Topic: Breaking down Old-fashioned Structures – Network Capabilities for Equal Civic Participation in Hamburg. A research project based on a typical example in Altona.

The research project investigates how citizens are (actively) involved in processes of urban development and planning in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The theoretical aspect focuses on the analysis of structures and networks for stronger participation of citizens in processes of urban development and planning. The empirical analysis examines the interface between politics and administration (governing authority) to optimize sustainability and more independent urban development based on emancipated partners.

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Ursula Kirschner

- cancelled -

Antje Seidel

Topic: Of Clay and Brickwork[s] – The Construction of Red-brick Lüneburg.

The visible townscapes of many historical towns and cities are characterized by the traditional use of a single building material. Using Lüneburg as the basis, this research project investigates whether and to what extent these townscapes can be explained as a logical result of the use of locally availa-ble raw materials, and whether further cultural processes and practices play[ed] a crucial role.

Doctoral defence at 08.07.2016

Mentor: Apl. Prof. Dr. Martin Pries, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Winfried Schenk, Universität Bonn

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Armin Ohler, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Janina Welsch

Travel Socialization and Key Events in Mobility Biography: Influences on the Travel Behavior of People of Different Origins.

Demographic changes are leading to aging and shrinking of Germany’s population. At the same time, the proportion of immigrants and their offspring is growing, leading to increased ethnic diversity. Findings from US studies show that immigrants differ in their travel behavior, especially those who arrived recently. Differences are attributed to socio-demographic and -economic factors, as well as to neighborhood infrastructure and spatial aspects. So far it is an open question whether and how cultural imprint and related preferences are influencing travel behavior. Individuals’ preferences start to develop during childhood and youth, an important socialization period. They are influenced by families’ cultural norms and values as well as those of other societal groups. To date it remains unknown how such childhood imprints and preferences developed early in life influence travel behavior as an adult. This is the starting point for the PhD study. It is based on quantitative and qualitative interviews with people of different origins. Travel socialization and key events in mobility biography and their influence on today’s travel behavior are at the core of the research. In regard to travel behavior, it is also of interest whether immigrants and their families have been exposed to different societal or cultural influences.

Doctoral defence at 12.04.2019

Mentor: Apl. Prof. Dr. Peter Pez, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Mentor: Prof. Dr.-Ing Ulrike Reutter, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Mentor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Siedentop, TU Dortmund