The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Research Project: From Urban Redevelopment to an Urban Transformation Strategy

Project briefing

  • Status Completed
  • Project duration November 2017 – November 2019
  • Programme ExWoSt

The aim of the project was a systematic review of the state of the debate on questions of sustainable transformation to compare the corresponding results with existing urban redevelopment concepts in Germany. The aim was to develop an "urban transformation strategy" with recommendations: Which new concepts can contribute to a sustainable transformation in view of social changes and how can these be translated into political urban redevelopment programmes and concrete urban development measures?


In view of the "glocal" challenges such as climate change, demographic change, digitalisation and economic globalisation, the necessities, possibilities and limits of a sustainable transformation are currently being discussed. A key question here is how cities or neighbourhoods can function as experimental spaces or “real laboratories” for testing highly scalable solutions for larger transformations. The question as to which conceptual elements from this rather abstract transformation discourse could be realised in concrete terms through the integration or reorientation of existing urban redevelopment programmes has hardly been asked to date. This question therefore formed the starting point for this research project.

"Local" changes and scarce public funds are increasingly forcing cities to transform their socio-technical infrastructure systems. This affects, for example, energy and water supply, structural and technological infrastructures and transport systems. Such far-reaching processes involve technical, social, fiscal and ecological uncertainties. Social change must therefore be shaped actively in a political and participatory terms. In addition to technical know-how, this requires above all knowledge of how transformation processes can be analysed and shaped. It is also necessary to find out how political decision-making mechanisms can be realigned and how they can be tested as developing processes in pilot projects or real laboratories. This can be achieved through co-evolutionary exploration processes and networking. These approaches serve to shape the transformation together with local partners and to promote social acceptance.

These considerations resulted in the following overarching questions for the whole research project:

  • Which different understandings of transformation determine the current academic and political debate?
  • To what extent can elements of these transformation approaches such as the need for double decoupling, resource efficiency ("reduce, reuse, recycle"), sufficiency and post-growth have an impact on urban redevelopment – for example in the form of resource-efficient and socially just urban redevelopment, which is characterised by an upgrading without displacement, lower land consumption, forms of ecological re-use, etc.?
  • Which areas of transformation can be strategically implemented at all through an urban redevelopment policy at federal, state and municipal level?
  • What are the essential content and strategic elements of a transformation strategy in urban redevelopment?
  • Which aspects of the urban redevelopment programme need to be further developed and supplemented if urban redevelopment is to be based on a comprehensive transformation strategy?


The aim of the project was to develop a transformative urban redevelopment strategy including recommendations for the Federal Government and the Länder on how elements of the comparatively new conceptual transformation approach and real transformation needs can be translated into concrete urban redevelopment measures. To this end, it was examined how the existing programme structure of urban redevelopment funding can be modified in such a way that it can contribute to the initiation and implementation of urban transformation processes.

Contractors of the research project were Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik gGmbH and Öko-Institut in Berlin.


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