2016 AESOP PHD WORKSHOP: Leuven, Belgium

Published at: 30 November 2016

The 2016 AESOP PhD Workshop was organized by KU Leuven – Department of Architecture and the University of Antwerp – Department of Design Sciences and Department of Social Sciences.

Main topic of workshop

The AESOP PhD Workshop 2016 had a clear link with that of the World Planning School Congress in Rio de Janeiro from 3-8 July 2016, i.e. “Global Crisis, Planning and Challenges to Spatial Justice in the North and in the South”. The Local Organizing Committee reflected on this question and came up with the following two orientations for the PhD workshop.

-  The prior aim of the workshop was to assist and guide researchers in the starting phase or a more advanced stage of their PhD research on methodological and substantive issues. The focus of the workshop was on ‘doing research’, on addressing planning and urbanism issues in a scientifically grounded way. Plenary lectures and activities as well as parallel discussion and tutoring sessions guaranteed a balanced combination of methodology and content.

-  The workshop specifically targeted participants who are doing PhD research about planning and urbanism issues that are relevant to both the North and the South.

Combining the focus on ‘doing research’ and the ‘relevance of issues for the North and the South’ led to the following theme for the workshop: ‘PLANNING AND URBANISM RESEARCH IN A GLOBAL WORLD’.

Approach and program of workshop
The 31 participants to the workshop were divided in working groups of 3-5 students, each group assisted by one tutor and one or more mentors. The themes of the working groups were

  • Ecological crises and social resilience 

  • Engineering versus visioning 

  • Environmental justice 

  • Informality in human settlements 

  • Land tenure systems 

  • Participation in planning, design and community building (in relation to a specific issue) 

  • Participation in planning, design and community building (political-societal) 

  • Urban development. 


The participants were invited to present and discuss substantive and methodological issues of their PhD research.

  • At the start of the workshop, the participants introduced their PhD researches in a Pecha Kucha introduction. 

  • In four parallel sessions, the participants presented and discussed their research with the tutor, the mentor and the peers; they worked individually on the comments given, assisted by tutors and mentors; and finally they presented briefly what they were going to do with the comments given in their further research. 


Invited tutors from European and Australian universities started and led group discussions on the researches, mainly addressing the substantive issues, although they also brought in methodological know how as they are professionally involved in academic scholarship.

Tutors were 


  • Prof. Louis Albrechts (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Stuart Cameron (Newcastle University) 

  • Prof. Jean Hillier (RMIT University) 

  • Prof. Diana MacCallum (Curtin University) 

  • Prof. Frank Moulaert (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Artur da Rosa Pires (University of Aveiro) 

  • Dr. Barbara Van Dyck (KU Leuven and Université Libre de Bruxelles) 

  • Prof. Serena Vicari (Università di Milano Bicocca) 


At least one academic mentor per working group assisted the group discussions, mainly on methodological issues, and this in cooperation with the tutor. The mentors were all linked to the Department of Architecture of KU Leuven or the University of Antwerp.

Mentors were 


  • Prof. Tom Coppens (University of Antwerp) 

  • Prof. Pascal De Decker (KU Leuven) 

  • Dr. Annette Kuhk (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Hans Leinfelder (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Stijn Oosterlynck (University of Antwerp) 

  • Prof. Jan Schreurs (KU Leuven) 

  • Dr. Loris Servillo (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Pieter Van den Broeck (KU Leuven) 

  • Prof. Han Verschure (KU Leuven) 


Also five plenary sessions were organised. Two lectures addressed methodological issues. 


  • From structuralist to post-structuralist analysis in planning and urbanisme research (Prof. Jean Hillier) 

  • Qualitative research in planning and urbanism (Prof. Pascal De Decker)


Prof. Cassidy Johnson form the University College London-Faculty of the Built Environment- 
Bartlett Development Planning Unit was invited to give a plenary lecture on content.

• Planning resilient cities in the north and the south (Prof. Cassidy Johnson)

Next, there was a guided field trip to the Brussels North quarter, a neighborhood where north and south meet each other. The workshop ended with a round table debate on methodological issues.

Our sincerest thanks go to all of those committee members, mentors and students who made the workshop such a success.

Categorized as : AESOP PhD Workshop