Spatial Analysis and City Planning

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About Us

The South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning is an NRF funded Research Chair within the School of Architecture and Planning. It is dedicated to theoretical and applied research on urban development and city planning in cities globally, but mainly in the global South. Through supporting research, post-graduate study, post-doctoral fellowships, and policy critique and engagement, it aims at improving the impact of urban planning within complex urban settings, including large city-regions.

The Chair is well-established and has a long record in research projects, publications, and doctoral studies. Initially, the focus was on developing a strong understanding of Johannesburg and the Gauteng City-Region with its publications including the book Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after Apartheid. The Chair has since developed a strong profile in global comparative research with, for example, a focus on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), on urban Africa (Dar es Salaam, Lilongwe and Accra), and on comparative experiences with Covid-19 (Johannesburg, Chicago, Toronto).

Ongoing research projects include:

  • ‘Making Africa Urban: The Transcalar Politics of Large-Scale Urban Development’ which is a European Union funded project in partnership with University College London and academic institutions in Tanzania, Malawi, and Ghana. It explores the impact of large-scale public and private investment on urban development in African cities.
  • ‘Pandemic Governance’. This a grouping of research projects exploring the lessons leaned from Covid-19 for urban governance into the future with comparative insight from cities globally. It includes partnerships with academic institutions in South Africa, India, Canada, and the USA.
  • ‘The Promise of Planning: Global Aspirations and the South African Experience’ which is a joint book project with Professor Alison Todes exploring the post-apartheid experience and performance of urban planning.
  • The Governance of Hyper-Complexity: City-Regions in the BRICS which explores the ongoing challenges of governing mega-sized urban agglomerations.
  • ‘Mothers in the City’. This is a study of the lives of mothers who navigate complex and often unfriendly environments, a partnership with the Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

There are other initiatives in the Chair which includes the development of a Spatial Analytics Laboratory (‘the lab’) to promote the use of data-based research within built environment disciplines. Youth and Children have emerged as a theme of engagement with the lab hosting the Brazil-South Africa Youth Engagement Forum and the Chair working to mainstream children into planning and design processes.  Partnership-based research is also informing innovations in teaching, through the co-design of a MOOC (online teaching course) with the University College (UCL) Global Urbanism Programme.