CityLAB II - Urban Studies Summer School

Theme: Suburbanism

Organised by: Stijn Oosterlynck (OASeS) & Ilja Van Damme (CSG)

Date: 16-20 June 2014

Recent years have seen a revival of interest in the study of suburbs, suburbanization and suburbanism. Central to this revival is a concern with the empirical diversity of suburbs and processes of suburbanization as well as with the growing internal and spatial differentiation of suburbs due to the impoverishment, increased ethnic diversity, densification and sprawl of economic activities in an increasing number of suburbs. These concerns undermine established understandings of suburbanism and turn the study of suburbs into a promising field for conceptual renewal and interdisciplinary reflection.

The second edition of CityLAB, organized by the Institute for Urban Studies will explore both the empirical diversity of suburbs and their increasing internal differentiation from an interdisciplinary perspective. It will examine the complexity of suburban phenomena from insights deriving from sociology, history, economic geography, political sciences, architecture and urban planning. Its target group is PhD and early stage post-doctoral researchers who want to develop such multi-perspectival understanding of suburbs, suburbanization and suburbanism and become more sensitive to the diversity of actually existing suburbs. The CityLAB Summer School is explicitly international and interdisciplinary in orientation and will take full advantage of its location in one of the most (sub)urbanized regions in Western Europe, Belgium. The programme combines international and local speakers, and two field trips to explore the suburban diversity of the biggest city of Flanders, the sprawling port town Antwerp. Roger Keil (Faculty of Environmental Sciences, York University) and Mark Clapson (Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Westminster) will deliver keynote lectures, and engage in discussion with the participants on the basis of their own research.


CityLAB II programme - download the detailed programme (pdf, 872 Kb).

16/06 - Monday:  Exploring suburbanism in theory and practice

  • 9h – 12h: Setting the scene: disciplinary perspectives on suburbanisms
  • 13h – 19h: Field trip 1: Antwerp suburbs by bus
  • 19h: Social activity: Dinner

17/06 - Tuesday: Historicizing suburbanism

  • 9h – 12h: Mark Clapson (Department of Social and Historical Studies, University of Westminster, London, UK) on the Anglo-American and European model of the suburb, their uses and limitations
  • 13h30 – 16h30: André Loeckx (Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium): ‘The suburb, between ideal and ordeal. Suburbanism and suburbanity revisited’
  • 16h45 – 17h30: Writing a paper on suburbanism: first discussion of themes and questions
  • 20h: Social activity: screening of ‘Conversations in Milton Keynes’, with introduction by Ingo Baltes, director of the documentary and guided tour to architectural exhibition ‘Re-Work Brussels. Space for Industry, Logistics and Retail in the City’ at VAi.

18/06 - Wednesday: Global suburbanisms

  • 9h – 12h: Roger Keil (Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Canada): (Global Suburbanisms: A Challenge for Urban Theory and Practice(
  • 13h30 – 16h30: Bruno Meeus and Pascal De Decker (Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium): ‘Actually existing suburbanism: the case of Belgium’
  • 16h45 – 17h30: Writing a paper on suburbanism: interdisciplinary reflection

19/06 - Thursday: Measuring suburbs and economic dispersal

  • 9h – 13h: Isabelle Thomas (Department of Transport and Spatial Economics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium and Department of Geography, UCL, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium): ‘Suburbanisation: What? Where?’
  • 14h – 18h Field trip 2: Antwerp suburbs by tram, by prof. Ann Verhetsel

20/06 - Friday: Governing the suburbs

  • 10h – 13h: Filip De Rynck (Department of Administration and Management, University of Ghent, Belgium): ‘Governing by Governance? City-regional governance in comparative perspective’
  • 14h – 16h: Eric Corijn (Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium): ‘Suburbia versus Urbanity. A political reading of spatial patterns’
  • 16h15 – 17h: Writing a paper on suburbanism: final reflections
  • 17h: Closing words

Speaker bio's

Mark Clapson is Reader in History at the University of Westminster. As a social historian he is interested in the relationship between urban and suburban expansion and social change. His work is concerned with postwar England but he has also worked on comparisons between suburbanisations and new town development in England and the US and the American influences on urban research and planning in England. He is a member of the advisory board of the Cultures of the Suburbs international research network.

Eric Corijn is Emeritus Professor Social and Cultural Geography at the Department of Geography at the Free University of Brussels. He is the founder of the interdisciplinary research team COSMOPOLIS City, Culture & Society at the Free University of Brussels, vice-president of the Brussels Studies Institute and initiator of (amongst others) the Brussels for Europe Masterclasses and the Brussels Academy. His research interests include amongst others urban cultures, urban development and city networks.

Pascal De Decker is Professor at the Faculty of Architecture at KU leuven. His research interests include housing studies and urban policy. He is a member of the European Network of Housing Research and the housing working group of FEANTSA. He is also editor of the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment. He has just concluded , together with Bruno Meeus, a major study on the suburban housing ideal in Flanders, which was published in Dutch as ‘De Geest van Suburbia’ (The ghost of suburbia).

Filip De Rynck is Professor at the Department of Administration and Management at the University of Ghent. He teaches on public administration and local governments. His research is focused on policy network, local government, citizen participation and the internal organisation of domestic administration. He has studied city-regional co-operation and governance extensively.

Roger Keil is Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at York University. His research interests include amongst others global suburbanism and urban governance. He heads a 7-year large scale international research project on Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century. Roger Keil is a past co-editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) and a co-founder of the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA).

André Loeckx is Emeritus Professor at the Department of Architecture at KU Leuven. His academic activities revolve around processes of spatial change, urban development and renewal and architectural theory and critique. He led several projects of capacity building for urban development and renewal for UN Habitat, the European Commission and the Flemish government and is the chair of the Flemish Jury for Urban Renewal.

Bruno Meeus is a post-doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Architecture at KU Leuven. As a social geographer he is mainly interested in the right to housing, migration in Europe and urbanity. His current research is concerned with migration infrastructure and social mobility for Eastern European migrants in Brussels. He also contributed to a recent study on the suburban housing ideal in Flanders, which was published in Dutch as ‘De Geest van Suburbia’ (The ghost of suburbia).

Isabelle Thomas is Professor at the Department of Geography at the Catholic University of Louvain and research director at Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique. Her research interests are located at the intersection of geography, spatial economics and spatial planning. She pursues research on the location of economic and human activities, the spatial reality of transport and spatial data analysis and geostatistics.

Thomas Vanoutrive is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Transport and Regional Economics at the University of Antwerp. He holds a joint Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Geography and also has a background in Spatial Planning. His research focuses on ports, transport economics and geography, commuting, mobility management and spatial modeling techniques.

Ann Verhetsel is Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Economics at the Faculty of Applied Economics of the University of Antwerp. In addition to a Ph.D. in Geography, she obtained a degree in Town and Country Planning. Her research focuses on the intersection of economics, geography and spatial planning. Recent research projects and publications dealt with e.g. urban transport issues, location policy and mobility, decentralization of employment and the regional economic effects of ports, housing and shopping locations.

Practical information

Interested in attending CityLAB II? Then send a letter of motivation explaining why you want to participate in this summer school and how you aim to contribute to the discussions (maximum 1000 words), and a brief CV to before 30 April 2014. You should receive a letter approximately one week to 10 days after a decision is made on your application. Please be aware that the number of participants is limited.

The fee for the Summer School is 300 €; this includes meals and refreshments during the day, two social activities in the evening and two field trips in and around Antwerp. The inscription for the summer school is finalized once we have received the correct payment on the following account IBAN: BE42 7350 0886 2754, BIC: KREDBEBB, with reference: OW130001/CITYLAB II/2014/Family name, First name.

Participants arrange their own accommodation. A list of reasonably priced ho(s)tells will be distributed to the participants. There is direct train service from Brussels airport to the city of Antwerp. Students will receive an official certificate of participation (counting for 6 ECTS) by writing a successful paper, in which they relate the insights of the week to their own research (max. 10 pages).