Founded in 2012

The Research Group for Urban Development is a young and small, yet dynamic research team. In October 2013 the master program of Urbanism and Spatial Planning was fully integrated within the University of Antwerp and its Faculty of Design Sciences. Up to the academic year 2013-2014, the research and educational programs of interior architecture, architecture and urban planning were organized at university college level at the Artesis Hogeschool, Antwerp. The integration within the structure of the university was seen as an opportunity to redefine the overall research organization, and to strengthen the research focus. 

Prof. Tom Coppens (ZAP) founded the research group in 2012, investigating urban development with a strong focus on governance and process management. In 2013 Maarten Van Acker complemented the research from a designerly way, with a focus on integrated infrastructure, and became spokesperson in 2016. That year also prof. Sigrid Pauwels (ZAP) joined the research group, introducing the metropolitan legal lab, focussing on the legal challenges of urban development.  In 2017 prof. Thomas Vanoutrive (TT ZAP) joined forces with the team, strengthening the team with his expertise on urban mobility and (transport) geography. After six years, the Research group counted approximately 14 junior researchers.

The ZAP members of the group have a complementary profile (Planning, Urban Design, Law, Geography), but are united by the common object of inquiry. Urban development is consequently seen as a multidimensional and complex societal phenomenon which requires a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach. This integrated approach constitutes the unique selling proposition of the research group in Flanders and Belgium. 

Four members of the research group are guest professors that are also active researchers: Hardwin De Wever, Guy Vloebergh, Dirk Lauwers and Geert De Blust. As part time practitioners in leading consultancy firms or public organizations, they are key in keeping track of developments and research needs in practice.  

Recently the research group took the opportunity to redefine its mission to four well-defined research spearheads. These research tracks also play out the unique complementarity of the senior researchers.