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Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies


The Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies was founded with the aim of an interdisciplinary perspective to catch the comlexity of cities. Therefore, research activities and projects within the Georg-Simmel Center are based in different academic disciplines.



Current Projects

Open Heritage: Organizing, Promoting and Enabling Heritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment

The management of heritage assets has become a significant concern in urban development. With a long-standing experience in this research topic, the Georg-Simmel-Center for Metropolitan Studies partners in the international project „Open Heritage: Organizing, Promoting and ENabling HEritage Re-use through Inclusion, Technology, Access, Governance and Empowerment” from June 2018 to May 2022. The project promotes the re-use of neglected, non-touristic heritage sites by providing a replicable and adaptable management model and building heritage communities around them. The EU supports the European consortium of 16 partner institutions through the funding line of Horizon2020 with a total of about 5 million Euros.

Four objectives guide this international endeavor: (i) the project wants to combine concerns of social inclusion, community building and heritage protection. (ii) Operating with an open definition of heritage, it seeks to overcome the gap between listed and non-listed heritage. (iii) “Open Heritage” supports cooperation between communities, policy makers, academia and various stakeholders. (iv) Tools are to be created that support the sustainable management of heritage assets in the project and beyond.

Building on their expertise in urban heritage studies, two scholars represent the GSZ in this European consortium. GSZ’s Vice-Director Dr. Heike Oevermann and Dr. Markus Kip, member of the Urban Research Group on Urban Commons, will focus on the methodological challenge of transferring insights from European case studies to practice. A management model will be co-created and tested in six “Cooperative Heritage Labs” that are ongoing projects, implemented under the consultancy of consortium partners.

DFG-Research-Project: Urban Development and UNESCO-World Heritage: Transformation of Industrial Sites (2017 untill 2018)

The DFG research project studied transformation processes of historic industrial architecture of four cases in Europe (DFG-Projekt: MI 788 4-1,2). The research question was how to bridge conflicts between monument protection, urban development, creative industries, and contemporary architecture. This project showed, among other finding, firstly, that monument protection and urban development can be understood as distinct discourses and, secondly, how so-called bridging values (e.g. accessibility, conservation, development) support to resolve conflicts between discourses. The DFG knowledge-transfer project applies findings about discourse interactions between cultural heritage and urban development planning to heritage management of the UNESCO-World Heritage Site Industrial Complex Zollverein, Germany. Since the IBA Emscher Park (1989-1999) Zollverein has been holding a pioneer role in setting standards for industrial heritage management from a national and international point of view. Co-operation partner is the Foundation Zollverein (Stiftung Zollverein) that is responsible for the site. The integration of concerns of conserving a listed heritage site with urban development planning is one main task of heritage management and is assessed through best practices. The knowledge-transfer project supports the definition and documentation of an exemplary industrial heritage management, which is not worked out so far.

The work programme includes:
(i) a process: in cooperation with Foundation Zollverein criteria for best practice will be defined and a toolkit for heritage management developed;
(ii) a product: main product is a web-based collection of best practices, displaying best practices in the heritage management of Zollverein and reflection them with findings and experiences from the national and international discussion on heritage management (Oevermann, Mieg 2015);
(iii) as a scientific feedback: to deepen knowledge about (sustainable) urban transformation processes (cf. Mieg, Töpfer 2013). Process and product both include an extension option with regard to further industrial heritage sites. The results of the project should contribute to advance post-graduate education at the Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Specific objectives of the knowledge-transfer project are:
 1. Practical task: to develop a toolkit for heritage management and best practices collection, furthermore to care for the long-term use of the web-based best practices collection.
2. Applied research: to research into how to integrate heritage management and (sustainable) urban development planning in the context of urban transformation processes.

Prof. Dr. Harald A. Mieg (Department of Geography, HU Berlin) is the project manager and is working togehter with Dr. Heike Oevermann (Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies).

Research Project: Claiming the Public Space: Urban Interventions and the Shift from Vertical to Horizontal Urban Planning (2016 untill 2018)

Main goal of the research project 'Claiming the public space: Urban interventions and the shift from vertical to horizontal urban planning' is the analysis of conflicts around and in urban public spaces based on an empirical research of urban interventions developed and implemented by organized groups of activists and professionals (artists, historians, sociologists, etc.) in St. Petersburg and Berlin. In the framework of this project urban interventions are understood as tools of a new approach to urban development. Urban interventions mean a challenge both for the practice and for the agents of vertical urban planning, and they entail an approach for horizontal urban planning.

Urban interventions imply the multiplication and fragmentation of agents claiming access to the urban public space. New forms of urban action performed by multiple agents not only can lead to a resolution of classical conflicts rooted in the hierarchical forms of urban planning and design, but they can also bring about a horizontal urban development, which is characterized by increasingly liquefying structures. Thus, a further aim of this project is to investigate the potential, power and effect of urban interventions in the process of urban development, moreover to study their impact on the classical hierarchical forms of urban planning and design in various European and non-European cities.

This project is a cooperation project of the Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies (GSZ), TACT (International Research on Art and the City) and CISR (Centre for independent Social research). Dr. Eszter Gantner (Department of Ethnology HU Berlin, GSZ), Dr. Oleg Pachenkov (Open Urban Labaratory, CISR, Sankt-Petersburg) and Dr. Heike Oevermann (GSZ) work from 2016 till 2018 on this project.

The project is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Research Group Linkage Programme.


Past Projects

Research Project: SEiSMiC (2013 untill 2016)

With the support of the EU-Project SEiSMiC this project based on the Department of European Ethnology develops a network for social innovation in urban spaces.

Project Management: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kaschuba, Prof. Dr. Jörg Niewöhner

Research Assistent: Christoph Sommer

DFG-Research-Project: Transformations of historical Industrial Sites in the City (2011 untill 2014)

The management of industrial heritage sites requires rethinking in the context
of urban change, and the issue of how to balance protection, preservation/
conservation, and development becomes all the more crucial as industrial
heritage sites grow in number. This brings into play new challenges—not
only through the known conflicts between monument preservation and contemporary
architecture but also with the increasing demand for economic
urban development by reusing the built heritage of former industrial sites.


The DFG Project 'Industrial Heritage and divergent' aims of urban development, creative economy and architecture production. With the method of discourse analysis Prof. Harald A. Mieg und Dr. Heike Oevermann work in this project from 2011 to 2014. Co-operation partner is Prof. Johannes Cramer from the Technische Universität Berlin. Sub-projects are: Cities and Change and Challenge: urban development, architecture and industrial heritage sites in European cities and Synchronic discoures analysis.






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