Skip to Content

Project: Research

Jump to: Outline Sub-Projects

Project Outline

This project aims to understand how cities respond to socio-ecological controversies in housing.

In the opening decades of the 21st century, cities have increasingly been threatened by perpetual global crises, including climate change, pandemics, financial speculation, and economic restructuring. As the resulting processes of precarization, inequality, and climate vulnerability manifest in cities, they have triggered increasing controversies around how to respond to these socio-ecological crises and negotiate the trade-offs between environmental goals and questions of social justice.

»The Responsible City« breaks new ground by placing the concept of responsibility at the centre of these controversies.

Empirically, the project focuses on controversies around housing and residential development in two Swiss cities (Zurich and Geneva), where the green transition is entangled with questions of social (in)justice around an acute housing crisis. Emerging controversies about who should deal with, pay the price for, or is liable for socio-ecological crises, as well as to whom responsibility in ongoing transformations is owed, provide an understanding of how urban actors respond to and advance competing moral claims in housing and urban development.

In tracing socio-ecological controversies in Swiss cities, the project pursues three objectives:

  1. First, the analysis of housing controversies contributes to a relational understanding of Swiss urban (residential) development. Across seven subprojects (SPs), we advance a comparative case-study analysis of prominent socio-ecological housing controversies in Zurich and Geneva. These include controversies around how to maintain housing, densify and plan cities and invest in the built environment. Moreover, in thinking relationally about responsibility, we endeavour to trace global geographies of responsibility.
  2. Second, these empirical contributions provide the grounds for developing novel conceptualizations of responsibility and operationalize them for the urban realm.
  3. Third, analysis of how to produce responsible innovation translates new responsibility practices into urban policy. A systematic comparative analysis and knowledge transfer strategy serve to gather the emerging insights in agenda-setting publications and practice-oriented outputs that support cities in their responses to socio-ecological threats.

SPs: Sub-projects & Case studies

The project concentrates on entangled controversies in the field of housing and residential development that we investigate in Zurich and Geneva in seven subprojects (SPs).

While not exhaustive, these controversies cover the most pressing concerns currently debated in the context of socio-ecological crisis. “The Responsible City” tackles these controversies through disciplinary expertise in sociology, urban studies, planning, architecture, and geography and at different scales of analysis, including a relational analysis that brings Zurich and Geneva in comparative conversation with other sites.

SP1 Everyday Responses: Maintaining Property (UZH) How tenants and property owners negotiate responsibilities

Sub-project 1 focuses on controversies around everyday property relations to inquire into the tenants and landlords responsibilities in maintaining housing, nature, community, and home…

SP2 Collective Responses: Neighbourhood Conflicts (EPFL) How neighbourhoods debate responsible urban development

In the past decade, urban densification projects have been the locus of a renewal of neighbourhood resistance. These mobilizations open up conflicts and controversies about what is considered a responsible distribution of housing, what is a viable density and which neighbourhoods are to accommodate such development…

SP3 Institutional Responses: Planning the Responsible City (ETH-Z) How planning actors aim to reconcile socio-ecological housing controversies.

This project explores how planning actors aim to reconcile socio-ecological housing controversies, with a particular focus on the policy impact on individuals and neighbourhoods…

SP4 Private Corporate Responses: Responsible Urban Investment and Production (UZH) How do investors and developers respond to housing controversies

In the past decade, the demand for ecologically sustainable development in the housing market have altered cities’ social geographies, and have given rise to a set of controversies concerning responsible investment in housing and related production schemes…

SP5 Relational Geographies of Responsibility (UZH) A comparative view of socio-ecological housing controversies.

In an increasingly connected unequal world, housing controversies tangle with socio-environmental harms elsewhere…

SP6 Responsibility Regimes (EPFL) Tackling the urbanisation of responsibility

The delimitation of urban contexts has become anew a major political issue at the crossroad of diffuse planetary urbanisation and politicisation of urban planning…

SP7 Responsible Innovation (UNINE) Responsible innovation as a driver of urban futures

Sub-project 7 seeks to translate the knowledge collected in SP 1-6 into policies and practices in the fields of housing, residential, and urban development…