Join our UTC Climate Adaptation in Challenging Environments

Urban Thinkers Campus “Climate Adaptation in Challenging Environments in the MENA Region”

UTC Background: ISOCARP Institute together with Middle East Cities Center at the American University in Dubai University and other partners will organize on the 22nd of June 2021 the UTC on Hot Cities in the MENA region. According to the latest IPCC simulations, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has been identified as a hotspot for future temperature changes due to its arid environmental conditions. Heat extremes are expected to increase significantly in both frequency and intensity across the MENA region. Heatwaves will occur for 80 days of the year by 2050 and 118 days of the year by 2100. Combined with increased sandstorms associated with longer drought periods, predicted temperature rises would make large parts of the region uninhabitable. Extreme heat has been identified as a serious threat to human health, heightening an individuals’ susceptibility to exhaustion, heart attack and mortality.

Hot cities in the MENA region – with the reference to Dubai- are a current trend which will be highlighted and discussed during the UTC. Meanwhile we would like to expand the discussion on what other trends related to the Hot Cities trends are emerging? Among the main trends that we would like to touch upon and discuss possible solutions are: water scarcity, biodiversity loss, sea level rise, loss of coastal defence and storm surges. 

UTC Objective: The main objective of this UTC is to discuss and explore solutions that are being tested to ameliorate the future of urban living conditions. The Campus will explore and discuss solutions on how cities can better respond to changing climate conditions, using Dubai as an example of a city which due to its demanding climate conditions, has from the beginning had to plan in ways, which can offer valuable best practices to urban planners around the world.

The session last 3 hours and will be hosted on Zoom. We aim to make this session as interactive and inclusive as it is possible.

Check out the agenda to learn more!

Call for contributors:  Are you a practitioner who would like to present your case study or ideas on possible solutions to the challenges that hot cities are facing nowadays? Are you an industry partner who have been working with climate adaptive infrastructure solutions/products? Or are you a member of a community who would like to share your experience on implementing climate mitigation measures? Then we would like to listen to your story! Researchers, industry partners, climate adaptation practitioners or community members are invited to submit initiatives, questions and possible strategies to present them for discussion at the UTC.

Application deadline: June 13, 2020

JOB OPPORTUNITY: EU Project Assistant at ISOCARP Institute

JOB OPPORTUNITY: EU Project Assistant at ISOCARP Institute (Den Haag, NL)
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The ISOCARP Institute is the research spin-off of the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP), based in The Hague/Netherlands. With over five decades of accumulated knowledge and expertise in urban and regional planning, ISOCARP as non-profit organisation with individual and institutional members in 85 countries worldwide, initiated the Institute as a Centre for Urban Excellence – a think tank empowering individuals, organisations and institutions to achieve better human settlements. The Institute’s core function is to conduct research and promote knowledge transfer, offer advice and short-term consultancy services, as well as design and deliver capacity building and continuing education programmes. The Institute is involved in several EU research projects, technical assistance globally, engaged in capacity building projects with international partners, and more.

What we look for

We are looking for a full-time staff member interested in urban issues to assist us on delivering our projects. The project assistant will support and assist us in the management of our multiple projects, both, within the EU and at a more international level.  To apply for this position, you need to have at least 2-3 years of experience in EU projects

The ideal candidate is a motivated, independent and creative individual who is able to balance different tasks and responsibilities effectively and collaborate with the ISOCARP Institute team.


You hold a master’s degree in Social Sciences or other discipline and a strong interest in the urban spectrum;  

You have minimum 2 years working experience in EU project administration and support, financial experience is a very strong asset. 

You are autonomous and proactive in building and setting up (new) operational processes from scratch; 

You have documentation skills and data management; 

You are curious, open-minded, and experienced in the communication with high-level institutional partners; 

You have excellent command of the English language, both verbal and written. Other European languages are an asset; 

We are looking for someone who can join us as soon as possible. Therefore, those candidates located in the Netherlands will have priority (we accept candidates from all different nationalities).  

What we offer

We offer an energetic and international working environment in a team of young professionals, with a competitive salary and flexible working conditions. The position will be based in The Hague (NL) but can be commenced in a flexible scheme due to restrictions of the pandemic. 

The deadline for application is Sunday, 13 June 2021. Applications will be reviewed upon arrival. 

International applicants:

We accept applications from non-EU citizens. However, we are looking for someone who can join us as soon as possible. Candidates located in the Netherlands will be given priority (we accept candidates from all different nationalities and backgrounds).  


Kick-off Session WAVE – Erasmus+ project on Water Areas Visions for Europe

Kick-off Session WAVE – Erasmus+ project on Water Areas Visions for Europe

The first session of the WAVE training took place last Friday 12th March 2021. The training, part of the Erasmus+ programme, aims at supporting and establishing partnerships with universities, NGOs, schools and other stakeholders with the goal to create integrated knowledge for sustainable landscapes in Europe.

The Erasmus+ programme does not only encourage high education students to gain applied experience, but it also boosts European universities collaboration sharing knowledge, research, and education methods.

The first session was hosted by Ms. Ellen Fetzer from the School for Landscape Architecture, Environment and Urban Planning at HfWU Nürtingen-Geislingen. The session, with around 128 international participants, introduced the topic of natural landscapes, cities, and water as an important element of life. Through the use of interactive tools, participants could engage in understanding the complexity of natural river patterns and how these have been changed artificially to the benefits of urban and economic development.

During the session, participants could compare natural landscapes from different parts of Europe and the different legislative frameworks that exist to protect and restore water bodies. These legislative acts come from different policy domains DG Environment, DG Regio or DG Agriculture are examples of policy departments that are responsible to conserve and protect water landscapes in Europe.

The course introduced the Living Labs that will serve as knowledge base for students and stakeholder engagement. The Living Labs are located in the partner cities in Constanta (RO), Bucharest (RO), Naples (IT), Tartu (EE), Brussels (BE), Freising (DE), and Nürtingen (GE).


“A Smart city is a challenge far beyond technology”: thoughts from the ISOCARP Institute Special Session

“A Smart City is a challenge beyond technology”: Thoughts from the ISOCARP Institute Special Session 

December 28, 2020

On Wednesday 9 December, we Smart City enthusiasts gathered together virtually to discuss the opportunities and challenges of cities becoming smarter. Hosted by the ISOCARP Institute, this online Special Session was part of the ongoing 56th ISOCARP World Planning Congress “Post-Oil City. Planning for Urban Green Deals”, spanning from 8 November 2020 to 4 February 2021.

The session was spearheaded by our Keynote speaker Luca Mora, Associate Professor of Urban Innovation at the Business School of Edinburgh Napier University, with his keynote ‘Assembling Sustainable Smart City Transitions”. Pointing out the disparity between the abundance of technological applications and the lack of research on how to build platforms for integrating those technologies for making cities smarter, he set the tone for the discussion on the importance of a ‘collaborative environment’. An open and engaging environment that strengthens the capacity of individuals and organizations to implement the technologies and to work together and participate, innovate and improve. Mora mentions the importance of “play” in the process: competitions, hackathons and citizen workshops are a great way to innovate and experiment in a more relaxed setting.

In addition to the many examples of successful real-life collaborative success stories Mora presented, we also heard the experiences from two EU Horizon 2020-funded projects supported by the Institute. The presentations focused on the context-specific strategies chosen for the implementation of Smart City solutions in these two projects.

The first project, +CityxChange, was presented by Project Manager Dirk Ahlers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. +CityxChange is focusing on enabling community-supported energy transition actions. Being a collective project of 7 cities around Europe, Ahlers discussed striking the balance between well-established frameworks but also certain flexibility, which allows taking different cultural and natural conditions into account.

The other EU Horizon 2020 -project, VARCITIES, was presented by Associate Professor Denia Kolokotsa, Technical University of Crete. One of the main goals of the project is the development of a Healthy Cities Helix, a collaborative tool for developing models for increasing the health and well-being of vulnerable citizens with nature-based solutions. These models are especially focused on the symbiosis of urban green and smart technologies.

The presentations were followed by a joint post-it -session, where we discussed the different opportunities and challenges of the implementation, participation and governance involved in initiating new digital and smart solutions. In conclusion, all participants agreed on the importance of flexibility and tailor-made solutions; no matter how fantastic your framework might be, one size does not fit all.

A Smart City is no longer only a question of a technological premise. The technology already exists, but in order to make solutions truly community-based, the gap between technology and the general public needs to be bridged by building platforms of integrated smart city solutions in a sustainable and collaborative manner. After all, a Smart City is a challenge beyond technology.

Speakers and presentations

Keynote Speaker

Luca Mora – Professor of Urban Innovation, Business School of Edinburgh Napier University

Topic: Assembling sustainable smart city transition

Denia Kolokotsa – Professor (Associate) of Technical University of Crete


Dirk Ahlers – Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Topic: +CityxChange

 Pietro Elisei – President-elect ISOCARP


  • ISOCARP Institute introduction | 10 min.
  • Keynote speaker presentation | 20 min.
  • Q&A with audience | 10 min.
  • ISOCARP Institute projects presentation| 15 min.
  • Online Post-it Workshop | 20 min.
  • Closing | 5 min.
  • Didier Vancutsem – Director of ISOCARP Institute
  • Federico Aili – ISOCARP Institute
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or proposals for upcoming sessions.
Storytelling Workshop

Telling stories about places – Storytelling Workshop, +CityxChange

Telling stories about places – Storytelling Workshop, +CityxChange

Last month, within the +CityxChange project framework, ISOCARP Institute hosted the 3rd Storytelling Workshop, in a digital format. The two-hour event was organised by Gisela Garrido Veron and Sindi Haxhija during the annual consortium meeting of +CityxChange (Positive City Exchange). The aim of the workshop was to understand and reflect on storytelling as a tool for citizen engagement and communication. The event lasted around two and a half hours with discussions and presentations from other Smart City projects in the Basque Country – a place where the consortium meeting would have been celebrated in case Covid-19 travel restrictions did not apply. 

The session started with a video from Iñaki Peña, journalist and resident in the city of Sestao, Spain (Follower City in +CityxChange). The video (about 11 minutes long) tells the story of changes and developments in Sestao, with a focus on La Casa del Arco (The Arch’s House). Iñaki tells us about the developments and transformations that this building has been through, by using his past experiences, his youth and what he remembers of La Casa del Arco. The later used to be a building with a strong industrial history, that is now being restored with the combined efforts of the Sestao Municipality, the Basque Government and the European Community. 

‘La Casa del Arco, -Iñaki reflects – is the beginning of a progressive restoration of the city’. Iñaki foresees that this development will bring new possibilities to the city, such as, the restoration of nature and the river that was until nowadays used for industrial purposes. Having Iñaki’s story as the kick-off of this workshop, participants were asked to reflect on the structure, the line of narrative and the communication elements that were used.

The session continued with the intervention of three lighthouse cities. Firstly, Jordán Guardo from the Municipality of Bilbao reflected on the ATELIER experience giving examples of positive urban developments and citizen engagement practices. The project focuses on a river area close to the industrial city of Bilbao, concretely, Zorrotzaurre. Zorrotzaurre was a very industrialised small island. Building efforts, using top-down and bottom-up approaches, the ATELIER project achieved a combination of arts, culture and economic development in the zone.

Secondly, David Grisaleña from the Municipality of Vitoria Gasteiz. David presented the SmartEnCity: Coronación District. The objective of this lighthouse project was to develop a systemic approach for sustainable, smart and resource-efficient urban environments in Europe. David explained how through citizen engagement, they could develop strategies to replicate energy retrofitting buildings. The example given by David was located in Eulogio Serdán Street. Some of the discussions that came up during the presentation were related to how the housing property system works in Spain and the challenges that appeared during the communication of more technical developments with house owners in the building.

The last speaker, Marta Zabaleta, joined to present the REPLICATE project. Particularly on the Donostia/San Sebastián citizen engagement process. Shortly, Marta presented the objectives of the project, and how they used to top-down and bottom-up approach for citizen engagement. Marta explained their interaction with the citizens since the very beginning of the project. ‘It is crucial – she said – to have a common understanding and collaboration with the residents before and during the execution of the project.’

After the discussions, participants had the chance to come up with their own story based on a building – like Iñaki Peña – a public space or neighbourhood in their area that would reflect urban transformations. The exercise divided the participants into 3 main groups where the participants had to explain their urban development story and jointly discuss the structure and communication points. By the end of the breakout sessions, each group had to choose a representative from their group to present the story to the whole group of participants.

The storytelling workshop finished with a short interaction session, commenting on each other stories and reflecting on the usage of storytelling as a tool to tell stories of places for further citizen engagement.


Saratov’s city centre, Open International Competition

Saratov’s city centre, Open International Competition 

July 24, 2020


In Saratov, a Russian city on the Volga River, an International Competition for the Best Integrated Spatial Development Concepts for the Development of the City Centre has been launched. ISOCARP Institute will support the review of the results for the Open International Competition. Teams from all around the world are invited to participate in the competition. Architects and urban planners are faced with the task of developing architectural and urban planning concepts for integrated development—documents that define the primary planning, landscape and transport solutions for a construction or development project. 

‘The competition’s goal is to choose a concept that can offer options for the use of this territory while accounting for the necessary environmental rehabilitation of green spaces and allowing for the creation of an exemplary residential district on the territory of the former airport’ – said Denis Leontiev, CEO of Strelka KB.

The competition will take place in three stages. In the first stage, a jury of experts will review all of the applications submitted and choose five competition participants. As part of the second stage, each of them has to develop an architectural and urban planning concept of integrated spatial development based on the technical brief that they will receive. Based on the results of this stage, the jury will choose two finalists. During the third stage, an exhibit of the finalists’ work will be organised along with a popular vote that will ultimately help determine the winner of the competition. The winner will be chosen by the Government of the Saratov Region, based on the jury’s recommendations and the popular vote. The winner will be announced in Spring 2021. 

The jury was  composed of Russian and international experts. Among them was Didier Vancutsem, director of ISOCARP INSTITUTE; Adriaan Gueze, co-founder of West 8 and founder of the Surrealistic Landscape Architecture (SLA) foundation; Ingo Kanehl, managing director of ASTOC GmbH & Co. KG и ASTOC International GmbH; Nikolai Shumakov, president of the Union of Architects of Russia; Igor Sorokin, scholar of local lore and member of the Association of Art Historians(AAH LLC); and other specialists in the architecture and urban planning fields. The full list of jury members can be found on the competition website.

To read the full press release, click here. 

Click here for the introductory video.


‘Planning Disrupted’ 2, webinar results and presentations

‘Planning Disrupted’ 2, webinar results and presentations  

August 30, 2020

On Wednesday, the 19th of August 2020, ISOCARP Institute in cooperation with: ISOCARP – International Society of City and Regional Planners , eThekwini Municipality, SACN – South African Cities Network, SALGA – South African Local Governments Association, SAPI – South African Planning Institute, MILE – Municipal Institute of Learning eThekwini  Municipality, SACPLAN –  South African Council for Planners, held the second ‘Planning Disrupted’ webinar. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response to our first webinar, our next offering in the “Planning Disrupted” series was Planning With People. This time we took a deep dive into what planning with people means. The webinar engaged with approaches and Covid19-induced opportunities for a local and international planning context. 

The webinar started with a kick-off presentation from ISOCARP and SACN. ISOCARP presented the results of the “Planning Beyond Limits – Building Livable Communities” ISOCARP YPP project in Jakarta and Bogor, Indonesia. While SACN launched the Practitioner Profile Magazine. The Magazine profiles the human behind the planner and is a good reminder that planners are people too, especially when we talk about “planning with people”. 

After the welcoming words and the kick-off presentation the webinar moved on to the four Breakout Sessions, which offered an interactive, broad and moderated discussion on the following topics:

1. Voices in Planning: The Bright Side of Planning Disruption – moderated by SACN, eThekwini Municipality

This session looked at the opportunities inherent in Covid19 and beyond to bring creativity, trust-building and meaningful partnerships into planning with people. A celebration of the diversity of views and voices and a willingness to embrace unheard and challenging perspectives through creative methodologies and confidence in process and deep listening. 

2. Community-oriented Plans: Methods and Approaches for Successful Implementation – moderated by ISOCARP

Community oriented plans (COP) aim (in general) to adapt the theoretical urban planning knowledge and standard planning practice to be more responsive to local people’s needs. Participatory planning is just one of the methods to implement COP, and in this session we discussed how communities can plan for their future as part of an integrated planning process for an area, and what tools and methods they may have at their disposal.

Click here to view the recording for Breakout Session 2!

3. Establishing Community Partnerships: A Challenge for Planning Practitioners – moderated by SAPI

We know that coordinated partnerships can help improve urban planning by addressing different urban challenges from every angle. Identifying formal (and informal) stakeholders may seem like a logical first step, but engaging them to become active and collaborative partners is much more complicated. The Breakout session focused on discussing the challenges and strategies for fostering successful partnerships between planners and the community. 

Click here to view the recording for Breakout Session 3!

4. Building Municipal Identity using Municipal Assets – A KZN Perspective – presented by SALGA – KZN and Maphumulo Local Municipality

How can municipalities use their natural, social, cultural, economic and other assets to build and market their municipal identity ensuring municipal spaces are legible and attract investment and development. The Breakout session showcased perspectives from Kwa-Zulu Natal. The aim of the session was to indicate how municipalities can strengthen their development potential.

Click here to view the recording for Breakout Session 4!