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Urban Change and Regeneration in Switzerland



The urban landscape of Europe is undergoing its most fundamental transformations since post-war reconstruction. The explosion in research output on urban regeneration and renewal in recent years can be explained by three trends: 

  1. The fact that cities and urban areas are currently experiencing tremendous structural changes (number and diversity of urban policy initiatives); 
  2. The decline in traditional industries and the associated loss of employment, and populations, to the suburbs and beyond is no longer the one and only cause for decay and deterioration of cities as well as resulting urban regeneration; 
  3. Approaches to urban regeneration and renewal have changed drawing on notions of public-private partnership, growth coalitions, local alliances and community mobilization, place marketing, the culture economy and the creative class.

As these processes will remain important in the future, cities will carry on to transform in responding to the challenges that arise from these structural changes. As one way to react to these changes is urban regeneration, this project aims at fostering knowledge on urban regeneration projects in Switzerland. The findings will contribute to a discussion about learning from path dependencies for increasing the adaptive capacity of cities and urban areas under structural changes.

Research Questions

The proposed analysis of urban regeneration processes in Switzerland addresses the following research questions:

  • What do Swiss cities do in order to cope with structural change (caused by demographic, economic or other factors)?
  • Why do Swiss cities get involved in urban regeneration?
  • What are starting points or windows of opportunities for urban regeneration (initiative by developers, initiative by cities to increase tax income)?
  • What kind of trajectories and path dependencies characterize urban regeneration (lock-ins/barriers)?
  • What types of urban regeneration strategies can be identified (e.g. housing, economic development, green spaces)?
  • What types of urban regeneration projects can be identified (private, public, PPP)?
  • To what extent and why do urban regeneration strategies differ between Swiss regions (e.g. between French-speaking and German-speaking Switzerland)?


The project analyses the governance of urban regeneration in Switzerland. The main goal of the project is to identify and typify governance processes of urban regeneration in Switzerland in order to set up a data base with regeneration strategies in Switzerland and develop criteria for good governance of urban regeneration.

The sub-goals are:

  • to develop a conceptual framework for the analysis and evaluation of urban shrinkage and urban regeneration strategies in Switzerland;
  • to conceptualize urban regeneration strategies as local adaptation to (global/regional) demographic, social, economic or environmental change;
  • to develop criteria and indicators to identify and measure urban regeneration in Switzerland;
  • to identify transformation processes and regeneration strategies in urban Switzerland;
  • to set up a data base of a) transformation processes and b) urban regeneration strategies in Switzerland;
  • to analyse path dependencies of urban transformations (caused by demographic, economic or other factors)
  • to analyse regeneration strategies for urban (re-)development in Switzerland (as coping strategies to deal with urban structural change);
  • to develop criteria for good governance of urban regeneration;
  • to develop policy recommendations for national, cantonal and city planning authorities about how to deal with shrinkage and other fundamental transformations in Switzerland;
  • to contribute to the scholarly network of COST TU0803 by conceptual and empirical work on shrinking cities and urban regeneration strategies in Switzerland.

Our work should thus help to better understand shrinkage, regeneration and transformation processes in urban areas and at the local scale.


The project is funded by a research grant from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) in the frame of COST Action TU0803 "Cities Regrowing Smaller  (CIRES): Fostering Knowledge on Regeneration Strategies in Shrinking Cities across Europe".