My main research interests centre around the broader scope of sustainable development of cities and regions (e.g. urban sustainability transitions, resilient cities, etc.) and governance issues, especially in a European context. I have been focusing on the above-mentioned scope of themes with a strict Central-Eastern European geographical indication in my recent works. Besides, the idea of post-growth has become one of the interesting theoretical approaches, I would aim to integrate more in my works.
The relevance of urban transformation towards sustainability has recently been on the rise in the scientific urban development research agenda. In the dynamically changing world, cities aim to become - ideally - prepared and aware of the awaiting challenges. Therefore, many face transformation to meet the current trends (e.g., adaptation to climate change) and changing needs (e.g., digitalisation, mobility). This also applies to the post-socialist countries of Central-Eastern Europe, where many large cities are preparing to follow current development trends to strengthen their sustainability in a multidimensional way (KAŽYS et al. 2016; RUNGE et al. 2018). A considerable number of smaller urban centres have also been actively adapting to recent development tendencies, although many have not been able to reorganise thoroughly after post-socialist transformation. These cities might currently be facing transitional struggles due to existing social, economic and spatial challenges, which are (to a great extent) the legacy of the previous transformation and the system. The new societal demands have put pressure on the development processes, planning practices and governance, so new planning-related hurdles are becoming visible in the cities. Thus, the question arises as to how post-socialist cities' particular challenges influence current urban development trends, especially sustainable urban transformation and how planning responds or should respond to them.
The described work will comparatively address these development- and planning practices in three cities of regional importance - Bautzen in Germany and Krosno and Żary in Poland - with the aim to develop a conceptual understanding and determine how small cities (should) deal with the post-socialist challenges and sustainability transitions. Hence, the three case studies will be scrutinised with regard to the following research questions:
- What is the extent of the urban transformative capacity that stimulates the sustainability transitions in small post-socialist cities?
- How do the national, regional and local policies and development strategies frame the sustainable urban transformation and its implementation?
- What opportunities and challenges do sustainability transitions create in the selected case studies?
- What planning possibilities arise in small post-socialist cities towards sustainable urban transformation and governance of it?
The proposed research's conduction requires various qualitative research methods to develop a theoretical framework and facilitate the effective realisation of the research steps successively. Theoretically and conceptually, within the used methods, a reference to the analytical framework for developing the "urban transformation capacity" of WOLFRAM (2016) is made. As transformation is a complex and long-term process of change, an analysis of the three cities' long-term development strategies follows alongside. To underpin the case studies and provide a better practical and theoretical understanding, existing secondary and primary data will be collected and analysed through semi-structured interviews with local planners and literature review. It will provide insight into current planning processes, their governance and possible future development priorities. This analysis forms the basis for conclusion and recommendations for capacity enhancement and targeted organisation of sustainability transformation processes in the three cities. Conclusively, a compendium-like comparison of the case studies and ideas for future research will be developed.