Strategizing the Temporary: A Comparative Analysis of Temporary Use Stabilization in German and Dutch Planning Contexts

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Karsten Zimmermann
External Supervisor: Dr. Dr. Lasse Gerrits (formerly at University of Bamberg)

Dissertation Abstract:

Temporary Use (TU) is an instrument in urban planning with its own temporal choreographies; at times, it roots to a single space and during others, tracks through many. This phenomenon and specifically its process of stabilization, whether through singular or split spatiality are my ontological and epistemological challenges and my foci of inquiry. Scholars note that TU in its many forms is illusive or ephemeral, and fragmentally deciphered through an increasing number of semantic frames. They also note a more effective interpretation of TU not a stand-alone instant or event, but in the context of broader spatial change and through a plurality of perspectives. In sharing this angle for approaching TU, I problematize the phenomenon as a process of change that not only emerges but also becomes durable; this latter quality we still minimally understand.

My steps towards exploring this phenomenon unfurl through two analytical tracks that query and follow the stabilization of TU within scholarship and in practice. The first of these methodological aims examines the emerging production and stabilization of meaning in relation to TU as a terminological concept in scholarly discourse. The study of signs or a semiotic framing help me add depth to an initial bibliometric analysis of TU’s growth in urban studies discourses.

My second methodological aim views TU through complexity lens to explain TU stabilization processes as a specific phase in the examples of self-organizing, entrepreneurial, experimental and complex systems in urban regeneration. The explanatory value of interactive and adaptive mechanisms serve my empirical illustration of the generative and configuration of conditions that contribute to the equifinality of TU stabilization. Data collected from 40 temporary use cases including independent instances and milieus in the cities of Bremen (GE) and Rotterdam (NL) inform my empirical work. The specific method of Fuzzy-Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) support my analytical approach for this research.

My preliminary results indicate that TU is an emerging and stabilizing part of urban processes. Beyond this, it is a reality that is often decoupled from our limited abilities to perceive processes of change. Through a capacious philosophy of critical realism, the epistemological threading of the temporary into the complex and adaptive systems, and the empirical interrogation of the configurational, we can see find that TU is not as temporary as we might think. It is in fact a re-framing and re-configuration of existing processes of urban regeneration and development linking macro-level change processes and local-level processes of urban experimentalism. We need to investigate more critically its spatial and temporal reconceptualization. Otherwise, we might only continue making use of it as policy patching instead of effectively consolidating it in urban planning, programming and policy craft.