Re-Building the Alpine Rhine Valley - An Exploratory Case-Study of Sustainability Fixes and Densification Regimes

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Type and Duration

PhD-Thesis, September 2019 until May 2023 (finished)


Institute of Architecture and Planning

Main Research

Sustainable Planning and Construction

Field of Research

Sustainable Urban Design


Urban densification as a heterogenous planning principle covering diverse concepts such as "the re-use of brownfield land, more intensive use of urban buildings, sub-divisions and conversions of existing development" (Burton, 2000, p. 1969) emerged in the last three decades as an answer to spatial challenges such as soil consumption, traffic jams, ecological downgrading and social segregation. Therefore, urban densification is conceived as an important part of sustainable planning. Expanding such a narrow conception and using a critical perspective on sustainable development, urban densification can be seen as part of a "sustainability fix" (While et al., 2004) that selectively incorporates ecological sustainability in growth-oriented development paths of spatial development. This study specifically wants to address actor coalitions that govern urban densification projects in the Austrian Alpine Rhine Valley by taking up the "densification regimes" concept. The focus of my cumulative dissertation hence lies on how urban densification as a process driven by actor interests restructures the Alpine Rhine Valley and how the "sustainability fix" is used as a discursive device by different actors within urban densification projects.


Urban densification, Mixed-methods research, Planning policy, Social space, Densification regimes


  • Herburger, J. (2022). The Myth of Urban Densification: Tracing the Pathway of a Discourse on the Case of the Alpine Rhine Valley in Austria. European Journal of Spatial Development, 19(4), 25-43.

  • Herburger, J. (2022). The Growth Machines Fine-Tuning. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, digital.

  • Herburger, J. (2022). In Densification we Trust - On the Role of Abstract Space in the Production of Urban Densification in the Alpine Rhine Valley. Presented at the RC21 - Ordinary Cities in Exceptional Times, Athens.

  • Herburger, J. (2020). Re-Building the Alpine Rhine Valley. An Explorative Analysis of the Socio-spatial Impacts of Urban Densification.. Presented at the digitale Jahrestagung des Jungen Forum der ARL - Visionen für den Raum von Morgen. Instrumente, Ansätze und Perspektiven, virtuell.