IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Planning and Experimental Knowledge Production: Zeche Zollverein as an Urban Laboratory


  • Philipp Dorstewitz


Within a time span of 10 years, the old colliery Zeche Zollverein in Essen, Germany, was transformed from a troubled brownfield to a celebrated UNESCO world heritage site. In 2010 it served as the central hub for events held during Essen's year as European Cultural Capital. In this article I argue that we should consider Zollverein as an urban laboratory and understand its planning history as an experimental inquiry process in the Deweyan sense. I develop the concept of an ‘urban laboratory’ by paralleling the contexts of urban planning on Zollverein with recent developments in the philosophy of science and science studies on scientific laboratories. Laboratory work is understood as context-bound experimental practice focused on resolving concrete problem situations. Theory and experimental practice are more closely linked than traditional views have held. Scientific inquiry must always be understood as a normative quest and cannot be reduced to a descriptive task of representing nature. Finally, I frame laboratory work as a transactive social process in which a community of inquiry is formed and transformed. These four ideas help to adapt the concept of scientific laboratory to urban planning contexts, and I use the Zollverein case study to illustrate these characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Philipp Dorstewitz, 2014. "Planning and Experimental Knowledge Production: Zeche Zollverein as an Urban Laboratory," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(2), pages 431-449, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:38:y:2014:i:2:p:431-449

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Karvonen & Bas Heur, 2014. "Urban Laboratories: Experiments in Reworking Cities," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(2), pages 379-392, March.
    2. Christopher M. Chini & James F. Canning & Kelsey L. Schreiber & Joshua M. Peschel & Ashlynn S. Stillwell, 2017. "The Green Experiment: Cities, Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(1), pages 1-21, January.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:38:y:2014:i:2:p:431-449. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.