Dynamic Border Land­scapes in Europe

A new round of discus­sions on Euro­pean inte­gra­tion begins between rigid border­lines and vibrant border land­scapes: On the one hand, the border between nation states is primarily inter­preted as an admin­is­tra­tive and restric­tive boundary with new border forti­fi­ca­tions within the context of global migra­tion flows. On the other hand, the terri­to­rial borders are under­stood as economic spaces and habi­tats in order to encourage the conver­gence of cross-border city networks and regions, land­scapes and cultural spaces at a polit­ical level. From an indi­vidual perspec­tive, the networked society opposes this effort, virtu­ally inde­pen­dently of national borders to a great extent, fluc­tu­ating between a retreat to the private sphere and a rebel­lious civil society reor­ga­nizing itself into urban and regional move­ments and units. There­fore, in addi­tion to border issues impacting national fron­tier regions, the processes behind estab­lishing new borders and dissolving existing ones epit­o­mize urban and rural envi­ron­ments across all of Europe. Plan­ning and design issues mani­fest within this field of tension for the Europe of the future in transna­tional everyday places, city districts and regions.

These border land­scapes serve as the venues for nego­ti­ating and defining Euro­pean urban devel­op­ment poli­cies. Within the frame­work of a summer school, the univer­si­ties open a crit­ical debate regarding border spaces and topics related to future urban devel­op­ment in Europe. Up-and-coming plan­ners and designers scru­ti­nize prescribed inter­pre­ta­tions of terri­to­rial lines, describe the dynamics of tran­si­tion zones within cities and regions, and search for new perspec­tives on people-friendly devel­op­ment in Europe. The focus of the border­line city is shifting towards spatial phenomena and forms of coop­er­a­tion along border land­scapes. More than ever, the evolu­tion and trans­for­ma­tion of habi­tats, from the archi­tec­ture to the region, needs to be mapped out in order to describe the dialec­tics and concur­rence of dynamic devel­op­ments contex­tu­al­ized on different scales. This is the only manner in which neces­sary actions of partic­ular interest from a plan­ning and design perspec­tive can be intro­duced into the debate on the further devel­op­ment of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion and the Leipzig Charter. For that reason, Summer School 2020 will be devoted to the places that are most impacted by border processes:

Isolated and border­less loca­tions and districts

Cross-border urban spaces that galva­nize inspi­ra­tion and
inno­va­tion at the local level

Trans­border urban spaces and land­scapes confronted with conflicting
devel­op­ments at the regional level

Inter­re­gional spaces for coop­er­a­tion and city networks with
trend-setting urban devel­op­ment targets

Everyday processes behind estab­lishing and dissolving borders

Social coex­is­tence is not just struc­tured based on natio­nal borders. The disso­lu­tion of spatial and temporal borders is steadily becoming more visible and palpable in Euro­pean villages, cities and regions in partic­ular. Greater flex­i­bility and digi­tal­iza­tion in common­place activ­i­ties such as work, consump­tion, leisure and mobility are leading to a growing disin­te­gra­tion of collec­tive time struc­tures, thus altering the rhythms of our cities. (cf. Pohl 2009) As a conse­quence of approx­i­mating insti­tu­tional frame­works and tech­no­log­ical advance­ment, the func­tional and infra­struc­tural require­ments for a city are changing. At the same time, the bound­aries bet­ween the spheres of work and private life are becoming pro­gressively blurred, which will have addi­tional reper­cus­sions for the func­tional rela­tion­ships in urban spaces and how they are orga­nized in the future. The digi­tal­iza­tion of work is creating greater phys­ical inde­pen­dence from the place employ­ment, making it neces­sary to rene­go­tiate mobility and loca­tion issues. Flex­ible and border­less work is changing everyday life in the city. Spatial, temporal and func­tional change processes must not be consid­ered sepa­rately but instead are rife with paral­lels and interdependencies.

The nation state as deci­sion-maker
vs. the city as a driver of innovation

More and more munic­ipal and city govern­ments are step­ping to the fore instead of nation states when debating migra­tion, envi­ron­mental and urban devel­op­ment poli­cies. They are gaining in impor­tance as consti­tu­tive and acting govern­mental and admin­is­tra­tive enti­ties at the Euro­pean level. The sense of urgency posed by the polit­ical chal­lenges facing urban author­i­ties grap­ples with trans­for­ma­tion and deci­sion-ma­king processes lasting several years at the Euro­pean level. In some EU coun­tries, for example, a growing isola­tionist policy is being promoted by polit­ical repre­sen­ta­tives at the national level. In contrast, calls for the ideals of an open, inclu­sive soci­ety can be heard, espe­cially in densely popu­lated urban areas, which are being imple­mented by means of local govern­ment poli­cies. (e.g. soli­darity cities) Cities such as Gdansk in Poland, Palermo and Naples in Italy are becoming pioneers, acting against their national govern­ments. Cities are joining together to form city networks not only to address migra­tion issues but also to define their own envi­ron­mental and polit­ical goals. They coun­ter­bal­ance polit­ical deci­sions at the national level and present their own urban agendas along­side the “Leipzig Charter on Sustain­able Euro­pean Cities” adopted in 2007 at the minis­te­rial level of the partic­i­pating coun­tries. Thus, local poli­tics overlap with national direc­tives and increas­ingly demand more subsidiarity.


The trans­for­ma­tion of border­lines shaped the fellow­ship of national terri­to­ries before inter­re­gional spaces for coope­ration along national borders were insti­tu­tion­al­ized by the inte­gra­tion process of the Euro­pean Union. The 19th and 20th century in partic­ular were marked by coun­tries merging together as part of national move­ments throughout Europe. After the end of the Second World War, further multilate­ral coali­tions followed suit, which consti­tuted the start of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion with its numerous insti­tu­tions and con­tinue to shape the process to this day. For example, the Schengen Agree­ment made it possible for people to cross internal borders without border checks, which greatly influ­enced the economic devel­op­ment of the border regions. This consol­i­da­tion is not always perceived as attrac­tive or as an asset for border cities. The notion of the “close stranger” lost its appeal not least as a result of the common euro­zone. Never­the­less, these cities often bene­fited econom­i­cally from border cross­ings (e.g., spending the last of a foreign currency while on vaca­tion) and today are increas­ingly confronted with a frag­mented and small-scale struc­tural transformation.


Europe is divided into nation states by border­lines. Its two-dimen­sional inter­pre­ta­tion is no longer able to satisfy the diverse polit­ical and socio-economic devel­op­ments. In the course of the Euro­pean Union’s cohe­sion policy, joint regional devel­op­ment has not just been promoted to an increasing degree along border­lines for almost 30 years, with the volume of the funding being expanded constantly. The “Euro­pean Regional Devel­op­ment Fund” (ERDF) and the INTERREG program, which is financed by that fund, are intended to over­come the divi­sive effect of borders while the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the indi­vidual regions continue to come into play. The objec­tive of the funding program is to main­tain the border solely as an admin­is­tra­tive line and to estab­lish the border region as a common living space, economic area and land­scape (cf. Gabe 2015).


Borders feature various modes of action that change the cities and regions on different scales. According to Benjamin Davy, oper­a­tions involving dividing, sepa­rating and connecting define plan­ning and design issues. Dividing refers to the divi­sion of a border and serves to orga­nize inner worlds. The sepa­rating effect of borders deter­mines the rela­tion between what was sepa­rated and the surrounding envi­ron­ment, but can also be changed temporarily. Hermetic border­lines and ones that can scarcely be bridged can be opened and closed temporarily. For example, the opening of Germany’s external borders in 2015 in the after­math of growing migra­tion move­ments across Europe. Pass­port control points were rein­tro­duced later on at the same border cross­ings in the Schengen zone. The effects and reper­cus­sions of these mech­a­nisms vary consid­er­ably for the indi­vid­uals. And last but not least, borders connect by virtue of their cross­ings and corri­dors. Spatial and temporal qual­i­ties can only be shaped in this manner. The concur­rent nature of different modes of action at borders is extremely rele­vant for the border­line city.

Borders are not a matter of course but rather are subject to ongoing trans­for­ma­tion, resulting from nego­ti­a­tion, delibe­ration and design. They are “produced” socially, “inscribed” into everyday space and “imple­mented” polit­i­cally. Their lifes­pans and mech­a­nisms have scarcely been inves­ti­gated. The lingering effects of former border demar­ca­tions, for example, have only been the subject of research for a few years now and are sum­med up by the phenom­enon of phantom borders. Inter­ac­tions between different actors, everyday prac­tices, and administra­tive insti­tu­tions are described over prolonged periods of time.