CityScienceLab Hamburg shows how urban data makes cities smarter


The CityScienceLab at HafenCity University Hamburg explores urban data to investigate how digitisation can change cities. In co-operation with the MIT Media Lab and further partners from politics, business and science, the research institution develops digital city models – so-called CityScopes – to analyse urban development processes. The goal is to strengthen collaboration between different urban development stakeholders and to make cities better places to live – with data as a tool. Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer, CityScienceLab Director and academic lead at UNITAC Hamburg, a technology lab of the United Nations (UN Habitat), told Hamburg News how that can work.


Digital city. New forms of data-based collaboration.


Cities today have become big data producers. It is crucial to collect this data, transform it into good quality, maintain it and make it available to as many people as possible. How can this data create new forms of cooperation? Which data combinations make cooperation between the disciplines in urban development possible?

INTERGEO: Sustainable cities only exist with participation - Interview


Gesa Ziemer, Director at the City Science Lab at Hafen City University in Hamburg, and her team are heavily involved with twin technologies and have the ambition to develop them for social data and citizen participation as well. Most twins model traffic, logistics or infrastructure. They also want to bring in the social aspect! Read the full interview on how "Sustainable cities only exist with participation" now!

New Publication out now:


Digital City Science. Researching New Technologies in Urban Environments. Perspectives in Metropolitan Research 6. Raphael Schwegmann, Gesa Ziemer, Jörg R. Noenning (Hg). Jovis, Berlin 2021.


How will science and technology shape the cities of the future - and what influence will cities have on future science and technology? Who are the architects and actors who are behind these processes in the context of digitization? What presuppositions can science be unconsciously guided by when doing research on the digital city? What does it mean in this context to work transdisciplinary? Based on these questions, Perspectives in Metropolitan Research 6 offers an overview of current perspectives on the digital city.

TEDxBonn: Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer

Collaboration: Data-based trust building for people centered smart cities


Städte produzieren mehr digitale Daten als je zuvor. Wie können wir diese Daten nutzen, um neue Formen der Zusammenarbeit in menschengerechten Smart Cities zu gestalten?


At TEDx Bonn, Gesa Ziemer will talk about New Forms of Collaboration and how to create people-centered digital cities.

"Urban Researcher Ziemer: The Future of the City is digital" - Interview in Tagesspiegel


Digitalization and the corona pandemic are radically changing the cities, according to urban researcher Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer. She recently became head of a UN laboratory for sustainable urban development through digitalization (UNITAC) at the HCU. Innovative technologies are to be developed there that will be used in cities around the world.


with Katharina Schneider

This article was published on May 11th, 2021 in the Tagesspiegel Extra-Briefing for Smart Cities & Regions.
Picture: Copyright Angela Pfeiffer

This article was published on May 11th, 2021 in the Tagesspiegel Extra-Briefing for Smart Cities & Regions.

The extra briefing is published every two weeks as part of the Tagesspiegel Background Digitalization & KI and provides information about new initiatives, papers and projects for the digitalization of municipalities.




Gute Leude - The Hamburg Talk (Podcast)


Episode 37: For Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer Hamburg is a place of longing, it is her home. Although she has spent a lot of time abroad - or perhaps because of it, she works as an urban development expert in the Hanseatic city. In the new episode of our podcast, she tells Lars how she pursues her passion, research and observation. The professor of cultural theory also reports on how the airport brings her down and which encounters brought her on her way.


with Lars Meier



New Publication:

Stadt als Interface. Analoge und digitale Aspekte. In: Hiromi Hosoya, Markus Schaefer (Hg). The Industrious City. Urban Industry in the Digital Age. Zurüch 2021.


Cities have always been places where commerce and production, working and living are physically and functionally integrated. Only with the rise of industry have zoning regulations been introduced to separate these functions in space. But what is the role of such regulations when industry is digitized, increasingly emission-free, and based on innovation more than mass production? How should working and living be combined, when mobility and energy consumption become more sustainable? And what are the opportunities in a volatile world, characterized by digital disruption, migration, and demographic shifts, to create urban areas based on social equity and resilience? Based on interrogative research at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) in the interdisciplinary urban design studio The Industrious City, the Zurich-based architecture studio Hosoya Schaefer presents this publication of the same name.



"Life in the country is becoming more attractive" - Interview in the Hamburger Abendblatt



Urban development expert Gesa Ziemer on the future of cities, the renaissance of the country and the role of the car.


with Insa Gall and Matthias Iken



Urban Planning in Dialogue - Podcast (01)

Todays guest is Gesa Ziemer. She heads the CityScienceLab in Hamburg, a cooperation with the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge/ USA, which investigates the urban challenges in the era of digitalization. Gesa Ziemer is professor for Cultural Theory and Practice and thus has less of a technical view on the digital city but, among other things, deals with digital participation and how digital data can help to simplify complex decisions in urban planning.


with Hendrik Jansen and Ilka Mecklenbrauck



The Gateway to Urban Future - Podcast

Gesa Ziemer on the concrete future of cities. At the CityScienceLab in Hamburg she develops tools to show the consequences of decision making. What does it mean to build accomodation for 300 refugees? What does it mean to build new roues for public transport? Ziemer says: It is not really important if a city is aesthetically pleasing, it is important if a city works for the people, we need a resilient city.


with Michael Carl and Jacqueline Althaller




Citymaking Podcast_03

on opportunities and challenges of the digital city



with Thorsten Kausch




City Science Summit 2019

Elbphilharmonie, in cooperation with the MIT Media Lab 


With Norman Foster, Nicolas Negroponte, Maja Göpel, Joelle Pianzolla, Kent Larson, Katharina Fegebank, Peter Tschentscher and more. 


On 1st and 2nd October 2019, international experts will gather in Hamburg at the City Science Summit to discuss which digital technologies will influence decision-making processes and shape everyday life in future cities. The conference title "Cities without..." invites us to open up

spaces for thought and fill vacancies with visions for the city as a living space.


The City Science Summit 2019 is organized by the CityScienceLab of the HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU) in cooperation with the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, USA and the City Science Network. The conference is open to the public and free of charge. Registration at is mandatory.

New Publications


Performing Citizenship. Bodies, Agencies and Limitations.

Hildebrandt, Peters, Ziemer (eds). Palgrave, London 2019.


This open-access book discusses how citizenship is performed today, mostly through the optic of the arts, in particular the performing arts, but also from the perspective of a wide range of academic disciplines such as urbanism and media studies, cultural education and postcolonial theory. It is a compendium that includes insights from artistic and activist experimentation. Each chapter investigates a different aspect of citizenship, such as identity and belonging, rights and responsibilities, bodies and materials, agencies and spaces, and limitations and interventions. It rewrites and rethinks the many-layered concept of citizenship by emphasising the performative tensions produced by various uses, occupations, interpretations and framings.


Perspectives in Metropolitan Research


New Stakeholders of Urban Change

Hilke Berger, Gesa Ziemer (Hrsg.)



In the urban centers of Europe, residents are increasingly demanding not only to participate in the discussion about the densification of our cities, but also to shape it actively. It is especially creative planning projects that succeed in finding new role models and structures for urban development: artists act as urban developers, theaters carry out urban projects, curators curate the city, architects also take on the role of social workers. This results in new hybrid fields of action that require a rethinking of established strategies and the constellations of those involved.


This volume brings together perspectives from quite different professions at the interface of urban planning and cultural practice, in order to seek answers to some central questions: how does this hybridity generate a contemporary urbanity? How must contemporary institutions be structured? And how should a new culture of cooperation be set up to enable a mutual dialog and transparency in development processes between citizens and authorities, as well as between the various stakeholders?


Finding Places

  • SAT1 on Finding Places
  • “App der guten Hoffnung” in the Süddeutsche Zeitung

         Further articles on the topic:

  • Urban Modelling for Refugees in Hamburg by Ariel Noyman
  • Shifting Priorities, Finding Places by Kent Larson and Ariel Noyman
  • Cities and Refugees: The German Experience by the Brookings Institution



Complicity. New Perspectives on Collectivity
published in English by transcript Press

Prof. Dr. Gesa Ziemer
HafenCity Universität

Henning - Voscherau - Platz 1

20457 Hamburg