Linking Situational Analysis to Architecture and Urbanism. An Interdisciplinary Perspective


  • Norbert Kling Technical University of Munich



situational analysis, social worlds/arenas theory, architecture, urbanism, design, spatial analysis


Adele CLARKE, Carrie FRIESE and Rachel WASHBURN further expanded situational analysis (SA) with the publication of "Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Interpretive Turn" (2018) and "Situational Analysis in Practice: Mapping Relationalities Across Disciplines" (2022). During the last two decades, SA has been applied to analyze a broad range of research problems across different disciplines. While the mutual relationship between social and material worlds is understood to be at the epistemic base of SA, so far only few studies have been focused on questions that are related to architectural and urban processes through which material worlds are produced, and even fewer on the professional work of designing such worlds and processes. This is paralleled by the lack of theorizing at the intersection of SA, architecture, and urbanism, which constitutes an impediment to interdisciplinary work. In this article, I argue that SA is relevant in architecture and urbanism, while proposing that architectural methods and modes of representation could also be useful for SA. I discuss a series of aspects that could help strengthen the links between SA, architecture, and urbanism, using research exemplars and student work produced in urban design to underpin the argument.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Norbert Kling, Technical University of Munich

Norbert KLING is a researcher at the Chair of Sustainable Urbanism at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and partner at the practice zectorarchitects with offices in London and Munich. He trained as an architect and urban designer and holds a doctorate from the Department of Architecture at TUM. His research interests include conditions of asymmetric urban change and alternative spatial practices, as well as questions of concept formation, method, and process in the spatial and design disciplines.


Anderson, Jane (2017). Devising an inclusive and flexible taxonomy of international live projects. ARENA Journal of Architectural Research, 2(1), 3, [Accessed: February 2, 2023].

Baur, Nina; Castillo Ulloa, Ignacio; Mennell, Stephen & Million, Angela (2021). The refiguration of spaces and the refiguration of epistemic cultures: The changing balance of involvement and engagement in fundamental and applied research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3), Art. 21, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Beecroft, Richard & Parodi, Oliver (2016). Reallabore als Orte der Nachhaltigkeitsforschung und Transformation. TATuP – Zeitschrift für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Theorie und Praxis, 25(3), 4-8, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Beecroft, Richard; Trenks, Helena; Rhodius, Regina; Benighaus, Christina & Parodi, Oliver (2018). Reallabore als Rahmen transformativer und transdisziplinärer Forschung: Ziele und Designprinzipien. In Antonietta Di Giulio & Rico Defila (Eds.), Transdisziplinär und transformativ forschen: Eine Methodensammlung (pp.75-100). Wiesbaden: Springer VS, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Berger, Peter & Luckmann, Thomas (1967 [1966]). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Berking, Helmuth; Frank, Sybille; Frers, Lars; Löw, Martina; Meier, Lars; Steets, Silke & Stoetzer, Sergej (2006). Negotiating urban conflicts: Interaction, space and control. Bielefeld: transcript.

Blumer, Herbert (1954). What is wrong with social theory?. American Sociological Review, 19(1), 3-10.

Buchert, Margitta (2014). Reflexive design: Design and research in architecture. Berlin: Jovis.

Chair of Sustainable Urbanism (2021). Productive inter-sections: Radical operations along the Schleissheimer Strasse. Urban design project, winter term 2021/22, TU Munich, Germany, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Clarke, Adele (2005). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Clarke, Adele & Keller, Reiner (2014). Engaging complexities: Working against simplification as an agenda for qualitative research today. Adele Clarke in conversation with Reiner Keller. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 15(2), Art. 1. [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Clarke, Adele & Star, Susan (2008). The social worlds framework: A theory/methods package. In Edward Hackett, Olga Amsterdamska, Michael Lynch & Judy Wajcman (Eds.), Handbook of science and technology studies (pp.113-137). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Clarke, Adele; Friese, Carrie & Washburn, Rachel (2015). Situational analysis in practice: Mapping research with grounded theory. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Clarke, Adele; Friese, Carrie & Washburn, Rachel (2018). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the interpretive turn (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Clarke, Adele; Washburn, Rachel & Friese, Carrie (2022). Situational analysis in practice: Mapping relationalities across disciplines. New York, NY: Routledge.

Corner, James (1999). The agency of mapping: Speculation, critique and invention. In Denis Cosgrove (Ed.), Mappings (pp.213-252). London: Reaktion.

Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (2004 [1980]). A thousand plateaus (transl. by B. Massumi). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Dewey, John (1938). Logic: The theory of inquiry. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Döring, Jörg & Thielmann, Tristan (2009). Spatial Turn: Das Raumparadigma in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften (2nd ed.). Bielefeld: transcript.

Dunin-Woyseth, Halina (2005). The "thinkable" and the "unthinkable" doctorates: Three perspectives on doctoral scholarship in architecture. In Marc Belderbos & Johan Verbeke (Eds.), The unthinkable doctorate (pp.81-100). Brussels: Network for Theory, History and Criticism of Architecture and Hogeschool voor Wetenschap & Kunst – School of Architecture Sint-Lucas, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Fezer, Jesko & Banz, Claudia (Eds.) (2021). (How) do we (want to) work (together) (as (socially engaged) designers (students and neighbors)) (in neoliberal times)? Public design support = Öffentliche Gestaltungsberatung 2016-2021. London: Sternberg Press.

Foucault, Michel (1972 [1969]). The archaeology of knowledge (transl. by A. Sheridan). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, Michel & Gordon, Colin (1980) Power/knowledge. Selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977 (transl. by C. Gordon et al.). New York, NY: Vintage.

Frank, Andrea I. & da Rosa Pires, Artur (2021). Teaching urban and regional planning: Innovative pedagogies in practice. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Geertz, Clifford (1973). Thick description. Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In Clifford Geertz, The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays (pp.3-30). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Giseke, Undine; Löw, Martina; Million, Angela; Misselwitz, Philipp & Stollmann, Jörg (2021). Urban design methods. Berlin: Jovis.

Gottdiener, Mark & Hutchison, Ray (2011). The new urban sociology (4th ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Graff, Uta (2021). Research perspectives in architecture. Dimensions: Journal of Architectural Knowledge, 1(1), 11-20, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Haas, Peter & Haas, Ernst (1995). Learning to learn: Improving international governance. Global Governance, 1, 255-285.

Hajer, Maarten (1993). Discourse coalitions and the institutionalization of practice: The case of acid rain in Great Britain. In Frank Fischer & John Forester (Eds.), The argumentative turn in policy analysis and planning (pp.43-76), New York, NY: Duke University Press.

Halder, Severin & Michel, Boris (2019). Editorial: This is not an atlas. In Orangotango+ (Ed.), This is not an atlas: A global collection of counter-cartographies (pp.13-25). Bielefeld: transcript.

Harvey, David (2001). Spaces of capital: Towards a critical geography. New York, NY: Routledge.

Healey, Patsy (2006). Relational complexity and the imaginative power of strategic spatial planning. European Planning Studies, 14(4), 525-546.

Healey, Patsy (2007). Urban complexity and spatial strategies: Towards a relational planning for our times. New York, NY: Routledge.

Holtzman, Richard (2022 [2019]). Mapping policy issues: A simple, active-learning exercise for critical thinking. In Adele Clarke, Rachel Washburn & Carrie Friese (Eds.), Situational analysis in practice: Mapping relationalities across disciplines (2nd ed., pp.126-131). New York, NY: Routledge.

Innes, Judith & Booher, David (2015). A turning point for planning theory? Overcoming dividing discourses. Planning Theory, 14(2), 195-213.

Janson, Alban & Tigges, Florian (2014 [2013]). Fundamental concepts of architecture: The vocabulary of spatial situations (transl. by I. Pepper). Basel: Birkhäuser.

Jungfer, Carsten; Palmieri, Fernanda & Kling, Norbert (2022). "Dalston! Who asked u?": A knowledge-centred perspective on the mapping of socio-spatial relations in east London. Urban Planning, 7(3), 191-205.

Kling, Norbert (2016). Understanding change: Tracing transformative interactions in a large commonhold-type housing estate. In Karim Hadjri & Isaiah Durosaiye (Eds.), Proceedings of the Third Oikonet International Conference "Global Dwelling: Sustainability. Design. Participation" (pp.175-182). Manchester: Oikonet.

Kling, Norbert (2020). The redundant city: A multi-site enquiry into urban narratives of conflict and change. Bielefeld: transcript, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Kling, Norbert & Kurbasik, Florian (2018). Hanging around in the urban field. In Sophie Wolfrum, Heiner Stengel, Florian Kurbasik, Norbert Kling, Sofia Dona, Imke Mumm & Christian Zöhrer (Eds.), Porous city: From metaphor to urban agenda (pp.238-240). Basel: Birkhäuser.

Knoblauch, Hubert & Löw, Martina (2020). The re-figuration of spaces and refigured modernity: Concept and diagnosis. Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung, 45(2), 263-292, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Knoll, Richard; Praeger, Henri; Zillich, Julia; Kling, Norbert & Tümmers, Michael (2011). Entwurfslehre im Bachelor Architektur: Das Cottbus-Experiment. Berlin: Reimer.

Kretz, Simon & Kueng, Lukas (Eds.) (2016). Urbane Qualitäten. Zürich: Edition Hochparterre.

Löw, Martina (2016 [2000]). The sociology of space: Materiality, social structures, and action (transl. by D. Goodwin). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mareis, Claudia (2014). Design als Wissenskultur: Interferenzen zwischen Design- und Wissensdiskursen seit 1960. Bielefeld: transcript.

Mareis, Claudia (2016). Doing research: Design research in the context of the "practice turn". In Doing research: Design research in the context of the "practice turn" (pp.35-41). Basel: Birkhäuser.

Marguin, Séverine (2021a). Architecture and sociology: A sociogenesis of interdisciplinary referencing. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3), Art. 7. [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Marguin, Séverine (2021b). On the entanglement between sociology and architecture in spatial research. Dimensions. Journal of Architectural Knowledge, 1(1), 209-220, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Matthiesen, Ulf & Reisinger, Eva (2011). The zone of knowledge transactions: Recent tendencies in knowledge production, knowledge sharing and the trading of knowledge from a socio-spatial perspective. In Rob Atkinson & Georgios Terizakis (Eds.), Sustainability in European environmental policy: Challenges of governance and knowledge (pp.94-114). London: Routledge.

Michaeli, Mark & Häupl, Nadja (2017). netWORK: Mark Michaeli und Nadja Häupl zu Entwurfslabore als Netzwerke des Lernens und Forschens. Studierende und Städte entwickeln gemeinsam. In Department of Architecture TU Munich (Ed.), Year Book 2016/17 (pp.130-133). Munich: Department of Architecture TU Munich.

Overmeyer, Klaus; Lauinger, Holger; Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung & Studio UC (2007). Urban pioneers: Temporary use and urban development in Berlin. Berlin: Jovis.

Park, Robert E. & Burgess Ernest W. (2019 [1925]. The city. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Ragin, Charles C. (1992). Introduction: Cases of "What is a case". In Howard S. Becker & Charles C. Ragin (Eds.), What is a case? Exploring the foundations of social inquiry (pp.1-18). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ryle, Gilbert (1971 [1968]). The thinking of thoughts: What is "Le penseur" doing?. In Gilbert Ryle (Ed.), Collected papers: Vol. 2. Collected essays 1929-1968 (pp.480-496). London: Hutchinson.

Schmid, Christian (2016). Urbanisierung und Urbanität. In Simon Kretz & Lukas Kueng (Eds.), Urbane Qualitäten (pp.15-41). Zürich: Edition Hochparterre.

Schöbel, Sören; Schäfer, Julian & Hausladen, Georg (2021). Research through design under systematic quality criteria: Methodology and teaching research. Dimensions. Journal of Architectural Knowledge, 1(1), 99-109. [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Schwandt, Thomas A. & Gates, Emily F. (2018). Case study methodology. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (5th edition, pp.600-630). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Silberberger, Jan (2021). Architecture schools and their relationship with research: It's complicated. Dimensions: Journal of Architectural Knowledge, 1(1), 77-84, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

Simmel, Georg (1950 [1903]). The metropolis and mental life. In Kurt Wolff (Ed.), The sociology of Georg Simmel (pp.409-426). Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Simmel, Georg (1995a [1903]). Soziologie des Raumes. In Rüdiger Kamme, Angela Rammstedt & Otthein Rammstedt (Eds.), Georg Simmel Gesamtausgabe, 7 (pp.132-183). Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Simmel, Georg (1995b [1903]). Über räumliche Projektionen sozialer Formen. In Rüdiger Kamme, Angela Rammstedt & Otthein Rammstedt (Eds.), Georg Simmel Gesamtausgabe, 7 (pp.201-220). Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Soja, Edward W. (1989). Postmodern geographies: The reassertion of space in critical social theory. London: Verso Books.

Steets, Silke (2015). Taking Berger and Luckmann to the realm of materiality: Architecture as a social construction. Cultural Sociology, 10(1), 93-108.

Strauss, Anselm L. (1991). Social worlds and spatial processes: An analytic perspective. The Person-Environment Theory Series, Center for Environmental Design Research Working Paper Series, Center for Environmental Design Research, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Strübing, Jörg (2013). Qualitative Sozialforschung. Munich: Oldenbourg.

Valderrama Pineda, Andrés F. (2022 [2015]). Disabilities, the design of urban transport systems and the city. In Adele Clarke, Rachel Washburn & Carrie Friese (Eds.), Situational analysis in practice: Mapping relationalities across disciplines (2nd ed., pp.126-131). New York, NY: Routledge.

Voigt, Katharina; Graff, Uta & Ludwig, Ferdinand (2021). Research perspectives in architecture. Bielefeld: transcript, [Accessed: February 9, 2023].

von Unger, Hella (2014). Partizipative Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Wolfrum, Sophie (2014). Design and performativity: Designing performativity. In Sophie Wolfrum & Nikolai von Brandis (Eds.), Performative urbanism: Generating and designing urban space (pp.177-186). Berlin: Jovis.

Wolfrum, Sophie & Janson, Alban (2019). The city as architecture. Basel: Birkhäuser.

Yaneva, Albena (2012). Mapping controversies in architecture. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Yaneva, Albena (2016). Mapping controversies as a teaching philosophy in architecture. In Socrates Stratis (Ed.), Guide to common urban imaginaries (pp.147-161). Berlin: Jovis.

Zwangsleitner, Daniel (2017a). Using grounded theory and situational analysis to fathom the field of architecture. Paper presentation, European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, February 8, KU Leuven, Belgium.

Zwangsleitner, Daniel (2017b). Die Suche nach dem Sinn: Eine Situationsanalyse des Modell Steiermark (Research report). Graz: Haus der Architektur (HDA) Graz.

Zwangsleitner, Daniel (2018). The quest for better housing: Individual reconstruction and situational analysis of participatory housing in the framework of Modell Steiermark, Austria. PhD dissertation, Architecture and urbanism, Politecnico di Torino, Italy.




How to Cite

Kling, N. (2023). Linking Situational Analysis to Architecture and Urbanism. An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 24(2).



Social Worlds, Arenas, and Situational Analyses: Theoretical Debates and Practical Research Experiences