• Julianalaan 134, Architecture and the Built Environment

    2628BL Delft


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Personal profile

Academic background

Minibio Roberto Rocco (updated 2023)


Associate Professor of Spatial Planning and Strategy, Department of Urbanism, specialised in Governance of Urban Sustainability Transitions.

I am a scholar committed to understanding the relationships between society and the production and governance of the built environment. This means that I investigate how actors and institutions from the public sector, the private sector and civic society interact in planning, designing, governing and inhabiting the built environment, both formally and informally. These basic but foundational ideas explain much of my actions as an educator and researcher. I am an associate professor of spatial planning and strategy at TU Delft, a  former consultant for the Union for the Mediterranean and Horizon Europe and Eramus project leader. My research focuses on urban, metropolitan and regional governance, social sustainability and spatial justice as frameworks for just urban sustainability transitions. These frameworks enable a critical understanding of urbanisation processes and also tools that enable planners to design for sustainable, fair and inclusive urban and regional development. 

I have a multidisciplinary background in design, spatial planning and urban/economic geography. This background is the result of a trajectory that started at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, one of the highest-ranked architecture and planning courses in Latin America and had stations at the Institut Français d’Urbanisme (later merged with l’Institut d’Urbanisme de Paris to form the new École d’Urbanisme de Paris), the University of Hertfordshire (UK) and finally TU Delft, where I have worked since 2004 (please, see my CV). Since obtaining my PhD at TU Delft in 2008, I have worked as an assistant and then associate professor for the chair of Spatial Planning and Strategy, led first by Professor Vincent Nadin and now led by Caroline Newton.

I work in the intersection between spatial planning, design, governance and sustainability, understood in its three crucial dimensions: social, economic and environmental.

My view, following Campbell’s, is that spatial planning and design must engage with “two converging, yet distinct social movements: sustainability and social justice” (Campbell, 2013, p.75). The integration of sustainability and justice is the bedrock for long-term, durable sustainability, especially when we consider that for sustainability to exist, its three essential components (environmental, social, and economic) must occur simultaneously (Larsen, 2012).

It is in this convergence that I see the future of spatial planning and my role in the Department of Urbanism. This gap must be urgently addressed, as inequity and unfairness in the distribution of burdens and benefits of development are widely recognised to undermine sustainability. The literature on socio-technical transitions is clear about the need to look at the socio-spatial relations where transitions take place. Most surprisingly, however, socio-technical transitions to sustainability mostly fail to incorporate concepts of justice, democracy and redistribution, the bedrock of social sustainability, and focus solely on the environmental aspects of sustainability (Campbell, 2013).

In Urban Transitions to Sustainability, we study the intricate interplay between urbanisation, environmental stewardship, and social equity in the pursuit of sustainable and just urban futures. My research delves into the multifaceted dynamics of socio-technica transitions, investigating how spatial planning, governance structures, and policy interventions impact the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of cities. I explore innovative strategies for enhancing urban resilience, reducing carbon footprints, and fostering inclusive communities with special attention to the three crucial dimensions of spatial justice (distributive, procedural and recognitional). Through analysis and collaboration with local stakeholders, I seek to uncover pathways to sustainable urban development that prioritise the needs of all citizens, address spatial injustices, and promote the harmonious coexistence of nature and society in an era marked by rapid urbanisation, democratic deficit and environmental challenges.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

Doctorate, An Urban Geography of Globalisation: New Urban Structures in the Age of Hyper-connectivity, Delft University of Technology

1 Feb 200415 Feb 2008

Award Date: 15 Feb 2008

Master's degree, Operacao Urbana Faria Lima: Urban Management Tools, Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade de São Paulo

2 Mar 20002 Mar 2002

Award Date: 2 Mar 2002

Bachelor's degree, Bachelor's Degree , Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade de São Paulo

1 Mar 199015 Dec 1995

Award Date: 15 Dec 1995

External positions

Chairman of the Thesis Assessment Committee for the AMS Master Metropolitan Analysis, Design and Engineering, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS)

1 Oct 202230 Dec 2024

Diversity Officer for the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. TU Delft

1 Jan 202130 Dec 2022

President, SCUPAD Salzburg Congress for Urban Planning and Development

May 2016May 2017

President, Netherlands Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Jul 2014Jul 2017


  • JA Political science (General)
  • spatial planning
  • governance
  • regional planning
  • regional resources planning
  • spatial justice
  • democracy
  • social sustainability
  • socio-spatial justice
  • citizenship
  • citizen engagement
  • governance of urban sustainability transitions
  • HE Transportation and Communications
  • regional planning
  • regional resources
  • governance
  • JC Political theory
  • governance
  • democracy
  • rights theory
  • politics of urbanisation
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • informal settlements
  • slum
  • citizenship
  • rights theory
  • urban struggles
  • slum upgrading
  • self-help
  • insurgent citienship
  • ethics
  • values in the built environment
  • NA Architecture
  • design
  • LB2300 Higher Education
  • research into practice
  • academic research in areas of design practice
  • academic research and connections with design
  • research methodology
  • G Geography (General)
  • economic geography
  • New Economic Geography
  • Economies of agglomeration
  • economies of urbanisation
  • NEG
  • public goods
  • governance
  • social sustainability
  • spatial justice
  • right to the city


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