2021/05/04 – Markus Hesse “The Urban Geography of Luxembourg’s Financial Centre”

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Open the fortress! When financial centre and urban development collide – the case of LuxembourgCity, Luxembourg 

The seminar gives an overview of urban dynamics in Luxembourg City, the small-but-global capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, one of Europe’s leading financial centres. Recent debates have revolved around the consequences of Brexit and also COVID-19, underlining the dependence of the small country on the flows of the workforce, currency and commodities from abroad. Moreover, seven years after the Luxleaks-revelations, the ‘OpenLux’ media coverage of February 2021 has shed some critical light on Luxembourg’s business model, emphasising the hidden nature of parts of the country’s financial sector. 

Less recognised by observers from the outside are the urban-regional ramifications of the country’s development trajectory, most notably excessive mobility (including cross-border commuting), the commodification and exploitation of land, and a structural housing crisis. In spatial terms, Luxembourg’s business model presents a strong determination for providing office real-estate and accessibility, most recently complemented by large-scale urban development projects (including high-end housing). A sustainable development pathway for the Grand Duchy and its capital is increasingly discussed, but the political economy remains remarkably absent from such discourses. Current and future plans are still determined by the country’s fine-tuned growth ecology and its secretive mode of governance at both national and local levels. 

Markus Hesse is a professor of urban studies at the University of Luxembourg’s Department of Geography and Spatial PlanningHis academic background is in geography (University of Münster, Germany) and spatial planning (PhD at the University of Dortmund), and he obtained a post-doctoral degree in human geography from the Freie Universität Berlin. While his research interests focus on a broad range of topics in urban development and metropolitan governance, a common thread of this research is concerned with the interplay of spaces and flows, for example with regard to logistics in a spatial context. A recent research project studied the emergence of “relational cities” in Europe and South East Asia, namely Geneva (Switzerland), Luxembourg City, and Singapore. A particular research emphasis is placed on the science-policy interface in urban planning and governance. Markus Hesse is an elected member of the Academy for Spatial Research and Planning (ARL) in Germany and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of the UK. He sits on various advisory boards and scientific councils. 

Markus Hesse, Department of Geography and Spatial PlanningUniversity of Luxembourg 

markus.hesse@uni.lu 

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