Problem statement

Since its outbreak in early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has had major implications on our health care policy as well as on our everyday life. In spatial terms the pandemic also had its influence and brought about new spatial patterns of use. Social distancing and closed entertainment facilities led to different ways of using public space. All of a sudden, the advantages of an urban lifestyle like a vibrant cultural scene or global economic activity came to a halt. Through the outbreak of the pandemic, many of us spent more time at home and in their immediate neighborhood, asking ourselves: How do I live? How do I want to live? And where?

From a geographical perspective, it is in particular interesting to see how the pandemic affected regional patterns. Residents of major cities faced different challenges as those living in rural areas. In this regard, ideas on living and on how to use public space, public transport or urban amenities in general changed. This is changing society as a whole and brings about new challenges for adequate and sustainable urban and regional planning. The project CURB looks into whether the experiences made during the pandemic lead to a ‘renaissance of the rural’ and if urbanization in the century of urbanization is being dampened.

Goals and question

The goal of the FWF funded project CURB is to deepen theoretical and applied knowledge. It aims to understand how the pandemic has influenced the residential location preferences, residential satisfaction as well as urbanization processes in general. Scientific knowledge is then transferred to the applied planning context by formulating recommendations. This is accomplished by using the Delphi technique together with planning practitioners. Therefore, CURB follows a transdisciplinary approach.

The following research questions are at the center of our research project:

  1. How has the Covid-19 pandemic quantitatively influenced residential mobility?
  2. What are the preferences for one’s own place of residency?
  3. How do the Covid-19 measures influence the spatial perception and actions of inhabitants?
  4. Is there a new perception of urban quality since the outbreak of Covid-19?
  5. Which changes within planning culture could the Covid-19 pandemic bring about?


The research questions will be answered through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. Whilst doing so, progress will be monitored by regular systematic literature reviews. This is the fundament for the following four work packages which are combined with one another within a complex mixed methods design. The first work package contains a qualitative media analysis of newspaper articles to understand narratives generated by the media and different key actors.

In the second package, data on internal migration between 2020 and 2024 is analyzed to understand socio-spatial patterns and processes in regard to the pandemic.

The third work package contains the aforementioned group discussions following the Delphi technique. The knowledge of planning practitioners is integrated and they are invited to reflect on the outcomes of the other work packages

Work package 4 finally makes use of PPGIS (Public Participation Geographic Information System) to understand the socio-spatial implications of the pandemic in Eastern Austria (consisting of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland). In spring 2023, a survey using Maptionnaire is sent to 30.000 households.

ISR project team


1.09.2022 - 28.02.2025


This project is funded by the FWF (grant-number P 35066 G).