Currently visiting: Johanna Lilius


Johanna Lilius from Aalto University in Finland is visiting professor from October till December 2020: At the Department of Geography and Regional Research she is enhancing her understanding on housing policy, enjoying the "amazing team of urban researchers in Vienna" and teaching a course on ethnic retail in Vienna. Students should "not lose their curiosity", she points out in the following interview.

  • What is so fascinating about your research area?

Born and raised in cities, I have been an observer of city life since I was a child. Cities and their complexities inspire me to understand more about different phenomenon taking place in urban environments. I particularly enjoy working in the intersection between practice and research, as it allows to reflect on different issues vice versa.

  • Which central message should your students remember?

I think it´s important not to lose your curiosity. That´s why I try to encourage my students to engage in issues that somehow bother or interest them.


  • Why are you visiting our Faculty?

I am in Vienna to enhance my understanding on how housing policy contexts are reflected in housing practices. Besides that, it is rewarding to be teaching a course in ethnic retail. I currently lead a project on immigrant entrepreneurs and urban renewal in the Nordic context, and the work with my students here gives many inputs for this project. I also enjoy the amazing team of urban researchers in Vienna, and I have, despite the pandemic, already been able to make very interesting connections.

  • Which three publications characterise your work?

I truly enjoyed writing my book “Reclaiming Cities as Spaces of Middle Class Parenthood” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). It is a contextualization of the phenomena of families returning to inner cities, based on a variety of data collected over the course of almost ten years. Writing the book was also an opportunity to take an autoethnographic approach and reflect on changes in the inner city of Helsinki.

My article “Is There Room for Families in the Inner City? Life-Stage Blenders Challenging Planning” in Housing Studies 29 (6) is an example of how I combine different kind of data to explain urban phenomena. It shows discrepancy between planning and housing practices, but has later been used to inform planners and policy makers.

My bookchapter „MyyrYork – rejuvenating a housing estate neighborhood for the next generation of residents“, in Gentrification around the world vol. II. (edited by Jerome Krase and Judith de Sena), is also reflecting on changes in urban spaces, but in the suburban context. It draws on fieldwork in Helsinki, and is also an attempt to contextualize neighbourhood change in the Finnish context.

Thank you & welcome to our Faculty!


  • Dr.  Johanna Lilius, postdoctoral researcher, at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, is doing research on places and their complexities. Socio-spatial processes in cities as well as spatial relations within and between cities have been at the core of her work for more than 10 years. Her research has focused on housing and housing policy & development, (strategic) urban planning and development, suburban regeneration, urban cultures and lifestyles as well as urban entrepreneurs. Although firmly based in the Nordic context, as a visiting scholar, she has gained an understanding of neighbourhood development and urban planning and housing policies also in Amsterdam, San Diego and Athens.
  • Working group / host professor: Spatial Research and spatial planning /   Alois Humer
  • Course in the winter term: PS Ethnic retail: structures and potentials in Vienna

For Johanna Lilius, visiting professor at the Department of Geography and Regional Research till December 2020, cities and their complexities are an inspiring research environment. © privat/Hector Ahlroos

In Vienna she is enhancing her understanding on how housing policy contexts are reflected in housing practices. She is also teaching a course in ethnic retail. © privat/Pirkko Lilius