Dr Deljana Iossifova

Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies

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Deljana Iossifova is Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies at the School of Environment, Education and Development and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Manchester. She trained as an architect at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and has a PhD in Public Policy Design from Tokyo Institute of Technology. She is lead editor of 'Defining the Urban: Interdisciplinary and professional perspectives' (Routledge, 2017).

Iossifova’s scholarship focuses on the triggers, processes and consequences of urban transformations globally, including in China, Japan, Bulgaria, and the UK. Her research has generated new insights on people-place relationships and the activators and lived experience of sociospatial change. She is an expert on urban transformation in China, where she has worked, lived and conducted research over more than a decade. This includes studies of urban borderlands and the formation, negotiation, and maintenance of multiple individual and group identities under coexistence; and inquiries into the role of urban sanitation as physical infrastructure and everyday practices in processes of sociospatial differentiation under rapid urban transformation.

Iossifova’s studies are focused on the concrete versions of urban transformation in a range of very different situations. Her current work examines urban ageing in the context of post-socialist Bulgaria. She leads a project on urban transitions in Japan between the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and 2020. She led the ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (2016-2017) with partners in the UK, China, Brazil and Japan. 

Before joining the University of Manchester, Iossifova was a research fellow on the international collaborative project ‘Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment’ (SCIBE) at the University of Westminster. She was an Our Common Future Fellow (Volkswagen Foundation) and PhD Fellow on the Sustainable Urban Futures programme at the United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies (now the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability). She has many years of experience as a practicing architect and led on a number of award-winning master planning and architectural projects, including ‘Beijing Daxing New Media City’ and ‘DressCode Flagship Store’ in Tokyo.

Iossifova serves as a Director of the Urban Studies Foundation.  She contributes to the research-based atelier ‘Complexity, Planning and Urbanism’ at the Manchester School of Architecture. Collaborations include joint teaching and research with 'Emergent Technologies and Design' at the Architectural Association.

Further information

Conference organisation and knowledge transfer

  • Digital Tools for Urban Challenges. Co-organiser. Workshop, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS). Wuhan University, China. 04/2017

  • Understanding Urban Transformations through Data. Lead and organiser. Summer School, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS), University of Manchester, UK. 09/2016

  • Modelling Urban Systems. Co-organiser. Workshop, funded through ESRC Strategic Network Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems (DACAS). Sao Paulo State University, Brazil. 06/2016

  • Harmonica Alley, Yokohama: a visual ethnography. Daiwa Foundation/Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation sponsored workshop in collaboration with Hosei University and Tokyo Institute of Technology. Yokohama, Japan. 07/2015

  • Defining the Urban: a transdisciplinary perspective: IDPM & GURC sponsored workshop at the University of Manchester. 02/2015

  • Excretion: cognition, perception and behaviour in rapidly transitioning cities of the Global South (and elsewhere): DARG-sponsored session at the Royal Geographical Society, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London. 08/2013

  • Times of Scarcity: reclaiming the possibility of making: Head of 3rd European Urban Summer School (EUSS) for Young Planning Professionals, hosted by the University of Westminster in collaboration with AESOP / ECTP-CEU / IFHP and ISOCARP. London. 09/2012

  • Design in the Age of Scarcity: Co-convenor (with Jeremy Till) of RIBA Research Symposium Student Charrette. London. 09/2012

  • Scarce Times: Alternative Futures: international design/intervention competition in collaboration with The Architecture Foundation, the Young Foundation and the Bromley-by-Bow Centre. London. 06-09/2012

  • Perspectives on Scarcity, Creativity and the Built Environment: Session at 3rd International Urban Researchers' Symposium at ICLEI World Congress; Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 06/2012

  • Scarcity Exchanges: Public seminar series at the University of Westminster. Speakers: Dougald Hine, Andrew Simms, Alfredo Brillembourg, David Satterthwaite, Ed van Hinte, Steve Broome, Iain Boal, Lyla Mehta, and Saskia Sassen. 05-06/2012

  • Complex Urban: Definitions of Scale, Form and Culture: symposium on Sustainable Urban Futures at United Nations University, Institute of Advanced Studies. Speakers: Darko Radovic, Ulysses Sengupta, Christopher Doll, Alexandros Gasparatos. Yokohama, Japan. 04/2010

  • Searching for Common Ground – Intraurban Borderlands from a Global Perspective: Session at the ISA-RC21 Conference on Landscapes of Global Urbanism: Power, Marginality and Creativity. Speakers: Bas Spierings, Caroline Barbisch, Caroline Knowles, Devleena Ghosh. Tokyo, Japan. 12/2008

Invited lectures

  • Urban Transformations Workshop on Urban Health and Wellbeing in Unequal Cities, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Talk on Urban Sanitation, Inequality and the Potential of ICT. 11/2017

  • Malmö University, Sweden: Lecture for Department of Urban Studies seminar series. 05/2017

  • Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, China: Talk at School of Public Economics and Administration. 04/2017

  • Architectural Association, UK: Lecture for Emergent Technologies and Design. 02/2016

  • Plymouth University: Architecture of Scarcity. Highlight Guest Lecture at the School of Architecture.10/2015

  • Tokyo Institute of Technology: Urban Transformations. 07/2015

  • University of Leeds: Contested Urban Borderlands. 05/2015

  • University of Sheffield: Borderland Urbanism. 03/2015

  • British Council Researcher Links, Sao Paulo, Brazil: Talk at workshop Integrative Research: Challenges of Complex Systems for Technological Applications. 02/2015

  • Singapore - ETH Centre Future Cities Lab: Changing Cities: theoretical challenges and practical tools. 02/2015

  • National University Singapore: Lives on the Borderland. 02/2015

  • Eastern Regional Organization for Planning & Human Settlements (EAROPH) World Congress, Jakarta, Indonesia: Borderland Urbanism: Urban Inequality in Context. 08/2014 

  • United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies, Tokyo, Japan: Scarcity, Creativity and Urban Futures: accelerationist urbanism. 07/2014 

  • London College of Fashion: Architectures of Scarcity. 03/2014 

  • University of Nottingham: Everyday Practices of Personal Hygiene: Reading China’s Urban Revolution. 03/2014 

  • University of Sheffield: Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment. 03/2014 

  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany: Changing Cultures and Sociospatial Restructuring in Urban China. 12/2013 

  • University of Nottingham: Of Pee, Poo and People: Urban redevelopment and sanitation in Shanghai. 12/2013 

  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland: Urban Transformation and Evolving Sanitation Cultures in China. 10/2013 

  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland: Lives on the Borderland: the sociospatial transition of a neighbourhood in Shanghai. 10/2013 

  • Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs), London: Why China’s urbanisation matters and how it is happening.03/2012

  • University of Nottingham: China's Urbanisation: Process and Sociospatial Consequences. 02/2012 

  • European Commission; Brussels, Belgium: Living in the (New) Chinese City: Urban transformation and the spaces in-between. 10/2011

  • University of Toronto, Canada: Creativity under Conditions of Scarcity in the Production of the Built Environment in London. 06/2011 

  • Our Common Future Conference, Essen/Hannover, Germany: Fences, Walls, and the Space In-between: Coping with Scarcities in Shanghai. 11/2010 


  • Tollast O., Deljana Iossifova: “There is no time to spare”. Salzburg Global Seminar. 09/2013

  • Monks B., Birds Eye View Film Festival: Damascus Roof and Tales of ParadiseInstitute of Contemporary Arts Blog. 04/2013

  • Mendoza M., Urban Planning: China's Problems, Chinese Solutions. In: Curry A., Carroll C., Hanig A. S., et al. (eds) Our Common Future: Conference Summary Report. Hamburg: G+J Corporate Editors. 04/2012

External positions

Director, Urban Studies Foundation


Visiting Scholar, Urban Studies Institute, University of Antwerp


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