ETH Zurich – Institute for Urban Design
ONA G41 – Neunbrunnenstrasse 50 – 8093 Zurich



The City as a Brand - The Role of Branding in Urban Planning


Doctorate from Dr. Arch. Thomas Kovári, 2006-2009, supported by Schweizerischer Nationalfonds (SNF)

Stadt als Marke

Brands have an important function in our increasingly differentiated, diverse, and ever-faster changing world. They offer a chance of orientation as more constant markers, signs, and symbols. Whether this has to do with consumer goods, services, or cities—brands embody a promise. But what promise would a city make—and, what role does this play in the development and planning of a city?

City planning today is confronted with a series of problems, the solutions to which are triggering a growing interest in urban branding. Many examples have shown that urban branding has repeatedly played an important role in urban design. The above-mentioned problems are often related to the need for a vision of the city, a clear positioning of a city in a competition, or a revitalization of a city. Even the creation of a local identity and the preservation or reinforcement of social cohesions is tackled with urban branding today. It is obvious that the potential problem areas listed here overlap and would require a series of disciplines.


The goal of Thomas Kovári’s investigation is first, to present a model for the basic understanding of an economic, cultural, and spatial aspects of urban branding, second, to undertake an analysis of the city based on these points, and third, to specify strategies for the city planning by means of branding. The work will end with a discussion about the possibilities and limitations of branding in regards city planning.


The concept of the “City as Brand” makes it possible to visualize and comprehend important aspects of the modern city. It allows us to find new ways of seeing, understanding, and handling a city that wants to be organized and designed. Urban branding as an associated practice can be an important tool in the day-to-day planning of a city and play a significant role.


Dissertation “The City as Brand—the Role of Branding in Urban Planning,” available for the doctoral exam. Advisor Referent Prof. Kees Christiaanse, co-advisor Prof. Dr. Marc Angélil.


Thomas Kovári: Architect, from 2005-2008 research associate in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at ETH Zurich, co-founder of  feld4.architects, co-proprietor of urban design and planning practice sapartners kovári+kovári.


image: Robert Indiana: Love Sculpture an der 6th Avenue in New York