Leader of the research group

Professor of Spatial Planning and Policy

Professor Sami Moisio works on the interface of regional studies, human geography, spatial planning and political economy. Sami’s research interests include state spatial transformation, political geographies of Europeanization, city-regionalism, political geographies of economic geography, and knowledge-intensive capitalism. Much of his current research is concerned with the ways in which different places, regions, spaces (such as the “global”) and human subjects are constituted, transformed and re-worked in political-economic processes and struggles, including knowledge production. Sami’s recent book Geopolitics of the Knowledge-based Economy won the Regional Studies Association Routledge Best Book Award 2019. He serves as an external faculty board member of the Gran Sasso Science Institute: School of Advanced Studies (Italy).

Sami in TUHAT database

Email: sami.moisio[at]

Co-leader of the research group

Dr Pia Bäcklund, Associate professor (Adjunct Professor in spatial planning), is a human geographer whose research interest covers especially strategic spatial planning and politics. She sees planning not only as a question of how to better develop cities, but as an example of governmental practices. Political agencies and citizens’ roles in urban development projects, in the context of democracy theories, have been her specific interests. Pia has also been involved in developing domestic and international multidisciplinary research projects within these themes (eg. Her latest research project JustDe (funded by Academy of Finland 2018-2022, led by Pia) targets the issue of how new agreement based spatial planning practices gives new form and direction to justification of societal decision making in the context of Nordic Welfare state. Key collaboration universities within this project are University of Stockholm and NMBU (Norway). Other ongoing projects are DECARBON-HOME and SEISMIC-RISK.

Pia in TUHAT database (under construction!)

Pia in Google Scholar

Email: pia.backlund[at]

Dr Tomas Hanell is a postdoctoral researcher partaking in the JustDe project. For over two decades, he has been engaged in urban and regional development research in the EU, the Baltic Sea Region and the Nordic countries. His methodological focus lies on quantitative analysis, both at aggregate as well as at micro levels. He has conducted research for supranational organisations such as the European Commission (DG Regio, DG Internal Policies, EEAS), the OECD, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, as well as numerous national ministries throughout Europe. He has also had responsibility for statistics education in several international PhD programmes.

Recently he has been involved in developing a set of well-being indicators for the European Commission (Eurostat), constructing indicators for measuring Territorial Cohesion in the Baltic Sea Macro Region (ESPON), and developed the List of Common Output Indicators for external EU CBC programmes (EEAS). His recent research concerns measurement of quality of life at the regional level in the EU and how geographic disparities in subjective well-being manifest themselves in space.

Tomas in the Google Scholar data base.

Tomas in the Research Portal of the University of Helsinki.

E-mail: tomas.hanell[at]

Dr Juho Luukkonen is a University lecturer in spatial planning and policy. Juho’s research interests involve state spatial transformation, Europeanization, regional and urban planning, and the political (re-)constitution of territories. Juho is currently working on urban planning and on the role of state in regulating regional and urban planning practices.

Juho in the Research Portal of the University of Helsinki.

Juho in the Google Scholar data base.


Dr Noora Pyyry is a University researcher whose work deals with urban human-material relations, affect and governmentality, enchantment, as well as issues of participation and spatial justice in the city. She is interested in the ways in which people acquire situated rights to spaces by momentarily dwelling with them. Linked to this, she does research on spatial-embodied reflection that may open up through non-instrumental involvement with the world, such as hanging out. She conceptualises knowing as an ongoing geographical process that does not begin or end with humans: it is always ‘knowing with’. Recently, she has extended her research to probe the problematics of working in the contemporary neoliberal academic landscape. She uses feminist posthuman and non-representational theorisation to study the multiple forces that are at work in the various encounters from which knowing, participation and everyday politics emerge.

Noora in the Google Scholar data base.

Noora in the Research Portal of the University of Helsinki.

E-mail: noora.pyyry[at]

MSc. Miliza Ryöti is a Ph.D. student in Helsinki University’s Doctoral Programme of Political, Societal and Regional Change. Her research focuses on the practices of producing and visualizing information on social sustainability and the use and interpretations of such information in a complex regional agreement-based planning process. Her Ph.D. research partakes in the JustDe research project.

Along her career she has gained experience in the fields of municipal planning, administration and decision-making process, as well as regional development in a context of an agreement-based development policy. Currently she works as a specialist at the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) producing regional information on housing and social sustainability.


Dr. Heikki Sirviö is a postdoctoral researcher working on the regional implications of structural change and state spatial transformation. Heikki’s research interests include state theory, the concept of politics, spatial dialectics, materialist geopolitics, as well as political ecology and the geographies of energy. An overarching theme in his research is the constitution of spaces and subjects through different forms of knowledge and in political struggles. He has published on a range of topics from politics of literature to radical geographies, as well as on depoliticisation dynamics in the context of city-regionalism. Heikki is also the editor of Alue & Ympäristö, a Finnish peer-reviewed journal of regional and environmental issues.

Email: heikki.sirvio[at]

Ilppo Soininvaara is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Geography, in the Doctoral Programme "Political, Societal and Regional Change". His doctoral research focuses on the urbanizaton and urban politics. Besides his doctoral research, Ilppo works as a consultant of regional development at MDI Public Oy.

Ilppo in TUHAT database

Dr Johanna Tuomisaari is a postdoctoral researcher in the JustDe project that examines agreement-based planning practices and their democratic justification. Johanna’s research interests include strategic urban planning, planning conflicts and urban nature. Her research focuses on the politics of planning and the ways planning practices are shaped. She holds a Doctoral degree in Environmental Policy. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on strategic master planning and the role of urban nature in strategic planning processes. 

Johanna in the Tuhat data base.

Johanna in the Google Scholar data base.

Email: johanna.tuomisaari[at]