Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Detecting informal green spaces (IGS) in urban environments using remote sensing

The thesis project investigates image-based mapping technics that identify Informal green spaces (IGS) in the city. The mapping method contributes to mapping dynamic urban components such as IGS. The thesis project will inform urban practices that engage temporary dimensions of urban green infrastructure.

IGS refers to unplanned, less formal urban green spaces such as vacant lots, brownfields and overgrown street or railway verges that are not officially designed and maintained for urban productional or recreational functions. A common characteristic of IGS is the presence of spontaneous vegetation, which visually distinguish them from maintained urban green spaces.

IGS are incidental components of the city; they emerge in different locations and may exist only for a few years. Many researchers have argued the social-ecological benefits of IGS (Kremer et al., 2013; Rupprecht and Byrne, 2014; Mathey, et al., 2015). However, IGS are often not included in spatial planning and governance. Most cities also lack a comprehensive inventory of these spaces (Feltynowski, et al., 2018). The lack of acknowledgment of the existence of IGS lead to adverse outcomes such as them being neglected or the land redeveloped. To encourage diverse urban practices that fully explore the potential IGS, the mapping of IGS is a prerequisite.

In this research project, we will look into classification and mapping techniques that are able to identify IGS from aerial or satellite imagery. Due to the nature of IGS multiple classes of spaces will have to be distinguished and separated from the urban fabric in general and formally managed green spaces in particular.

There is no prescribed methodology, but supervised classification and ground truthing of results might be a suitable option. This has been successfully employed to assess land-use change in Amsterdam in the past (Giezen, et al., 2018). As IGS is highly flexible and temporal it might be useful to think about reproducibility of results to create an inventory of IGS which can be updated regularly.

The study area will be the city of Amsterdam. The thesis project forms part of a larger project on informal spaces in the city conducted at AMS Institute. Together, the thesis findings provide data underpinning for resilient design and management of urban green infrastructure.


  • Develop a novel methodology to detect informal green spaces in urban environments using remote sensing.
  • Build an inventory of informal green spaces in the city of Amsterdam
  • Discuss the relevance of such method for the design and management of urban green infrastructure


Theme(s): Sensing & measuring; Human – space interaction