Dominik Bertram

Dominik Bertram

Department Geographie und Geowissenschaften
Institut für Geographie

Raum: Raum 02.177
Wetterkreuz 15
91058 Erlangen


nach Vereinbarung

Research fellow in the Working Group Regional Development of Prof. Dr. Tobias Chilla.


Please find recent publications on ResearchGate.



Research focus on border studies and mountain spatial development. #Geoinformatics (GIS) #Spatial Analysis


PhD Project:

Centrality beyond size: accessibility and functionality in territories with geographical specificities

The concept of centrality strives for an efficient and equitable spatial organisation of services, which is a particular challenge in territories with geographical specificities like mountain or border regions. In addition to morphological challenges in mountainous areas as well as governance issues in border regions, it is mostly a low population density that affects centrality in a particular manner.

From a methodological perspective, a settlement is usually considered to have an overarching importance or functionality if it has a high number of inhabitants. With regard to centrality as the main argument of spatially balanced distribution of services of general interest, this concept has its limitations in regions with territorial specific obstacles. In these areas, settlements can theoretically have a high surplus of importance for smaller towns, even if they do not have a high number of inhabitants. This is particularly obvious in mountainous regions. The classical concept of centrality organizes services in a way that assumes equal accessibility of all centers. However, the morphological structure of mountain regions requires a particular form of organization: a more restricted accessibility leads either to longer distances and travel times or (in the better case) to a higher level of services in smaller settlements. A similar situation is to be expected in border regions where topographical obstacles and cross-border multi-level governance systems on national borders affect centrality. From a planning perspective, centrality is practiced ‘inwardly’ and the metropolitan areas are usually located at a certain distance to the border. Therefore, border regions are often rural areas and in terms of accessibility small towns could have a particular catchment area across the border.

For this reason, the phd project examines the role of accessibility for centrality in areas with geographical specificities. The focus is on two research strands. From a theoretical-conceptual perspective this research aims to respond to these questions: What is the interrelation between the functionality and accessibility of towns in territories with geographical specificities? What are the implications for the centrality of these towns? From a methodological perspective my research reflects on the following key question: What is the role of the indicators ‘accessibility’ and ‘number of inhabitants’ in determining centrality of towns in territories with geographical specificities?

Methodologically, the analysis is based on definitions of settlement systems for selected territories with geographical specificities in terms of population size and accessibility. As case regions, so far, the Alpine region (see Fig.1) and all nine German border regions are selected. A third territory with geographical specificities will be selected in the further research process. Calculations of accessibility are applied to generate the so called ‘catchment areas’ by different means of transport within certain selected travel times. The combination of population data and accessibility catchment area is applied to define towns with centrality and an overall settlement system for the selected territory.

Fig.1: snapshot of GIS based working material

This contribution allows to systematically measure and quantify the link between accessibility and centrality in territories with geographical specificities. It is an important input for the debate on how to organise an efficient and sustainable settlement system in geographical specific territories like mountainous regions, border regions or e.g. coastal regions.


  • BMBF CoBo (Cohesion in Border Regions) (2021-23). Examination of the organisation of cohesion in border regions of Germany with its neighbouring countries and exploring of existing potentials. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Online:
  • Scientific support in the 9th Report on the State of the Alps: Alpine Towns (2021-22). Analysis of the Alpine settlement system and reflection on the ecological, economic, and societal roles that towns play in the Alps’ sustainable development. Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention | Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE (Switzerland). Online:
  • ESPON LAKES (2020-22). Territorial Analysis of spatial progress and integrated development opportunities of large lakes in Europe. With Spatial Foresight and HÉTFA Research Institute. Online:
  • ESPON ACTAREA Tool (2020-22). With Spatial Foresight and Ibis Dev. Online:
  • BMBF ReProLa (2018-23). Land management of regional products in urban-rural-partnerships at the example of the metropolitan region Nürnberg. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Online:
  • Urban and Regional Monitoring of Erlangen and the Siemens Campus (2016-25). Spatial monitoring of long-term effects of the Siemens Campus on spatial development in the City of Erlangen.


Please find recent publications on ResearchGate.


Selected publications:

Bertram, D., Chilla, T., & Hippe, S. (2023). Cross-border mobility: Rail or road? Space-time-lines as an evidence base for policy debates. Journal of Borderlands Studies, 1-18.

Hippe, S., Bertram, D., & Chilla, T. (2023). Convergence and resilience in border regions. European Planning Studies, 1-22.

Bertram, D., Chilla, T., & Lambracht, M. (2023). The Alpine settlement system: capturing relevance beyond size. Journal of Maps, 1-6.

Bertram, D., & Chilla, T. (2022). Polycentricity and accessibility in mountain areas: the Alpine case. European Planning Studies, 1-21.

Hippe, S., Bertram, D., & Chilla, T. (2022). The COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst of cross-border cooperation? Lessons learnt for border-regional resilience. Europa XXI, 43.

Curriculum Vitae

Work experience and academic qualification

  • Since 2020: Research fellow on the Institute of Geography
  • 2019-2020: Research consultant for Regional Development and personal assistant of a Member of the Bavarian Parliament
  • 2017-2019: Participation in the Working Group „Regional Development“ of Prof. Dr. Tobias Chilla
  • 2018-2020: Master studies in Cultural Geography (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg), Master thesis on “Cross-border Regional Planning – Functional Integration and Spatial Planning in Border Regions”
  • 2017-2018: Internship at Markt und Standort Beratungsgesellschaft in Erlangen
  • 2016: Studies abroad at Universitetet i Bergen (Norway)
  • 2014-2018: Bachelor studies in Cultural Geography (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg)

Networks and memberships


  • Regional Statistics
  • Project seminar ‘Knowledge City Erlangen’