Crises and Social Shocks as Transformational Impulses for Spatial Planning?

ARL International ARL International
published on 13/12/21

How change can spread and perpetuate itself in planning processes - experience reports from planning practice and science during COVID-19.

Panel discussion on October 06, 2021, from 2:30 pm to 4 pm in the context of #GeoWoche2021

Illustration: #Geowoche 2021
Illustration: #Geowoche 2021

 

Do crises and social (external) shock moments release impulses for flexible, adaptive, integrative spatial planning? How can we take advantage of this momentum and make positive impulses permanent? Can and should we transform lengthy planning processes and routinized instruments? The working group „Future of Planning“ of the ARL Young Forum at a panel debate discussed these and other questions with representatives from science and practice. With the main topics "Climate Crisis" and "Covid-19", the virtual #GeoWoche2021 (Congress of Geography) offered an interested audience inspiring guests, precise statements, concurring and diverging opinions, as well as a need for further discussion.

Referring back to Lucius Burckhardt: "Spatial planning has no sense of time", Yvonne Siegmund clarified in her opening statement the limitations of spatial planning from a temporal perspective. The research associate at the Institute for Urban and Regional Planning at the TU Berlin identifies the relationship between planning and temporality: future, linearity and routines are keywords that are fundamental for her perspective.

 

Illustration: Statement 1, Yvonne Siegmund
Illustration: Statement 1, Yvonne Siegmund

 

Christine Grüger, podcast maker of "Stadtrederei", called for the "shortening of time: everything can go faster if it has to or if we want it to!" In municipalities and cities, she specified, quick decisions were made at the beginning of the pandemic - driven by interest groups and citizens. Politicians had to make unpleasant decisions. With her statement, she pleaded for a possible solution to the discrepancy between time and planning.

Illustration: Statement 2, Christine Grüger
Illustration: Statement 2, Christine Grüger

 

Timo Munzinger, a representative of the leading municipal associations of the German Association of Cities, also pointed out the relevance of planning flexibility with a quote from Charles Darwin: "It's not the strongest species that survive, not either the most intelligent, it's the one most able to adapt to change."

Illustration: Statement 3, Timo Munzinger
Illustration: Statement 3, Timo Munzinger

Discussion

 

According to the first statements, it seems as if the time dimension dominates our planning landscape, including its methods, instruments, and processes. It can be both an obstacle and a key to changing the planning discourse. According to the discussants, instruments of planning are straightforward and designed for the long term. Furthermore, it is precisely with this that planning reaches its limits in periods of crisis because, in contrast to other disciplines, formal planning instruments cannot react flexibly enough to rapidly changing circumstances.

Especially the practice of planning, which focuses on immobile materiality, reinforces this condition. No wonder that in the discussion, there was a constant struggle represented in examples of and demands for more experimental instruments, regulatory leeway and reinterpretations. On the instrumental and regulatory level, there are not particularly many of them. In 2017, the first amendment to the BauNVO since 1977 came into force, the category "Urban Areas" (MU) (§6a para. 1 BauNVO) was recently added. In terms of building code, it should reflect the idea of a mixed-use city and a city of short distances. This idea of urban space is already being implemented in many ways. However, often disconnected to traditional planning projects.

 

Illustration: Discussion 1
Illustration: Discussion 1

 

Projects, such as the Creative Quarter[1] in Munich, the Future Conservation Areas in Dresden[2] or the Cultural Conservation Area in Stuttgart[3], are conceived in a multidimensional way. In addition to structural and use-related creative aspects, social and ecological aspects play a significant role. The discussants agree that they can be a model for more open planning and a more resilient society. Simply "not planning" for once, saving time and instead leaving areas to citizens and uses, attributes more time for the production and appropriation of space: "In a moving world, planning must remain flexible. When the world is shaking, the planning processes and also the people have to swing with it," clarifies Yvonne Siegmund. There should be more time for experimentation to find out what is needed.

Illustration: Discussion 2
Illustration: Discussion 2
Illustration: Discussion 3
Illustration: Discussion 3

 

Reflecting on recent experiences with the climate crisis offers starting points for shaping change. People have become more aware of topics of nature-, environmental- and climate protection, which is gradually taken up in planning. Many municipalities have declared climate emergency, and plans and instruments for climate change mitigation and adaptation have been developed.

It is still subject to discussion to what extent inputs and ideas of the younger generation and civil-society initiatives can find their way into planning, how and which explicit ways can be proposed to improve planning processes and inform better results. It was concluded that "business as usual" is out of the question.

Illustration: Conclusion
Illustration: Conclusion

Working group "Future of Planning" of the ARL Young Forum

 

The working group "Future of Planning" of the ARL Young Forum with Julian Antoni, Lena Greinke, Maximilian Jäger, Le-Lina Kettner, Anne Kuppler, Martin Schulwitz and Viola Schulze-Dieckhoff thanks the discussants and interested people for the exciting discussion.

Members of the working group
Members of the working group