Tag Archives: Planning

Ann Arbor, MI

Planners for Future – or: how should we (re-)act?

The new decade starts in 2020 with intensified talks about environmental change, climate change and a global crisis. These challenges do not only excel the global dimension of human activity. They also exhibit the emergence and growth of strong social movements like ‘Fridays for Future’, ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and many more.

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Midtown Detroit

Detroit: who plans?

Ten days in Detroit provided me with some more insights into how the city works and what lies behind recent changes. Many conversations yielded deep insights, but also puzzled me with further questions and issues around the role of planners in processes of urban change and renewal. Time to wrap up some still preliminary and unfinished ideas.

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Detroit: first impressions

The last four days between Thursday and Monday provided many experiences and insights into different parts of Detroit, its ongoing changes and its people. Not enough for any concluding thoughts, but just enough for some ideas. The following paragraphs are therefore some unorganized impressions that are preliminary, might change during the next weeks and themselves include more questions than answers.

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Questions to Detroit: Planning Alternatives – Planning after|with|by failure (?)

I will soon fly out to visit Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan as a Visiting Research Fellow. Looking forward to experiencing a city facing large challenges, showing much initiative for change and many remaining urban and regional planning issues. Three weeks between 26 July and 15 August will hopefully bring about new insights, questions, answers and reflections. This post shows some of my broad thoughts and questions on urban and regional planning issues in Detroit.

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Stadt- und Raumplanung und/vs Postwachstum?

Postwachstumsgesellschaft mit räumlicher Planung zusammenzubringen bringt komplexe Fragestellungen hervor. Was passiert, wenn etablierte Planungswissenschaftler/innen und Planungspraktiker/innen auf Postwachstumsdiskussionen treffen? Welche Veränderungsperspektiven löst der Begriff und lösen damit verbundene konzeptionelle Vorstellungen aus? Wir haben am 24. November 2017 in Münster zur Eingrenzung und Ausgestaltung einer Postwachstumsplanung diskutiert.

Eingebracht wurden auch Erfahrungen aus den drei IdeenLaboren zu Räumen, Akteuren und Prozessen einer Postwachstumsgesellschaft zwischen Mai und September 2017. Anlass und Diskussionsrahmen war eine Sitzung der Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft NRW der ARL, auf der an sechs Thementischen in den Räumen der Bezirksregierung Münster aktuelle Themen und mögliche zukünftige Arbeitsschwerpunkte offen diskutiert wurden.

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FOKO: Komplexität der Energiewende – neue Rollen für Planer?!

Am 15. November 2015 stelle ich ab 18:00 Uhr Teile meiner Forschung aus der Dissertation im Forschungskolloquium des Instituts für Raumplanung (IRPUD an der TU Dortmund vor. Ort ist Campus Süd, GB III, Raum 214 (1. OG).  Weitere Informationen auf der IRPUD-Homepage.


Eine erfolgreiche Umsetzung von Zielen der Energiewende fordert dazu heraus, bekannte Ideen, Verhaltens- und Denkweisen kritisch zu hinterfragen. Neue Verhaltensweisen und Rollenverständnisse werden erforderlich, um diesen Megatrend planerisch zu bearbeiten. Der Vortrag legt dar, welche verschiedenen Rollen Planer in einem komplexen Prozess einnehmen könnten und wie Planung dadurch angesichts schwieriger Rahmenbedingungen die Unsicherheit und Komplexität reduzieren kann.  Die Energiewende steht beispielhaft für viele große Herausforderungen, vor denen Planungswissenschaft und Planungspraxis heute stehen. Erstens in Bezug auf zur Verfügung stehende Informationen und Zusammenhänge, zweitens aber ebenso in Verbindung mit Wertvorstellungen, raumwirksamen Entscheidungen anderer Akteure, Zukunftsprognosen und (möglichen) Wirkungen heutiger Handlungen.

Book: Uncertainty and Complexity in Planning Processes

My PhD thesis (German) titled “Unsicherheit und Komplexität in Planungsprozessen: Planungstheoretische Perspektiven auf Regionalplanung und Klimaanpassung” will be available in print from November 2016. See publisher’s website (Verlag Dorothea Rohn) for further details. Translated title: “Uncertainty and Complexity in Planning Processes: Theoretical Perspectives on Regional Planning and Climate Adaptation”.

Thanks to everyone involved during the past months and years!

Short abstract:

Was bedeuten Megatrends wie der Klimawandel für die Rolle von Planern? Wie verändert sich planerisches Handeln während der Aufstellung von verbindlichen Plänen? Bekannte Ideen, Verhaltens- und Denkweisen oder historische Vorläufer müssen geprüft und verändert werden, neue Verhaltensweisen und Rollenverständnisse hinzugefügt werden.

Räumliche Planung als absichtsvolle und in die Zukunft gerichtete Tätigkeit in komplexen realen Situationen ist dafür auf kontextbezogene Strategien zur Reduktion von Unsicherheit und Komplexität angewiesen. Einerseits in Bezug auf zur Verfügung stehende Informationen und Zusammenhänge, anderseits in Verbindung mit Wertvorstellungen, raumwirksamen Entscheidungen anderer Akteure, Zukunftsprognosen und Wirkungen heutiger Handlungen.

Das vorliegende Buch zeichnet Rollenverständnisse in der Planungstheorie nach und fügt sie in einem Prozessmodell zusammen. Dieses wird zur empirischen Überprüfung auf die Aufstellung des neuen Regionalplans Ruhr durch den Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR) angewendet. Der Band bietet eine umfassende Grundlage zur Reflexion, Selbstreflexion und Verbesserung des eigenen planerischen Handelns.


Exchange between researchers and practitioners in urban planning

The question how planning research can be accessed and used as well as how collaboration between researchers and practitioners in urban planning works or can work is as important as ever – and potentially even more important given new and urgent global challenges. During my time as a Visiting Research Fellow of RMIT University, Centre for Urban Research, in Melbourne last year, I came across the work of Joe Hurley and Elizabeth Taylor in Australia (titled ‘Not a lot of people read that stuff’; see references below). We got to talk about their work and my work as a member in the working group ‘Mind the Gap – Cooperation and Self-Images in Spatial Planning‘ within the German Academy for Spatial Research and Planning (ARL). We saw both, large overlaps and striking differences.



The idea emerged to go deeper in comparing our work and to look across our different planning contexts. We developed a simple structure along the three challenges of access, use and collaboration to structure our thoughts. A first list of ideas was the starting point for discussions about a short article on our insights. As it happens, we ran across Libby Porter who is responsible for the Interface section of Planning Theory & Practice. The idea was born to go deeper into work and accept the challenge of inviting both, practitioners and researchers, to comment on our ideas and to join our work. We got Dominic Stead, Meike Hellmich/Linda Lange, Helen Rowe, Sonja Beeck, Peter Phibbs and Ann Forsyth to buy in into our joint challenge. Our aim was not only to talk about practice, but involve practitioners as authors within the Interface. The work began in May 2015 right before I left Melbourne. It continued to be a highly challenging endeavour for all of us involved. Luckily, we managed to keep the schedule and finish the work in April 2016. It took many loops of changes, of adjusting, of discussing and of mutual learning before completion. Finally, we added more ideas on an international perspective about the exchange between researchers and practitioners and an international practice. Ideas that emerged during our work.

And, now, our final piece is available in Planning Theory & Practice as Interface in Volume 3/2016:

It was helpful for us to have a very simple framework that was actually the first idea and starting point we had: to focus along the three challenges of access, use and collaboration (roughly in accelerating order). Even these simple terms turned out to mean quite different things for all people involved. We did not go deeper into aspects of evaluating research outputs and impacts – there is a newly emerging discussion in Australia to encompass broader impacts in addition to traditional academic output. German planning research institutes also look for new ways of analysing their research impacts and its ‘use’ for society. The term transdisciplinary is ever-present, and important focus point for many discussion on future planning research. For us, there was a common interest of both, researchers and practitioners, to have at least some research done that looks beyond direct impacts in practice and questions actions and beliefs on a broader level. Distinguishing between research and investigation (as Ann Forsyth does in our Interface) might help to leave space for both, without confusing different roles of researchers.

It would be especially worthwhile to think about further ways to foster more international exchange in practice. There is still a lot of underused potential for engagement beyond a narrow or local approach. Social media platforms might be an important key for they are easily accessible, allow for exchanging preliminary ideas and support a fast exchange of knowledge across different contexts. A basis for this need to give special regard to differences in language, working cultures, technical and legal requirements as well as personal attitudes towards planning work of all those involved. I do personally think that many planners have too much fear (of politicians, of the public, of their managers etc.) to engage in open talks about really different options and ways of planning, so it would be good getting more ideas how to work with these practical realities.

Dortmund, Phoenix Lake

Dortmund, Phoenix Lake

It would be wonderful to take part in further discussions around the topic of research-practitioner exchange and in looking beyond national borders (towards a more international practice) and beyond traditional methods and vehicles (towards both more use of social media platforms and more routinized forums for exchange outside daily practice). There is still a lot to discover, to try and to learn.

Thanks to everyone involved during the year of work on this joint project that!


  • Hurley, J., & Taylor, E. J. (2015, March 9). ‘Not a lot of people read the stuff’: how planning defies good theory. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/not-a-lot-of-people-read-the-stuff-how-planning-defies-good-theory-38234
  • Hurley, J., Lamker, C. W., Taylor, E. J., Stead, D., Hellmich, M., Lange, L., . . . Forsyth, A. (2016). Exchange between researchers and practitioners in urban planning: achievable objective or a bridge too far? Planning Theory & Practice, 17(3), 447–473. doi:10.1080/14649357.2016.1190491
  • Taylor, E. J., & Hurley, J. (2016). “Not a Lot of People Read the Stuff”: Australian Urban Research in Planning Practice. Urban Policy and Research, 34(2), 116–131. doi:10.1080/08111146.2014.994741
Public Transport in Melbourne

Public Lecture “Challenges for effective planning of Australian cities” (Prof Robin Goodman)

Professor Robin Goodman of RMIT University, School of Global Urban and Social Studies, Melbourne, will give a public lecture on “challenges for effective planning of Australian cities” in Dortmund on Monday, 20 June 2016 as part of a Study Tour with RMIT students to Germany. The group will make different site visits within the Ruhr region between 20 and 24 June before heading further towards Berlin. I am happy to be part of their visit after my time at the Centre for Urban Research of RMIT University last year.

The public lecture will be part of the Institute of Spatial Planning’s Research Colloquium (FOKO) in the Rudolf-Chaudoire-Pavillon (TU Dortmund, Campus South, Baroper Str. 297). It is open to everyone. Beginning is 6:00pm on 20 June 2016. Further information will be announced online.


Australian cities face many of the same issues encountered by cities the world over. The challenges of providing affordable housing, an efficient transport system and liveable neighbourhoods are widely shared across the globe. However Australian cities have some marked differences with many European cities, with very low density urban sprawl, car dependency and high population growth rates. The pressures on the largest cities – Melbourne and Sydney in particular – have drawn planning issues to the attention of governments at every level. Much is now being demanded of planning, yet decades of neoliberal attitudes to market intervention have undermined its ability to deliver. Professor Robin Goodman will outline these issues in her talk and explain why the biggest problem in Australian planning is failure to implement our plans.


Robin Goodman is Professor of Sustainability and Urban Planning and Deputy Dean in the School of Global Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Robin has published widely on issues around planning, public policy, sustainability and housing. She is co-author of a book to be published in July 2016 Planning Melbourne – Lessons for a Sustainable City.

See also
Institute of Spatial Planning, Research Colloquium (English/German)
Raumplanung und Raumforschung ‘down under’ (German)