Handbooks in planning : five theses for teaching across national borders

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Handbooks are assigned the task of presenting knowledge in a systematic manner for practical learning purposes. This is less immediate for spatial planning, a complex (and sometimes confusing) field of knowledge, also because of the different legal frameworks and cultural traditions in which it is practiced. Handbooks in planning are indeed used to refer the teaching to a specific national context, but this may lead to confusing the technical nature of planning with its institutional codification. The handbook recently published by the present authors in Italy builds on the assumption that planning education requires, first and foremost, that students understand its value as specific technical knowledge. From this assumption follows the distinction between ‘spatial governance’ and ‘spatial planning’, adopted in the handbook. The proposed contribution summarises the educational choices behind the handbook in five theses, which are discussed as a basis for teaching planning in an international perspective: 1) urban planning is a field of knowledge, teaching its technical aspects means teaching spatial planning; 2) to teach spatial planning we must explain why it is instrumental for the purposes of spatial governance; 3) the technique of spatial planning originated from recognisable matrices, the teaching of which lays the foundations for all subsequent learning; 4) also for teaching purposes, the technique of spatial planning can be traced back to zoning; 5) spatial governance is not a form of technical knowledge, but a political practice that may be taught insofar as it is necessary for understanding the effects of spatial planning.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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