In-between dynamics : Towards a reconceptualization of soft spaces in regional planning

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Collaboration across organizations is generally seen as a prerequisite for dealing with complex regional problems. This has led to a proliferation of new, informal and improvisational collaborative approaches, next to the more classical, formally institutionalized realities. From a geographic perspective the emergence of these different types of approaches has been captured in terms of ‘soft spaces’ and ‘hard spaces’ of regional planning. Despite the proliferation, soft space scholars observe a limited impact of these approaches. Drawing on a case study on urban regeneration strategies in the Dutch Randstad conurbation, we suggest that the limitation is caused by dynamics in the interaction with other spaces. In this paper we argue that, considered from a dynamic perspective, the emergence of soft spaces next to hard spaces, invokes an in-between space which is not geographic, but rather performative. We coin the term ‘in-betweening’ as the activity to switch and bridge between multiple harder and softer spaces by focusing on what regional planners ‘actually do’ when they are confronted with an accumulation of spaces. We argue that combining softer and harder spaces increase the problem-solving potential, that tensions between different spaces are structural and vital and that practitioners acting ‘in-between’ are crucial to deal with these tensions.
regional planning, soft space, problem-orientation, tension, practices of in-betweening