Changing conditions – changing our role

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
After briefly discussing the changing context of urban planning, the article focusses on our experiences in Bromley-by-Bow. During the summer school we had an in-depth visit to this East London neighbourhood. Our colourful experiences are then put in a manifesto, which can help young urban planners understand their jobs. To arms! Times are changing fast. The economic crisis points out the risks and the limits of our current planning system. In times of scarcity it becomes inadequate for, let’s say, three reasons. First, traditional planning is characterized by a strong hierarchical structure, with a promoter that coordinates the actions of different urban players. This model needs a high availability of scarce public resources (financial, human resources and knowledge) and lacks the needed transparency and democracy in today’s multi-actor society. Second, traditional zoning as a tool to regulate land use is not able to manage the emerging dynamics of the transformation of the territory. Its ‘catch 22’ between the necessary flexibility for new win-win situations on the one hand and the stringent framework to guarantee spatial quality on the other hand leads to stagnation. Third, the complexity of society is growing. A growing diversity and social inequality puts society under pressure. Space and spatial planning interact in this process by putting socio-spatial incongruence in focus and by making social structures spatially permanent.
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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