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The Inclusive Reductionist or to Use Landscape Perspectives in Urban Planning

Lindholm, Gunilla


The gap between planning theory and planning practice has been discussed in planning (theory) journals, often expressed as theory ascending too far from “reality” (Allmendinger 2009). This paper takes another point of departure, arguing for not to change planning theory into either utopia construction or evaluation exercises, but to engage in the communication between planning theory and planning practice, understood as activities in their own right. Landscape concepts can be used as a way to handle the complexity within urban situations; as a way to understand the interrelationships between the different aspects and issues of the same site or area. To label an area as ‘landscape’ means to alter the focus from narrow and sectorial to broad and inclusive. This inclusiveness is, though, reductive in the way that the separate features and functions are superficially mapped, in a stage of ‘setting the landscape’. This is a precondition to discover and appreciate relationships between e. g. traffic functions/meeting places, plantations /stormwater management etc., preceding separate aspectual and functional analyses. Metaphorically, this kind of thinking can be applied also at a theoretical level. Today, the rifts are sometimes hard to bridge between the different academic subjects connected to planning theory, such as political science, sociology, geography and architecture. A ‘landscape perspective’ could make it possible to spot relationships and foster a broader understanding of the theoretical issues (Allmendinger 2002). The etymology of the word ’landscape‘ stems from rural situations; either it has signified a territory or a scene (Cosgrove 1990, Olwig 2002). Accordingly, ‘landscape’ is a concept not often used in urban planning, except from taking the qualities of the rural landscapes into consideration, in discussions on expanding the urban territory out into “the landscape”, in the areas surrounding the existing town. The subject for this paper is to actualize the potential use of landscape concepts within an urban planning discourse; partly due to a changing situation for planning, with a more diffuse border between the town and the countryside, between culture and nature and between the regulated and the occasional; but also considering the need for renewed planning procedures. The infra structure, means and routines for planning practice are not considerably changed since what could be called ‘the planning peak period’ (1950-1980). Since then, the awareness of ecological as well as social aspects of spatial planning has increased, and the comprehensive analyticism (specialization and sectorialization) has been complemented with other mega trends, such as inter- and transdisciplinarity within the research connected to planning (Hillier & Healy 2008). Landscape concepts and perspectives; earlier something exclusively studied by landscape scholars and professionals, such as geographers, ecologists or landscape YTK • Aalto University 103 Planning and Complexity architects; have recently become popular in a broader field. ‘Landscape studies’ is now a subject in most schools of architecture. ‘Landscape Urbanism’ is a trend within urban design and planning. Following The European Landscape Convention we should reflect upon landscape, in order to “promote the protection, management and planning of European landscapes and organize European co-operation on landscape issues” (Council of Europe 2001). ’Landscape‘ is one of the few concepts with merely positive connotations. Even in expressions such as ’waste landscapes‘, ’derelict landscapes‘ or even ’dystopian landscapes’, they have this aspect of artistic scenery that takes us away from smells, cold, hunger and privation, to a sheer visual and aesthetic level of contemplation. This “picturesque” aspect of landscapes could be used in e. g. planning dialogue situations; not to secure a certain appearance, but to question it and discuss the consequences of potential differences; in functional, ecological, economical and emotional terms. References Olwig, K. R. (2002) Landscape, Nature and the Body Politic. University of Wisconsin Press. Allmendinger, P. (2002) The post-positive landscape of planning theory, in Allmendinger, P. & TewdwrJones, M. , (eds) Planning Future, New Directions for Planning Theory. Routledge. Hillier, J. & Healy, P., eds. (2008) Critical Essays in Planning Theory, vol.1–3. Ashgate.

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Titel: Space is Luxury : Book of Abstracts
Utgivare: YTK Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group, Aalto University


24th AESOP Annual Conference 2010