Alternative planning research

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Traditionally spatial and urban planning has conceived the city as an aseptic space on which new architectures that will definitely improve the quality of the inhabitants are built. The plan is traditionally conceived as a static instrument, rigid, top- down oriented with little effective participation. This tool theoretically draws the ideal image of the city or a territory on a long-term. This technocratic conception, as a typical policy of the welfare state, is in crisis since the increasing imposition of the neoliberal paradigm as an ideology that is slowly permeating and influencing public policy in all developed countries, including  urban policy. Neoliberalism proposes as a solution to the problems arising from the previous planning paradigm, such as the lack of facilities in many neighborhoods, affordable housing, or social and environmental impacts of large urban projects, a more flexible, less interventional planning system. The well-known aim is the flexibilization and liberalization of land available for construction. The oil crisis only reinforced this view of planning. It is in this context that strategic planning is born as a form of long term urban management and with the participation of new actors, basically the business sector. Under this paradigm, housing and infrastructure construction becomes one of the main engines of economic growth in many countries, growth that seems to have no limits.
However more and more voices are beginning to question the neoliberal model of land management. Hierarchical and centralized planning is substituted by new neoliberal governance models in which profit making is the primary goal and citizens become customers or clients. Social issues such as poverty, unemployment, de-industrialization, pollution, rural exodus or inequality are secondary or “forgotten” issues in the urban and political agenda. The main effort is to improve the image of the city, attract investment and make it more competitive at all costs.

 

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In Spain have proliferated the so-called “urban corpses” after the crisis, hundreds of urban projects were abandoned half-built.  Many urban development mega-projects remain today with empty streets, no-way traffic circles and abandoned water and electricty supply networks. In this image we can see an abandoned urban project in Escúzar, Granada, Spain.

From early twenty-first century begins to be discussed the transformative potential and social function of urban and regional planning. The reality is that too many sectoral plans do not achieve their goals, too many plans that attempt to rationalize the consumption of land are never approved and too many plans that attempt to avoid the destruction of heritage, soil and nature are substantially modified or finally rejected. The great paradox of territorial planning in Spain is that although most of the regions have laws and plans for rational and sustainable land management, the result differs little from the time of the Francoist developmentalism in which there was no territorial planning of any kind.

Both from the world of journalism, and the social movements and later Academy, begins to sharply criticize the neoliberal planning paradigm in Spain. It begins to seriously question the paradigm of growth and sustainable development as an ideology or set of policies that have proved devastating for the environment and broad layers of the population. It is proposed a review in depth of the  character of the spatial and urban planning that goes far beyond planning and change raises a whole social model and life, as detailed below:

Growth oriented neoliberalism The commons
Economic relationships Market-oriented economies Social, sustainable and collaborative economies
Life philosophy Individualism, materialism, consumerism Activism, ecologism, communitarism
Technology Technology dependence, Planned obsolescence Emancipation, technology as a tool
Housing access Private market with long-life mortgages; private property Collaborative construction; housing cooperatives, urban commons; self-construction
Labour Minijobs, flexibilization, permanent job insecurity Co-working, cooperativism, shared economies, time banks
Environment Environmental exploitation, environment as a theme park, environmental impact assessment Re-adaptation to natural circles
Land Res nullius, economic factor Res communis, social policy, commons
Politics Representative democracies Direct democracies

This research area explores and analyzes new alternative forms urban and spatial planning based on the commons. We study social and political projects that aims to change the governance paradigm as something remote and static or totally permissive with the consumption of land and resources to new paradigms based on the commons, citizen participation, creative, multi-scale and mutlidisciplinar planning visions, with tools like masoveria or urban commons, land stewardship or cooperatives.

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