The concept of planning culture acknowledges the significance of choices, leeway and attitudes of actors in the planning process as well as the structuring force of established practices at organisational and societal levels. Planning culture can thus be a useful concept to link system-centred and practice-oriented research perspectives. However, planning cultures are still often understood as a country-specific concept and therefore mirror a focus on the analysis of legal and administrative systems. Moreover, current conceptualisations of planning cultures are overly static, and are thus not fit to describe, explain and visualise differences between geographical contexts and differences over time.

In response to these shortcomings, this article, co-authored by Eva Purkarthofer (TU Delft), Alois Humer (University of Vienna) and Hanna Mattila (Aalto University), explores planning cultures from a subnational and dynamic perspective. Building on interviews with planning actors in Finland, the article investigates how regional planning is understood and practiced, how regional planning culture can be conceptualised to reflect differences between geographical contexts as well as differences over time, and how the “culturised planning model” (CPM) can be developed further (Figure 1).


The article distinguishes between two meanings of the term ‘planning culture’ at the regional scale: cultures of regional planning refer to a shared, abstract understanding of regional planning, while regional planning cultures in regions refer to regionally specific approaches visible in planning practice. This distinction can enable a better understanding of how and why planning cultures change. Innovative practices in one region can for example trigger three possible responses (Figure 3): First, these practices could become internalised into values that many planning actors hold, and come to affect the culture of regional planning shared by actors from other regions and society in general. Second, innovative practices in one region could dilute the culture of regional planning so that the understanding of regional planning broadens, and practices in regions diverge. Third, the “pioneering region” could abandon innovative practices after a relatively short time again and consequently the regional planning culture in this region would step back into the established culture of regional planning.

Purkarthofer, Eva; Humer, Alois & Mattila, Hanna (2021) Subnational and Dynamic Conceptualisations of Planning Culture: The Culture of Regional Planning and Regional Planning Cultures in Finland, Planning Theory & Practice,


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