2016-06-07 15.13.16-1Valeria and Verena

SP&S Seminar (special edition)

7 June 2016, 15:00 – 16:30

BG West 270

Regional design in planning theory and practice

Many recent planning reforms in European countries have enhanced development-led planning approaches, in which plans follow and facilitate occurring development proposals and market initiatives. The need to respond to future opportunities has inspired new planning modes that start off with normative and persuasive agenda setting, often involving many actors. In the Netherlands and elsewhere regional design, including the ‘art’ of making spatial representations and the imagination of spatial metaphors, has emerged as a powerful tool in the search for capacity and consensus in multi-actor settings shaped by conflicting rationales and images of desired spatial development and spatial futures. However, regional design in practice seems to fulfil different roles in different situations, depending on the actor settings and the nature of (conflicting) issues at hand.

The seminar focused on the interrelation among regional design, governance and planning. What are differences among design traditions in countries? Which aspects of planning systems and cultures affect regional design practices? Who are authors and audiences of regional design? What are relations among design practices and governance schemes? Which forms of interactive governance enhance the impact of regional design? After an introduction by Wil Zonneveld, Verena Balz presented on “Regional design: Discretionary approaches to planning in the Netherlands”, followed by Valeria Lingua (University of Florence) discussed “Regional design and governance rescaling: comparing European practices”.


In her presentation Verena Balz investigated changing relations among regional design practices and national indicative planning guidance that occurred in the course of decentralization in the Netherlands. She first introduced regional design as an argumentative practice that evolves in the context of planning concepts, shared ideas about the spatial organisation of regions. She argued that in such context regional designs can be distinguished by their orientation: designs may be used to challenge prevailing political values and norms, analytical knowledge and/or territorial control. She also argued that regional design is impeded by the choices that planning guidance incorporates, the room for interpretation that there is. She used these notions for an analysis of a set of regional design practices that have emerged since the late 1980s in the Netherlands. In her conclusions she argued that practices, commonly called ‘regional design’, have substantially varied over the last 15 years: regional design turned from an a way to criticize national planning guidance from an extra-governmental, professional perspective into a governance practice to commonly negotiate on guidance into a practice to refine national projects on behalf of the national government. As ideas about the spatial organisation of regions were eradicated from Dutch national planning frameworks, practices to collaboratively reflect on these became unnecessary also.

Valeria Lingua’ research activities at TUDelft are part of the wider project “AREA VASTA 2.0. A new form of localism in Italy: challenges, risks and opportunities for spatial planning across local boundaries”, founded by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research within the framework of the prestigious SIR Programme (Scientific Independence of young Researchers) aimed to support young researchers at the start of their independent research activity. The project aims to understand the forms and outcomes of cooperative spatial planning practices at a supra-local level in Western Europe, where the emergence of a widespread neo-liberalism conveyed to the rescaling of planning systems and, in some cases, the abolishing of a planning level and its connected planning instruments, as Regional Spatial Strategies in England or Provincial Plans in Italy. A correspondent increasing development of planning practices across local boundaries: in a context of meta-governance, Governments expect Local Planning Authorities to undertake joint work on sub-regional planning issues. In this context, processes of defining and redefining sub-regional boundaries call for spatial visioning for non-statutory areas. Using the methodological framework of “interactive governance” to approach the relationships among statutory and soft planning spaces, with a focus on images and their role, She argues that visioning and regional design practices can matter for shaping the boundaries of urban regions and conceiving shared visions of its spatial development.

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See Valeria Lingua’s presentation:

See Verena Balz’s presentation:

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