Last may 2014 Vienna University of Technology organised a lecture series as part of the project The Evolution of Planning Thought. During the lectures some of the most relevant planners shared their personal perspective about planning, its past, present and future. I had the opportunity to assist to this unique event.

I took some notes during the three days. I have summarized my notes and written them in this post as a way to remember the event and share with others what i got from this experience. I did not include any personal opinions.

This post is organised as follows: There is a section for each speaker. It is the most clear way to share this information. However, there were issues discussed by more than one speaker. I summarize them in the next section and develop them in the subsequent speaker sections. At the end of the post there are some references cited by the speakers.

Issues discussed by several speakers

The issues that motivated more the audience and the speakers to provide their shared views are the following:

  • Uncertainty in planning
  • The most relevant change in the last 50 years of planning
  • Advices to new planning generations
  • City as an organism, bottom up perspective
  • Planning education
  • Smart cities


Lecture Series

In this section i summarize my notes of the event. Below are key quotes from the talks given by speakers.


Peter Hall

The most relevant change in the last 50 years of planning is Sustainability understanding and relevance.

Planners should read ”Non Plan- An Experiment of freedom” (Barker et al., 1969) to understand the types of uncertainty in planning.


Gerhard Schimak

The History is very important. We can not forget it.


Andreas Faludi

Planners help decision makers to accomplish problems.

Planners should read the essay ”The structure of scientific revolutions” (Kuhn, 1962).

The most relevant change in the last 50 years of planning is the end of master planning.


Louis Albrechts

One of my current contributions that could help planners face the current situation is about Transformative planning (Albrechts, 2013).

When we plan we need to adapt the information we give depending on who receive it.
Creativity must be a driver for change in the current situation (Albrechts, 2005). Planners have to imagine creatively, stimulating the ability to view problems, situations and challenges.

Some important characteristics of planning:

  • Solidity of the analysis
  • Creativity of the design

The most relevant change in the last 50 years of planning is globalisation and low confidence in the European project.


Judith Innes

Planners help to approach the future.

World is a complex system. Planners need complexity lens to understand the cities hollistically. We need first to learn how to look hollistically and after extract a part and see the underlying dynamic.

We use planning to improve the performance of cities as systems. Let’s understand the city as a distributed learning systems and feedback. Systems generate feedback that we use for collaborative planning with real time information.

To protect us against mistakes we need dialogue. Do not forget that negotiation and dialogue are needed in any circunstance.

Uncertainty is inherent to planners. If you are not confortable with uncertainty/ambiguity you are not a planner.

The most relevant change in the last 50 years of planning is that we now know that we can make a difference.


Charles Hoch

Conversation must be used as transformative experience.

Preparing for the future is crucial.

Planning should be comprehensive. We come to plan and implementation through collaboration.

Planning does not have a moral or ethics, planners have.


Peter Marcuse

I took risks to pursue my principles.

Massive problems like hunger, segregation, frustration, and people in the cities fighting economically and socially have to be adressed. Planning is done for the benefit of people who need. In democracy, needs of the majority become important. The process of planning must be democratic.

Justice is the most important challenge of planning.

Benefit analysis has to go beyond money benefit/cost.

Good planning is conflict. Pursue justice is what we planners do.

I would define a good plan as one that would be implemented.

Successful inmediate solutions have to point out what is not being done.

Recommend book «The origins of modern town planning» (Leonardo Benevolo, 1971)

Eventhough Planning needs to deal with inmediate problems, the immediate possible is not the root of a problem. Challenging the roots of a problem needs more. Some questions we must answer to analyze the immediate:

  • Who causes the problems?
  • Who is more likely to do better, more efficacy to solve the problems?

We need to differentiate between technical problems and political problems. Good planning education is subversive, questioning goals.

Smart cities? You need to know technology and to know its limits. Planners must be careful with seing the city as an organism. We could think that public agencies do not affect anymore.

Careful with the word we – The word we – usually means me and my people, it does not mean the collectivity.

Advices to new planning generations:

  • Be critical
  • Be independent
  • Be strong
  • Be realistic


Barrie Needham

Planners are important if they affect the practice of planning. Planners effectiveness – achieving what you decide to achieve.
Planner’s function is not predicting, is creating scenarios and reflecting creatively about what to do.


Cliff Hague

Places are important source of inspiration.

Planning needs innovation and needs innovators. Innovation needs network and leadership.

Advice for planners: Invent your own planning thought and practice.

At the end of his speech Cliff Hague shared a rap. There is a link to the lyrics shared by the speaker at the bottom of this page.


Michael Batty

Visualization techniques to retool myself with graphics. To communicate with planners, stakeholders and other scientists we need visualization.

Complexity is understanding a city in terms of flows instead of locations. For reference read (Batty, 2013).

Technology is important. Computers are changing our behaviour.

Perspectives of the city. Top down as a machine. Bottom up as an organism. Organism’s implication is a research issue from planning perspective.


Rachelle Alterman

Planners need to manipulate, communicate with and understand laws behind planning.

My mission is sharing knowledge with developing countries.

Accountability to future generations.


John Friedmann

Politicians are decision makers who set goals. Planners are organizers who desing plans to achieve goals and get feedback from decision makers. Social learning model attributes are knowledge and action:

  • 1st Action, 2nd feedback loops, 3rd learning, 4th action.
  • 1st dialogue, 2nd collaborative projects involving every actor. Action is a form of innovation.

Put something new into the world and make it happen. Driving by hope in the future but focus in present practices.

Social learning, involving other people, finding a way to overcome conflicts through feedback processes which account risks, uncertainties and feedback in action, knowledge loops.

Value of local knowledge – among collaborators there is local knowledge which is useful to plan.

Tacit knowledge – kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.

Planning as a process of building communities. Embrace diversity and looks for unity.


Patsy Healy

My purpose with planning: It is a way of moving society in a better world.

Planning is a transformative activity. Planners need to understand change development.

Every local situation is different. We can not generalize. Look and understand patterns in relationships instead of individuals. What ideas do the collective use? What resources do the collective use?

Group as a multiple web of relationships. City as relation between hierarchized groups.

Planning is a social practice, for the many, not just for a few. See opportunities as small cracks that can get bigger.

Advice to planners: Give value to your insight and little thinking.


Klaus Kunzmann

Learn from places, seing and exploring them. Not just reading. Places matter because there is people living in them. Look for the quality of life of local people, plan for the better. Develop creative and hollistic solutions and never give up on the mission – making better places for people.

Planners need to say what they want to say to provide something to the community. Planners have to be very humble. They have little influence.

If things are not going in the right direction, planning has to become more provocative.

Nationalism is coming back. Will we neglect and forget the achieved?

Planning finds opportunities to address the challenges locally. How we use the power we have is a critical issue.


John Forester

Planners should read about Critical Pragmatism (Forester, 2013).The more political is the world, becoming more complex, the more planners need to improvise.

Elements of critical pragmatism: dialogue, negotiation and expert argument.

Planning is the organisation of hope or the disorganisation of hope.

Planning is a tool to give population a better understanding of what could be done in their life. What can be done to have better places.

Importance of micropolitics of planning. Who is included, who is excluded. who has the information. who has not the information.

Planners have to think critically about what can be done. How to convey our analysis organizing alternatives and hopes?

«It’s always seem impossible until it is done» Nelson Mandela. Look at the future and say this is possible.

Planners have the responsability of imagine a better way.

Planners should read about Paulo Freire and the contruction of (im)possibility (Freire, 1970)

Planners must integrate means and ends. Planners have to know how to deal with diversity.

Expertise need to be accountable.

Advice for planners. Try to find the answer to these questions:

  • How can we imagine the future in a way that has an audience?
  • How do we educate the public to address challenges together and in an effective way?

Bottom-up climate change mitigation and adaptation has potential but needs more than just local action.

Find the agenda, rather than let the funding streams capture your agenda. Follow this order when you are planning to create valuable projects for your regions: 1st What is really important for our region? 2nd What do we really need? 3rd How do we get funding?



Reyner Benham, Paul Barker, Peter Hall, Cedric Price and Wand, M.P. (1969). ‘Non-Plan: An experiment of Freedom’, New Society, 338,pp.435–443.

Thomas Kuhn (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press; United States.

Louis Albrechts (2013). ‘Reframing strategic spatial planning by using a coproduction perspective’, Planning Theory, 12, pp.46–63.

Louis Albrechts (2005). ‘Creativity as a drive for change’, Planning Theory,
4(3), pp.247–269.

Leonardo Benevolo (1971). The origins of Modern Town Planning, Mit Press; United States.

Michael Batty (2013). The New Science of cities, Mit Press; United States.

John Forester (2013). ‘On the theory and practice of critical pragmatism: Deliberative practice and creative negotiations’, Planning Theory, 12, pp.5–22.

Leonardo Benevolo (1971). The origins of Modern Town Planning, Mit Press; United States.

Michael Batty (2013). The New Science of cities, Mit Press; United States.

John Forester (2013). ‘On the theory and practice of critical pragmatism: Deliberative practice and creative negotiations’, Planning Theory, 12,pp.5–22.

(Hague, 2014) CAP Young Planners Network group


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