Space and power in regional planning: Rethinking theory for urban planning and design

This project develops a partly new approach to urban planning and design theory, focusing on the power aspect of the urban-rural relationship. This is based on a need for a deeper understanding of how the planning practice contributes to the creation and consolidation of spatial power relations and a need to develop urban planning and design theory that can be used to understand and handle the relationship between space and power within an urban planning and design context. This is especially urgent concerning the relation between urban and rural on a regional scale, since regional development is characterised by increasing spatial inequality and a hierarchisation between centre and periphery. Through a European overview and empirical studies of two Nordic examples, the Oslo-Akershus region and the West Sweden region, the project contributes with knowledge of how spatial power relations are constructed and consolidated within contemporary regional planning. The aim is to use this knowledge to develop urban planning and design theory that can be used to better understand and handle the relationship between space and power within the urban planning and design field. Hence, the purpose is to provide important knowledge and theory development that can contribute to the rethinking and development of architectural and urban planning theory, connect architectural theory with interrelated disciplines, renew planning methods and broaden the discourse on cities and urban-rural areas.

The theoretical and methodological framework is based on discourse theory (Laclau & Mouffe 1985; Mouffe 2005, 2013) and theories of power (Foucault 1975; Wallenstein 2013) that will be transformed to a spatial thinking by adding theories of relational space (Massey 2005).This perspective emphasises the relationship between urban space and power and the production of urban space as a political process where the meaning of space is historically and contextually dependent and constantly constructed and reconstructed through concrete action. Discourse theory also offers a number of concepts and logics that will be used in the analysis of the empirical material.

Based on this framework, a qualitative elaboration of text, pictures, maps and drawings related to the two empirical examples will be performed. Focus for the investigations will be to make visible, understand and interpret how the relationship between centre and periphery on a regional scale is handled in the planning documents, how conflicts of interests and goals is handled and if and how the planning creates and consolidates spatial power relations. Thereafter, urban planning and design theory will be developed focusing on the relationship between space and power. This will be done in a dialectic process in relation to the empirical material, where the analysed empirical material will be used as an example for developing urban planning and design theory.

Research at NMBU and Chalmers is planned to be conducted in parallel. At NMBU, focus will be on developing the theoretical aspects of the project and on the empirical study of the Oslo-Akershus region, while the focus at Chalmers will be on the empirical study of the West Sweden region. Conducting the research project partly at NMBU gives a possibility to link interrelated disciplines and strengthen the collaboration between Chalmers and NMBU.  The research environment at NMBU gives a possibility for continuous feedback from researchers that have deep knowledge regarding the specific Norwegian conditions, the urban–rural relationship and regional planning at large and to search for relevant local documents for the empirical study. Furthermore, the connection to NMBU is crucial for the project´s theoretical development, intended to be developed within the research group Discursive Perspectives in Planning, with main focus on political conditions and other power perspectives, highly relevant for the theoretical and methodological approach of my post-doctoral research project.

Start date 01/07/2015
End date The project is closed: 30/06/2018

Page manager Published: Thu 31 May 2018.