Drawing together Matter and Concern. How City Planning is, or Even Ought to Be, Heterogeneous Design
(Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)
Paper short abstract:
City planning means drawing together disparate materialities and concerns. Plans then serve as communication interfaces to align and establish a complex set of socio-technical problems. On basis of these insights I discuss "heterogeneous design" as a rule of thumb for participatory planning.
Paper long abstract:
Maastricht, the Netherlands, refurbishes its industrial heritage for creative industry purposes. My case study on two planning projects scrutinizes the chances for this process to involve local subcultures. One is a deadlocked controversy about a particular edifice; the other has overcome most local resistance by means of participatory efforts. In both cases, actors employ diverging visions of post-industrial future. The contrasting insights allowed for general conclusions about the challenges of transforming the city's cultural political economy by means of citizen participation.
Drawing on interview and document research I will make two arguments:
First, the interaction between the parties involved boils down to a twofold challenge for participatory efforts, a paradox, which seems applicable to other planning processes. While both projects clearly are subject to a certain pressure to homogenise a suitable plan, a variety of local concerns urge the evolving plan to remain negotiable. Correspondingly symmetrical research yields the following results: planners already engage as translators of diverse knowledges while plans serve as communication interfaces to align and establish a complex set of socio-technical problems. In fact, they are used as "trials of strengths", as a capacity to challenge or expand political consensus. More generally, the observed practices are attempts to cope with the gradual expertization of planning processes as well as the interpretative unruliness of visualizations.
Second, "heterogeneous design" may serve as an operational paradigm of socio-technical planning endeavors. From this perspective sound planning requires a constant iteration between technical and social design.