ISDRS 2018: Actions for a Sustainable World: From Theory to Practice

Track 6a. Land use and planning

Track chairs

Dr. Marc Wolfram, Associate Professor, Urban Transformations Lab, Dept. of Architecture, SKKU (Sungkyunkwan University), South Korea,

Dr. Markus Egermann, Senior Researcher, IOER (Leibniz Institute for Ecological Urban and Regional Development), Germany,


With the interrogative topic “Planning for transformation?”, this track focused on the tension field between the institutions, practices and techniques of current planning on the one hand, and pressing requirements for achieving transformative change on the other (i.e. deep change in urban and spatial systems towards sustainability), asking:

  • How does research address the relation between planning and transformation?
  • What effects does planning practice have for sustainability transformations?
  • How could future planning research/practice respond to the issues identified?

Eight speakers contributed from a variety of epistemological perspectives and empirical contexts, addressing crucial planning approaches and instruments (incl. Earth observation techniques, impact assessment processes, strategic plans, urban living labs, design thinking). Despite this diversity, the discussion underlined the following common key issues and insights:

  • Developing system knowledge forms a key transformation pre-requisite, but is in practice frequently inhibited by multiple barriers – esp. limited data availability (costs, access, quality), capacity and expertise (institutional and individual), as well as transdisciplinarity (to elicit knowledge and value diversity);
  • Planning regulations and state-driven spatial strategies set key directions for planning that imply major deficits in terms of both planning subjects (e.g. socio-economic transformation) and methods (e.g. preference for standards over dialogue);
  • The interplay between political strategies and value orientations of the general public provides for substantial variations in place-specific transformation priorities and planning approaches – also making transformative leadership a critical factor;
  • Innovative planning approaches involving strong experimental, co-creation and social learning components are promising to initiate deeper institutional change;
  • An active role of science strengthens transformative orientations within planning processes (system analysis, innovative process designs) but requires political support and additional resources;

These issues require context-specific responses in policy and research to overcome the apparently conservative forces of planning, leveraging its potential as a key driver of sustainability transformations instead.