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Conceptions of Space and Place in Strategic Spatial Planning

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Simin Davoudi


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Space and place have become important theoretical terms in a wide range of disciplines. Since the mid-twentieth century they have provided a way of breaking free from the theoretical rigidities of using spatial units, such as ‘urban’, ‘region’ or ‘global’ as the application of spatiality. However, a focus on space has a much longer history. It is seen as the hallmark of modernity and its origin in the Enlightenment project. At the centre of debate is the distinction between absolute and relational view of space. The former is rooted in Euclidean geometry and perceives space as a neutral container, while the latter is rooted in Leibnizian philosophy which views the space as dependent on the processes and substances that make it up. Drawing on the six case studies undertaken for a forthcoming book [1], this paper aims to explore the conceptions of space and place in the spatial strategies which were emerging in the early 2000s in the UK and Ireland. The focus is on examining the ways in which space and place are articulated, presented and visualised in planning contents and processes. The analyses are informed by a conceptual framework whose broad contour is defined by three distinct traditions of inquiry in social sciences: positivism, structuralism and post-structuralism. The most remarkable conclusion from the analysis is that an asymmetric development has been taking place in the processes and contents of planning in the last half a century. While the planning processes show a gradual shift towards post-structuralism, the planning contents have remained a predominantly positivist construct. It seems that while the debate on the significance of relational geography has influenced how planners plan, it has failed to change, in a meaningful way, what planners plan.

Publication metadata

Editor(s): Davoudi S, Strange I

Series Editor(s): R. Upton

Publication type: Edited Book

Publication status: Published

Series Title: Royal Town Planning Institute Series

Year: 2009

Number of Pages: 282

Print publication date: 24/11/2008

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780415431026