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Relational concepts of space and place: Issues for planning theory and practice

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Graham, Emeritus Professor Patsy Healey OBE


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This paper seeks to conceptualize and explore the changing relationships between planning action and practice and the dynamics of place. It argues that planning practice is grappling with new treatments of place, based on dynamic, relational constructs, rather than the Euclidean, deterministic, and one-dimensional treatments inherited from the 'scientific' approaches of the 1960s and early 1970s. But such emerging planning practices remain poorly served by planning theory which has so far failed to produce sufficiently robust and sophisticated conceptual treatments of place in today's 'globalizing' world. In this paper we attempt to draw on a wide range of recent advances in social theory to begin constructing such a treatment. The paper has four parts. First, we criticize the legacy of object-oriented, Euclidean concepts of planning theory and practice, and their reliance on 'containered' views of space and time. Second, we construct a relational understanding of time, space and cities by drawing together four strands of recent social theory. These are: relational theories of urban time-space, dynamic conceptualizations of 'multiplex' places and cities, the 'new' urban and regional socio-economics, and emerging theories of social agency and institutional odering. In the third section, we apply such perspectives to three worlds of planning practice: land use regulation, policy frameworks and development plans, and the development of 'customized spaces' in urban 'regeneration'. Finally, by way of conclusion, we suggest some pointers for practising planning in a relational way.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Graham S, Healey P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Planning Studies

Year: 1999

Volume: 7

Issue: 5

Pages: 623-646

Print publication date: 01/10/1999

ISSN (print): 0965-4313

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5944

Publisher: Routledge