Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Public versus Private Planning: Themes, Trends and Tensions: The IPHS Thirteenth Biennial Conference, Chicago, 2008

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Public versus Private Planning: Themes, Trends and Tensions: The IPHS Thirteenth Biennial Conference, Chicago, 2008

Article excerpt

The thirteenth biennial conference of the International Planning History Society (IPHS) held in Chicago 10-13 July 2008 followed immediately after (and in the same Marriott Hotel venue as) the much larger joint conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Association of European Schools of Planning (ACSP/AESOP). Yet, compared to the 1200 or so papers presented at that overwhelming event, the IPHS conference was almost intimate, with roughly 260 papers; well almost, but not quite: these were still substantial numbers. The organisers, Robert Bruegmann of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Chris Silver of the University of Florida deserve congratulations for their efforts in compiling a programme that combined academic interest with a real social intimacy.

Background to IPHS Chicago 2008

Those unfamiliar with the academic development of this subfield of planning studies might be intrigued to discover that every two years gatherings of about this size occur in major world cities to present and discuss papers on the history of planning. In the simplest sense, this is testimony to the remarkable persistence and resilience of the organisation launched in 1974 by the late Gordon Cherry and Tony Sutcliffe in Birmingham in the UK. It was known for many years as the Planning History Group, before adopting its present title and remit in 1993. Tony Sutcliffe organised the first international conference in London (1977) and the regular biennial cycle was initiated in 1994.

The impressive list of meetings, since 1994 hosted in Hong Kong, Thessaloniki, Sydney, Helsinki, London/Letchworth, Barcelona, New Delhi and now Chicago, is also, of course, testimony to the persistence and development of planning history itself as an area of academic endeavour. This may surprise UK readers, familiar only with the weakening of planning history teaching that has accompanied the recent truncation of the postgraduate route to Royal Town Planning Institute professional qualification. Yet this has not been the case in most other countries, where students of planning retain fuller opportunities to engage with the history of their field. Moreover, planning history has never been confined to planning schools and a wide range of others from history, geography, art and architectural history have always been involved. Perhaps most striking of all, there has been a marked geographical widening of interest in planning history beyond the original concentration on Europe.

Attendance at IPHS Chicago 2008

The Chicago 2008 conference was a case study of this trend of geographical widening. A list of participants circulated in the conference pack showed them coming from addresses in 27 countries and revealed the following percentage breakdown of numbers by global region: USA/Canada, 34 per cent; Latin America, 26 per cent; Europe, 19 per cent; Asia, 11 per cent; and Australia/New Zealand, 10 per cent. In descending order, the most significant national contingents were those from the USA (32 per cent), Brazil (20 per cent), Australia (8 per cent), Japan (5 per cent) and Spain (4 per cent).

In general, these proportions speak for themselves, with the huge jump in Latin American, especially Brazilian, participation being one of the real shifts of recent years, apparent since the 2004 conference in Barcelona. This was mirrored too in European participation which was dominated by southern Europe, especially Spain and Portugal. Asian participation mainly reflected the longstanding Japanese interest in the field, although numbers from India and, to a lesser extent, China were unsurprisingly lower than in 2006 at the New Delhi conference. At least one Chinese delegate was also unable to stay on for the IPHS conference, having been called back to urgent duties planning the reconstruction after the recent devastating earthquake. As is often the case, some nationals from these and other Asian countries were also subsumed into numbers from the United States and elsewhere, reflecting their place of work or study. …

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