From Control to Co-Evolution the AESOP Congress 2014, Utrecht, 9-12 July 2014

By Hengstermann, Andreas; Hartmann, Thomas | The Town Planning Review, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

From Control to Co-Evolution the AESOP Congress 2014, Utrecht, 9-12 July 2014


Hengstermann, Andreas, Hartmann, Thomas, The Town Planning Review


The Association of European Schools of Planning - AESOP - is the largest academic organisation on spatial planning in Europe, and its annual conferences are the most important events throughout the year. 'From control to co-evolution' was the theme of this year's AESOP congress in Utrecht (Netherlands) from 9-12 July, 2014. It was hosted as a joint project by the University of Utrecht, the Delft University of Technology, and the University of Ghent under the supervision of Luuk Boelens, Vincent Nadin and Thomas Hartmann. Almost 700 researchers across all planning-related areas from Europe and beyond gathered to present, listen and discuss within seventeen parallel tracks, from 'planning in stressful places' to 'ethics and justice in planning'. Four related papers were presented in each session, followed by lively discussions about ideas, approaches and even connections between them.

Traditionally, those paper sessions form the core of AESOP congresses, but additionally, several innovations have been introduced in Utrecht to the established AESOP conference procedures. In particular, pitch sessions were new for AESOP at this year's gathering: presenters had a time slot of five minutes each to present new research ideas or work in progress. Those sessions turned out to be very lively and appealing platforms, in which not only younger academics presented preliminary findings but also eminent professors, such as Klaus Kunzmann (TUDortmund) and Luuk Boelens (University of Ghent).

Venue

Bert van de Zwaan, the rector magnificus of Utrecht University, opened the congress. Utrecht University is one of the oldest and nowadays the second-largest university in the Netherlands. The campus is an architectural highlight of the city and contains works of famous Dutch architects, like Rem Kohlhaas, Wiel Arets and Herman Hertzberger. Spatial planning at Utrecht is integrated into the geoscience department. The education of planners (Bachelors and Masters) is strongly linked with the field of human geography. The opening reception took place at the Dutch National Railway Museum - fascinating scenery with an industrial ambience. The conference was concluded by a farewell dinner at the famous Academy Building in the shadow of the Dom Church of Utrecht.

Congress theme: 'From control to co-evolution'

The congress has continued AESOP's tradition of broaching an essential discussion about planning as a discipline. The question - whether planning has developed from control to co-evolution - tackles the fundamental contemporary role played by planners. The theme refers to a broader academic debate, to a local characteristic of the Utrecht approach and also links with other AESOP congresses. The link to the academic debate in planning theory is the debate on the complexity of social-spatial systems. The congress participants were challenged to reflect on the question regarding to what degree planning theory, practice and education have progressed from technocratic understandings and methods. The different tracks achieved this through their particular focus - for example, 'planning, law, and property rights' from a different perspective than 'adaptive Delta studies and governance'. The theme also refers to the work by Boelens (University of Ghent), head of the local organising committee, and Kreukels (Utrecht University) on the actor-relational approach (Boelens, 2010). The chosen topic also fits within a pattern of themes chosen for previous congresses (for example, Dublin 2013: 'Planning for resilient cities and regions') and future AESOP congresses. In 2015, when AESOP goes to Prague, the theme will be 'Definite space - fuzzy responsibility'. These themes represent the mission of AESOP to continue the fundamental discourse about planners' identity. Some of the presented papers at Utrecht picked up the theme; others did not address it at all.

Keynotes

The keynote speakers tried to reveal the theme from different perspectives. …

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