Sunday, 3 February 2013

Dear Reader, welcome to my new blog! After years of consideration, I finally decided to give blogging a try.

I'm a spatial planner and researcher. One of my favourite parts of this job is exploring spaces and places, either by foot/bicycle or occasionally using statistical data, maps and GIS systems. I want to use this blog to share some of my observations, but also comment on wider planning issues.

Naming the blog
The first decision I needed to make, was choosing a title for this blog. I was looking for a title related to planning, but most popular titles had already been taken.Then I remembered that one of the Dutch terms for planning is "Planologie". It's a word that I always liked, due to its simplicity. So the title of this blog Planolog is derived from this.

What is planning?
Planologie is only one of the numerous titles for what planners do. Titles used in English to describe planning include Civic Design, Town and Country Planning, Urban and Regional Planning, City and Regional Planning or simply Town Planning and more recently the term Spatial Planning. In German there is a comparable variety of titles: Städtebau, Stadtplanung, Stadt- und Regionalplanung, Raumplanung and Raum- und Umweltplanung.

As a relatively new discipline, planning has it's origin in a variety of traditional disciplines such as architecture, geography, sociology, civil engineering or economics. In fact in many countries it is still commonly questioned if planning is an independent discipline at all, or not simply "applied geography" or "large scale architecture". Many early practising planners were in fact graduates of these older disciplines, often architecture and civil engineering.

Early examples in the UK of an interdisciplinary approach towards town planning led to the establishment of the first planning school called Civic Design at the University of Liverpool in 1909. This is the department where I'm currently working.

Still, in most countries, such courses did not exist, or only on a postgraduate level. Particularly in the 1960s there was a growing debate amongst planning practicioners and some academics that an independent discipline was needed in planning education. In Germany the first of these new departments started in the late 1960s based at the newly established University of Dortmund. The title for this new department was a new word for many practicing planners as well: "Raumplanung". In English this literally means spaceplanning, though the more common translation is spatial planning. After a few years of establishing the discipline, debates started about a coherent definition of Raumplanung. The result of this lengthy debate was a bold statement defining Raumplanung, painted on one of the large seminar rooms, more precisely the room 408 in GB III, for those of you who know the Dortmund school. When I studied in Dortmund in the 1990s, this statement was not visible anymore. If I remember correctly some people said it was painted over, apparently caused by fundamental disagreement with the statement. A few years ago the definition was rediscovered and painted on one of the outside walls adjacent the building where Raumplanung is based.

In English this can be translated as:

"Spatial planning is the democratic development of old and new cities, villages and regions, countries, localities and climes into habitats for a human society."

For those knowing planning history, one can certainly see that this is a definition from the 1970s as environmental issues are not explicitly mentioned in the text. Apart from this, many planners today would probably still agree with this definition.

What do you think? Feel free to comment.


  1. Excellent, great opening shot, good to have more Civic Designers sharing the cyber space. I've posted the forthcoming TCPA article on the Liverpool Paris rail conference:

    P.S. Is your background pic one of the Liverpool 'garden suburb' estates in Norris Green / Dovecot?


  2. Thanks for the comment. You'll like my next blog - I plan to reflect on the humble terraced house, the unsung hero of urbanism.
    And regarding the P.S., yes, that's an old aerial photo of Norris Green, before the large council estates in the Kirkby were built.

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