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  • Three invisible things in Finnish planning II: multi-locality

    5 helmi 2017
    Kimmo Lapintie
    2267
    0

    In his famous book on space and place the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan gave the following instruction on reading his own text: ”The approach is descriptive, aiming more often to suggest than to conclude. In an area of study where so much is tentative, perhaps each statement should end with a question mark or be accompanied by qualifying clauses. The reader is asked to supply them.” (p. 7) Let us do what he suggested and question some of the widely cherished ideas of space and place – partly the legacy of Tuan himself. Space is often thought to be somehow more abstract than place. It is taken to be an undifferentiated container that becomes a place only when we endow it with value. Place is the home of security, space the realm of freedom. Place is known to us, space not so much.

    Although there is some truth in this, this way of thinking is also problematic. Space as such is clearly no more abstract than place: both can be abstracted to the same extent, as in the Cartesian grid where space is represented with the x- y- and z-axes and the place with a point with coordinates relative to them. Speaking in concrete terms, on the other hand, both space and place are clearly meaningful to us. The home is a meaningful place, but so is the motorway that Augé called non-place – only the meanings are different. There are safe places but also scary places, in which case the safest thing is to get the hell out of there. Space is freedom, for sure, but it is freedom exactly because it allows the possibility to change places. Space as a multitude of alternative places, all of them with different characteristics and meanings, is how this interesting interplay could be approached. There is never just one place, always a multitude of them, and they exist to us as possible locations even if we would never visit them.

    How are these theoretical reflections relevant to the contemporary situation of urban and regional planning? We know, of course, that people are not staying at one place, and that is why transportation between places is such a crucial element in planning. We know that commuting from home to the workplace does not respect municipal borders, and that commercial activities concentrate in places of good accessibility, having their customer base in a wider area. Instead of cities and the dichotomy between the city and the countryside, we have come to accept the functional city region, where citizens and businesses not only choose their locations but build complex networks, and where both housing and labour markets are regional.

    But something more is happening. The development of information technology has greatly increased the possibilities of working outside the main office: at home, in various contemporary urban offices, during transportation in trains and buses, and in public and semi-public spaces like libraries and coffee shops. The employers, in turn, have noticed that it makes no sense to rent and maintain large office spaces with low occupancy rates; instead, the workers are profiled according to their mobility, and the mobile ones are not allowed to keep rooms or even permanent desks. Work is thus becoming mobile both inside and outside of the office. For the mobile workers, there is no longer only one workplace but a number of alternative workplaces, only some of which are intentionally designed for this purpose.

    In addition to this, we are not necessarily living in only one place at a time. As secondary homes have become more well equipped and communication networks faster and more widespread, the borderline between working and leisure is slowly becoming blurred, and people can spend longer times in the places of their preference independently of their working hours. Highly specialised working couples also need to search for job opportunities from a larger catchment area, leading to several forms of interregional solutions of living in many places. Climatic preferences, higher incomes and the growth of the retired population is creating international networked living in different places in different countries. In this multitude of living opportunities, the concepts of primary and secondary homes are becoming outdated, even though the primary residence still determines our identities as citizens and taxpayers.

    Considering these developments, we may say that contemporary urban planning – along with urban and regional politics – is clearly lagging behind. The tradition of planning only one neighbourhood or even city at a time, with an ’existing’ or ’projected’ number of residents and workplaces inside its perimeter, is missing the whole point of multi-local living and multi-local working. The tradition of planning functionally divided land-uses, as well as designing spaces for specified functions, has difficulties in dealing with this dynamic multifunctionality of spaces and places.  And organising public services ’close to home’ makes no sense anymore: home is where your heart is.

     

    References:

    Tuan, Yi-Fu (2011/1977) Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.
    Augé, Marc (1995/1992) Non-Places. Introduction to Anthropology of Supermodernity. London and New York: Verso.

    Publications on multi-locality:

    Libraries as transitory workspaces and spatial incubators
    Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. 2015 In : LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE RESEARCH. 37, 2, p. 118-129
    Emerging workplaces in the post-functionalist cities
    Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. Forthcoming in JOURNAL OF URBAN TECHNOLOGY.

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  • Three invisible things in Finnish planning I: ecology

    18 tammi 2017
    Kimmo Lapintie
    1781
    0

    One of the main problems of contemporary planning is that it is done in silos: the various experts and decision makers all have their specific interests and practices, which are confined within thematic and geographical areas. Even if integration is the buzz-word, it is not easy to make it real. There is a certain path-dependency in urban and regional expertise: each profession has its own history of combining knowledge with power, and it is also important to defend one’s position in the planning commission. Who is needed, and what kind of knowledge is relevant? There is nothing self-evident in this. Different countries have used different experts; in Finland for instance, there is no actual planning profession, but planning is done by architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, planning and urban geographers, among others. They all have different educational backgrounds and, correspondingly, different priorities.

    On the other hand, urban and regional governance is also confined within specific geographical areas. The cities are drawing their detailed and structural or master plans – mainly blueprints – and the regional authorities consider regional policies and land-use. At the moment the current government of Finland is planning a major new reform in regional governance, in which independent regions (with elected councils) would take care of social and health-care services, as well as regional land-use plans. The existing independent municipalities (many of which are too small to take care of their ageing population) would be left with local municipal plans and educational and cultural services. Whatever will be the result of this reform, one problem seems to persist: the different authorities take good care not to step on each others’ toes. Helsinki is careful not to suggest anything for the other cities of the metropolitan area (Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen), to say nothing of the larger urban region – and vice versa.

    People – in contrast – are not confined. They may be living in one municipality and working in another – nay, they may be living and working in several municipalities and even city regions at the same time, changing their home and workplace as soon as it fits their purposes. They may have primary and secondary homes for both living and working, which is made possible by fast computer networks everywhere. In addition to the home and the office, they may occupy libraries and coffee shops for multi-local working. They would also like to use services according to their preferences and accessibility, but here they face a problem: urban and regional governance has no way of dealing with this fluidity and complexity. From the governance point of view, people are still conceived to be more or less fixed, with one place and neighbourhood of residence determining their local taxes, their public services, their local and national identity, and their political citizenship. Thus the functional urban region is not corresponding to the institutional framework that is supposed to govern it. This incongruence is only partly remedied by the voluntary agreements between the national and the local states, the so-called MALPE-agreements, trying to integrate land-use, transportation, services and the economy.

    With nature we have another wicked problem at hand. Before the concepts of sustainable development and ecology came so widespread in planning discourses, the main functions of green areas and networks were recreation and preservation of endangered species and cultural landscapes. They fitted nicely with the overall scheme of functionalistic land-use planning, allowing the confinement of a suitable amount of green around or within the more profitable functions of housing, industry or transportation. At the same time they could be dealt with as structural elements connecting housing with recreational functions. Surely they were understood as having ecological roles as well, as e.g. corridors for species or water retention areas, but not necessarily analysed as such.

    How different is our understanding of the urban and regional green today, after decades of research on green infrastructures, ecosystem services, health effects, micro-climates, stormwater management etc. that urban ecology is dealing with. Not so different as one might expect. The two functions of recreation and preservation still dominate the field: we are debating on how much green can be sacrificed for urban development, which areas should be preserved, and what form the green network should take. The main points seem to be too difficult to handle: the avoiding of the juxtaposition of urban development and urban green, the understanding of urban ecology in systemic terms (and not as end-states that can be represented with two-dimensional maps), and addressing the different qualities of the urban green and the respective ecosystem services. An urban forest and a golf course are both green, but they provide very different services, both ecologically and socially.

    The issue, thus, does not seem to be the existence or the amount of knowledge, but the way that urban reality is conceptualised through this knowledge, whether it is scientific or professional. And if so, dealing with the complex and dynamic urban reality at hand requires re-concpetualisation, and this is exactly what we are interested in.

    Publications:

    Libraries as transitory workspaces and spatial incubators
    Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. 2015 In : LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE RESEARCH. 37, 2, p. 118-129

    Emerging workplaces in the post-functionalist cities
    Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. Forthcoming in JOURNAL OF URBAN TECHNOLOGY.

    Exploring the concept of green infrastructure in urban landscape. Experiences from Italy, Canada and Finland
    Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. Forthcoming in LANDSCAPE RESEARCH.

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  • Is your city prepared for future mobility technologies?

    7 joulu 2016
    Milos Mladenovic
    2112
    0

    Nowadays, we almost weekly hear about various emerging transport technologies, bound to change our everyday lives. Some examples include ride-sharing and trip integration applications, unmanned aerial vehicles, and high speed transport tube. One of these emerging technologies, and potentially the most disruptive one, are self-driving vehicles [1]. This technology is in its late foundational stage, with many pilots internationally, and several alternative visions. Lately we can hear about Tesla’s autopilot feature implementation in the US, truck platooning trials in Australia, or pilots of self-driving shuttles in Helsinki, Espoo, and Tampere.

    All of the possible variants have certain premises of their benefits, and some of the already identified burdens. This is where the roots of the wider disruption can be seen. For example, some of the possible benefits are the improvement of traffic flow efficiency, safety, and reduction of CO2 emissions. On the contrary, some of the identified issues are potential job loss in the taxi, bus, or truck driver sector, or potential urban sprawl due to the increase of acceptable travel distances. One can, after a brief reflection [2], see that the disruption will not be just about transport. Quite the contrary, disruption will be societal, including infrastructure and technology, public and private sector organizations, as well as citizen activities and practices, and societal norms and values.

    Unfortunately, the current technological development approach largely neglects this whole range of societal aspects. While focusing primarily on the technical aspects, and aiming to minimize the time to the market ready product or service, the approach accounts only for “customers”. Thus, the result is a deterministic perspective on the future. To caricaturize, car manufacturers or public transport operators are not necessarily thinking of the future where biking is the primary mode of transport.

    Taking into account the ongoing technological development, potential disruption, and dominant approach, what about your city? Or moreover, what about your city administration? Certainly, planners and policy-makers cannot shy away from the emerging complexity, and the unavoidable uncertainty when accounting for self-driving vehicles? Surely, the city administration is responsible for requiring to be engaged in the technological development process, in order to think of a wider range of alternative, desirable, futures? Moreover, thinking about self-driving vehicles probably requires timely account of general and localized societal values, accounting for the potential conflict among them? Perhaps this is the time to start thinking about some integrative envisioning processes? Integration, as one aspect, could be accounting for horizontal and vertical policy integration, with the inclusion of citizens throughout planning processes? Envisioning, as the other aspect, could be focusing on the lives in the future, and not solely on technology in the future?

    The big question remains – is your city prepared for future mobility technologies? More questions follow this question. However, perhaps we should first ask the following – who will ask the questions?


    [1] The author intentionally uses the word ‘vehicle’ instead of ‘car’, in order to avoid constraining the concept of this technology.

    [2] P-L. Blyth, M. N. Mladenović, B. A. Nardi, H. R. Ekbia, N. M. Su (2016). Expanding the Design Horizon for Self-Driving Vehicles: Distributing Benefits and Burdens. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.

     

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  • The State of the Art

    10 marras 2016
    Otto-Wille Koste
    1472
    0

    BEMINE -consortium gathered together on 26.-27.10.2016 to find common themes and points of interest within the consortium. In the beginning every research group presented the earlier research they have done related to BEMINE. The aims of the seminar were to find common inter-disciplinary themes and define collaborative research questions.

    State-of-the-art presentations can be found here:

    Aalto – Raine Mäntysalo
    UTa – Jarmo Vakkuri
    Aalto – Kimmo Lapintie
    UTa – Jouni Häkli
    SYKE – Ari Nissinen
    VTT – Juha Honkatukia
    UoM – Joe Ravetz
    JYU – Hannu Tervo
    NMBE – Petter Næss
    Raine Mäntysalo: Breaking MALPE paths

     

     

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  • BEMINE researcher seminar 26.-27.10.2016

    25 loka 2016
    Johannes Mikkonen
    1749
    0

    BEMINE -consortium gathers together on 26.-27.10.2016 in Finnish Environment Centre to find common themes and points of interest within the consortium and  integrate research groups and their research themes. 

    Program

    DAY 1

    10:00-10:15 Welcome

    10:15-10:30 RE-DEFINE forum lessons & Interaction in SRC projects

    10:30-11:45 State-of-art -session 1

    11:45-12:45 Lunch

    12:45-13:30 State-of-the-Art WIKICAFE 1

    13:30-13:45 Coffee

    13:45-15:00 State-of-art -session 2

    15:00-15:45 State-of-the-Art WIKICAFE 2

    15:45-16:00 Coffee

    16:00-16:45 IRG reflections

    16:45-17:00 Day 1 wrap-up

    19:00 Dinner, restaurant Kappeli

     

    DAY 2

    09:00-09:10 Welcome

    09:10-09:30 Introduction to Phase 2 collaboration

    09:30-09:45 Learning from day 1: central issues; Introduction to workshops

    09:45-11:30 Phase 2 parallel workshops

    11:30-12:30 Presentation of workshop findings

    12:30-13:15 Lunch

    13:15-14:00 Collaborator/stakeholder workshop

    14:00-14:15 Coffee

    14.15-15:00 Communication/media workshop

    15.00-15:30 Wrap-up and next steps

     

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  • European cities as solutions

    17 loka 2016
    Matti Lindholm
    1697
    0

    The State of European Cities 2016 has just been published as a joint effort by DG REGIO of the European Commission and UN-Habitat ahead of the Habitat III Conference. It contains invaluable information about the progress and potential of European cities in 28 EU member states supplemented by the EFTA countries in the areas of people, environment, governance and the economy.

    In the report, cities are seen as solutions rather than hotspots for challenges, Dr Terämä rejoices.

    ”In the report, cities are seen as solutions rather than hotspots for challenges”, Dr Emma Terämä, a Senior Research Scientist at SYKE and a member of the BEMINE consortium, rejoices. She comments the report in a blog post at syke.fi. ”What we wish to explore further, as supported by this excellent report, is the much-needed European comparison of sustainable and liveable cities, what demographic and diverging trends cities and regions are experiencing, and how to increase evidence-base for decision-making and collaboration in tackling the upcoming issues”, she paints for the future.

    You can read more about Dr Terämä’s reactions and comments on her blog post at syke.fi.

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