Lazy August, you may have noticed that the blog slowed down in the last couple of weeks. Well, after a productive and rich year, warm summer – in Southern Europe, and probably beyond it, it is one of the warmest ever, I bet – may be the proper time to slow down, read, think and charge batteries for new Autumn challenges.
And, as far as (good) reading is concerned, I’ve recently found two great editorials of Planning Theory and Practice, a very recent one and an older one (this one I’ve found quoted in a great Planning Theory article by Patsy Healey, thanks!).
So, I wanted to share some passages from these editorials, which are interesting well beyond the community of planners and the community of academicians: they speak to the wider community of those who think, and act, for a different, and better, future.
John Forester, in this recently published editorial, reflects once again on the border between theory and practice, using a metaphor to compare planners with cooks:
The premise here, then, is that neither planners nor accomplished cooks have already become as good as they will ever be. They can do better, no doubt, but how can we study the possibilities of what they have not yet accomplished? Notice that most likely we would not just “do a survey!” of existing practices to find out what ordinary or typical or some normal practice (of planning or cooking) would be already. We’re not looking for the average case, after all; we’re trying to learn about discovery and innovation – about how to do better.
Significantly, too, we might not bother to try to force comparisons between the incommensurable: we will have found exemplary, accomplished, self-critically evolving, practicing chefs; we would no more need to rank them than we’d need to rank Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. We would have their differences to work with, their qualities to study, the practices of their devotees to refine. And further, I’d venture, we’d want to worry about relevant diversity, varying historical contexts rather than the eye color of the practitioners. We’d want to study Indian and French, Chinese and Italian, among still other cuisines, as we’d consider geography and cultural history relevant and varying influences, among other diverse variables we might consider.
Luca Bertolini, in this 2009 editorial, tells us about his personal route, from architecture to spatial planning (a path almost all Italian planners travel, in fact), the discovery of city as an ‘object of design’ in its complexity: in short of the normative ideal of planning as a path to the future:
However, if cities are to be what they can be, they need to give space to a plurality of lives and enterprises. They can’t be made from just one source, thought from just one mind. A planning that recognises this accepts a paradoxical task. It is the task of shaping conditions for other beings to be empowered, otherimaginations to be expressed, other endeavours to unfold. It is the task of making the coexistence in space of a diversity of human projects and interactions possible. To me, this is the dream of planning.
A good, warm dream of August to all!