“It doesn’t matter what country or what political system you are from. Space brings you together”
Valentina Tereshkova, retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer and politician; first woman to have been in space (1963).
As the YA AESOP blog will be entering its fifth year of activity in March 2018, I found it fitting to start a list of planning-related blogs available on the big wide webosphere. Planning blogs are by nature interdisciplinary, so I have chosen to sort them by their main geographical area of focus. The “Global/International” heading is resolutely international in outlook. Some blogs are more heavily grounded in academic research, while others lean more toward industry and practice. Some are in other languages. Do ask Google for a decent translation if needed.
Here is a very selective selection, version 1.0.
Global / International
CityTalk is the blog of the global network Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). As national politics are susceptible to change with every new mandate, the ICLEI functions as a valuable network for sharing initiatives and commitments with regards to sustainable development and climate change, including in following up on the Paris Agreement, and the COP23. The current president of the Global Executive Committee of ICLEI is Won-soon Park, Mayor of Seoul since 2011.
Cooperative City, the “magazine for urban partnerships”, features regular, engaging articles about a very wide range of topics, including participatory planning, bottom-up and grassroots planning and urban design, crowdfunding, alternative use of public space, and creativity. Its main themes are: culture, governance, environment, economy and community. It focuses on a selection of major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Lisbon, amongst others. They also publish books, check out for example their recent Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, available upon request under Creative Commons license. Somewhat unusual, they also welcome articles from the wider blogosphere.
Engaging Cities brands itself as “Public Engagement and Civic Tech news from around the web”. Basically, it is not a blog but a repository of mostly consultancy-based blog posts and public social media comments about everything related to public engagement in urban planning. It is published by the Urban Interactive Studio, a supplier of digital public engagement platforms. The content of Engaging cities is curated by one of their platform products (CiviComment) which pulls related content from the web.
The Urban Affairs Forum “is a space for leading thinkers about urban issues to share their research, ideas, and experiences”, delving into all things local, regional, and urban policy-related, focusing mostly on North America but not only. The Forum is the more outwardly digital face of the peer-reviewed journal Urban Affairs Review. Eminently research-based, the Forum is quite serious about the implications of all kinds of political decisions and policy orientations for urban planning.
The Urban Resilience research Network is all about urban resilience, grounded in research, featuring article contributions from leading academic experts and young researchers alike. Co-founded by Lorenzo Chelleri and three other PhD students in 2011, the network got a brand new website in 2016. Alongside its bi-monthly articles, the website hosts a compilation of research literature covering just about any aspect of urban resilience, from climate change adaptation and resilience theory to urban design and regional economics.
The Funambulist is a blog about the ways in which architecture and spatial planning embody or mediate power, and how this plays out in terms of segregation, politics, gender, cultural identity, and environmental health. Its posts address post-colonial contexts quite extensively, as well as places of enduring or latent conflict. The blog was founded in 2010 by Paris- and New York-based architect Léopold Lambert. It is also a printed and online magazine, as well as a podcast. The content is very international, with articles and blog posts exploring diverse topics and case studies in depth.
The construction, design and planning firm ARUP has a blog (or “thought leadership platform”) called “Thoughts”: a series of contributions made by experts in different fields related to urban planning, engineering, construction management and everything in between. The contributions seem to have stopped in May 2017, but do check out the very large number of contributions made until then. Topics range from planning for migration, age diversity, building design, resilience and smart cities to technology and green space.
Atkins’ Angles is a blog similar to ARUP’s except seemingly leaning more strongly on the engineering, technology and the economic side of things. More posts about data, tech and engineering solutions, as well as organisational trends. Blogs cannot be pigeonholed easily, however, so well worth a look as well for a wide range of perspectives and experiences relevant to spatial planning and the built environment professions.
There seems to be quite a few good industry-based blogs in the Netherlands. Here are a couple. Excuse my Dutch while Google translates them.
Ruimtemeesters (the “Space Masters”) has a blog/news feed covering all sorts of issues with spatial consequences nationally or locally, for example contributions on the need to “futureproof” the competencies of almost half of Dutch government officials, or on the topicality of fighting drugs.
Over Morgen (“The Day After Tomorrow” – not to be confused with the global warming disaster blockbuster movie), features regular articles on a wide range of topics connected to spatial planning, especially the energy transition in the Netherlands.
Two very interesting city-based blogs are well-worth noting, as well as a consultancy-based blog.
The Gentcement portal deals with every possible trend and evolution in architecture and planning in the city of Ghent. Themes include: New construction, Public space, Restoration and renovation, infrastructure, and urbanism, and posts can also be classified by construction material, from brick to glass.
BrusselBlogt covers arts, culture, planning, food, social entreprise, and social analysis in the Belgian capital. It also boasts a very impressive list of Brussels-based blogs in Flemish, English and French, some of which are no longer updated.
Brussels-based Citizenlab provides digital engagement platform to local government, and runs a blog in English that is strong on related themes, especially public participation in spatial planning and how to make technology work for government. Check out for example five innovative frameworks to assess e-participation, or a blog showcasing their successful public engagement campaign in the city of Liège.
La Fabrique de la Cité (the City Factory in the English version of the website) is a think tank launched by the Vinci construction, infrastructure and facilities management giant. The Observatory tab features short, concise posts on a wide range of topics. Not very comprehensive, but a good repository of topical research and news reports. For example: check out the output of the transnational and interdisciplinary project European Cities and Refugees: a Laboratory for Affordable Housing and Urban Resilience to Future Crises, which assesses solutions developed in Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm Stuttgart, Munich, and Dresden, with a view to help other cities faced with similar issues.
Another industry blog, Demain la Ville (which can be loosely translated as the “city of tomorrow”) is run by the real estate company Bouygues Immobilier, part of the Bouygues giant. Although probably partisan, the blog has for motto: “Let’s build tomorrow’s city together”. Its posts cover unusually progressive themes for a giant construction/real estate company, such as tactical urbanism and the role of crafts for urban sustainability.
The Funambulist (see above) has many posts about France, focusing particularly on social and environmental injustice. Check out for example this post about the social construction of “no-go zones” in the French capital.
La Gazette des Communes is the one-stop information point for local and regional government officials and anyone interested in French local affairs. Many diverse issues concern spatial planning either directly or indirectly, from education, safe cycling and third sector activity to extremism and regeneration, and all seem well-covered. Annual subscription is a bit steep though (223 euros).
Eddyburg takes the big picture on politics, planning, urban design, heritage, and glocal social and economic trends. The left-leaning posts are guided by three main, overlapping perspectives: “Urbs” – (a walled city in Ancient Rome), “Civitas” (Community; citizenry; city-state), and “Polis” (Greek city-sate, characterised by a sense of community). International in perspective, it also analyses Italian politics in depth, and the spatial consequences thereof.
Hållbar Stad (”Sustainable City”) is ”a forum for disseminating knowledge and good examples”. Regular articles cover the state-of-the-art in urban design solutions and latest news affecting urban planning, in Sweden and beyond. Topics range from the UN Agenda 2030, urban ecosystem services and public transport to the growing power imbalances between cities and hinterlands.
The Planner is the magazine of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). An essential source of information for all matters related to spatial planning across the UK, covering all relevant policy evolutions. Unfortunately you have to be an RTPI member or subscribe to the website after your 60-day free trial… RTPI membership is free if you are a student on a RTPI accredited programme. If you are less lucky you can always become an affiliate member, for a (steep?) £90 a year if you live in the UK, or £60 if you don’t. Check out also their job listings.
Branding itself as “Independent intelligence for planning professionals”, Planning Resource seems perhaps bit more industry- and less government-minded than The Planner. The yearly subscription is definitely less affordable (£195), which will screen out the poorer among us, unless your company/institution has subscribed to it. Its coverage seems very up-to-date and comprehensive, also on all manners of policy and economic trends.
Not really a blog per say, Green Space Scotland is the one-stop news and resource repository for all things green space in the country of Scotland and beyond. The news feed provides a thorough update on all policies that affect green space, as well as new geographical and other related data, including Scotland’s greenspace map. It also hosts a repository of publications on such varied themes as health, placemaking and growing spaces, as well as regular surveys about the state, quality and use of green space.
The blog of the Irish Planning Institute, an equally comprehensive and broad-ranging coverage of everything that relates to spatial planning, with news, insights and resources for professional development. It also boasts a planning research portal with output from IPI accredited planning schools.
ACSP – The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, is pretty much the equivalent of AESOP for North America. The ACSP Blog is rich with contributions from PhD analysis, with themes covering spatial analysis, zoning, housing policy, energy systems, etc., focusing mostly on the US. The blog seems relatively young however, the oldest post I could find was from November 2016.
The blog of the American Planning Association gives very comprehensive coverage of all trends in spatial planning in the US, from healthy planning and historic preservation (aka heritage) to planning theory and tax reform . The posts feature insightful case studies, which can be a source of inspiration or research material to practitioners and researchers alike. A very good complement to Planetizen.
Planetizen hardly needs an introduction. Very US-centred, it covers just about topics of direct relevance to spatial planning. From DIY urbanism and urban design to finance and tech, it’s all covered by experts in the field. As an aside, Christmas wishes to Santa Claus for proper public transport are in there; have you remembered to make your own requests to St Nicholas on Dec 6th this year? Planetizen also features available job positions in government and industry, as well as a guide to higher education opportunities and lifelong training. Check out the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programmes.
Progressive City (:Radical Alternatives) “is an online publication dedicated to ideas and practices that advance racial, economic, and social justice in cities”. It is a project of the Planners Network, the US-based Organisation of Progressive Planning. The regular blog posts address inclusive urban planning practices, grassroots organising and civic action, with environmental justice very high on their agenda. They welcome contributions from activists, practitioners, academics and community members alike – that is, pretty much anyone with an interest and experience in anything civic or bottom-up.
Summing up: Space is the Common Denominator
Every blog is unique, which is what makes it so valuable. What brings them together, however, is an investigation of space. Space has always mattered, today just as yesterday, and it always will. Yet what matters even more than space itself, perhaps, is how we relate to it, both as individuals, communities and societies. As Greek philosopher Democritus provocatively put it: “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion”. Blog on!
Post-scriptum: Crowdsourcing the list – do help it to grow
This post is meant as a longer-term, crowdsourced post. Do share links to engaging blogs connected to spatial planning and related fields, either as comments below, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The next post will focus on blogs based at specific research institutes and departments, as well as the blogs of individual professionals and experts.