Special Sessions

35th AESOP Annual Congress 2023 Łódź, Poland
“Integrated Planning in the Context of Global Turbulence”


What about the people? A holistic and multifaceted approach to active travel

Anna-Lena Van der Vlugt, ILS Research gGmbH, Germany
Edward Prichard, University of Gävle, Sweden

A citizen’s quality of life in their city is highly dependent on their mobility and how public space can be used by citizens. A lack of accessibility can lead to social exclusion, and poor health and wellbeing outcomes. Therefore, it is important to recognize accessibility as a basic prerequisite for participation in society, and as one of the primary objectives of sustainable and equitable transport planning. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, active travel (namely, walking and cycling) has become more relevant. Active travel is recognised for its ability to provide healthy, cheap, and sustainable mobility, as well as being a feasible way of travelling for most people. In combination with public transport, active travel has the potential to promote low-emission mobility, reduce dependence on private cars and increase social participation. Common instruments for measuring and evaluating walking and cycling provide valuable insights. However, often these do not include the plurality of needs and perceptions of individuals and vulnerable groups in particular. With this session we wish to combine both approaches towards a holistic understanding of the multifaced aspects of walking and cycling and discuss the possibilities of how these can be integrated into planning practice. We therefore discuss the following key topics during the special session:

  • Theoretical approaches focusing on the human experience of mobility and/or accessibility
  • People-focused methods capturing individuals’ experiences and perceptions of active travel (e.g., walk-alongs, guided walks, bike-alongs, participatory mapping)
  • Instruments capturing the multifaced aspects of active travel and / or its connection to public transport
  • Methodological and empirical challenges in modelling of multifaceted aspects of walkability and bikeability
  • Walkability/bikeability with a focus on specific target groups
  • Walkability/bikeability in diverse geographical settings (eg, suburban and rural environment)
  • Incorporating perceptions of active travel into measures/evaluations of social and spatial differences
  • Incorporating walkability/bikeability results into planning practice
  • Investigations of the interdependency between (perceived) walkability and bikeability, subjective well-being, social inclusion and transport disadvantage


Rethinking the future of global cities

Emrah Şahan, Head of the İstanbul Planning Agency, İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, İstanbul, Türkiye
Gürkan Akgün, İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Department of Housing and Urban Development, İstanbul, Türkiye

The first quarter of the 21st century has proved that it will be the century of multi-dimensional and overlapping crises and so-called global cities are the major arenas of manifestation of these crises. But, among others, these major crises also prove that societies and cities will be destined to come to terms not only with the consequences of the crises but also with the realities of the post-growth society. The İstanbul Planning Agency (İPA) recently completed the 2050 Vision Plan (VP) of the city and is preparing Vision Action Plan (VAP) for the first five years ahead. What makes Istanbul’s experience distinctive is that the Vision Plan accepted five major crises as the main challenges the city and the metropolitan government face in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, VAP Plan is shaped around these five major crises: economic, ecological, built environment, social welfare and governance/democracy. Following this reasoning, VAP addresses the major future actions in the city by referring to their impacts on these five areas. Such an approach requires a new understanding of urban development, economic growth, urban sustainability and socio-spatial resilience. This poses a considerable challenge not only for planning processes but also for urban society and authorities as such an approach requires them to change their well-accepted values and habitus. In this proposed session, the İstanbul case is problematised to provide tentative answers to those challenges.


History of town planning and urban design in Poland in the context of spatial planning trends in Europe (special session on the 100th anniversary of the Polish Society of Town Planners)

Tomasz Majda, The Polish Society of Town Planners; Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Poland
Dominik Drzazga, The Polish Society of Town Planners; University of Lodz, Faculty of Management, Department of City and Regional Management, Poland
Aneta Anna Tomczak, The Polish Society of Town Planners; Lodz University of Technology, Faculty of Civil, Architecture and Environmental Engineering, Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning, Poland
Maciej Borsa, The Polish Society of Town Planners; University of Technology in Katowice, Poland

Special session organized by one of the co-organizers of the International Congress AESOP 2023 in Lodz, POLAND, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Society of Polish Town Planners. The aim of the session is to identify, present, discuss and popularize the key achievements of Polish town & urban planning and spatial planning in the last 100 years, taking into account the trends in the development of urban planning in Europe. The key achievements of Polish urban planning from the 20th and 21st centuries will be presented, in particular those related to the development of cities after regaining the country's sovereignty after World War I (one of the key achievements of this period is the construction and development of the port city of Gdynia) and the reconstruction of cities after World War II (the spectacular the example of the capital of the country - Warsaw), as well as the development of Polish cities in the period of centrally planned economy (1944-1989) and the transformation of cities in the period of political and economic and social transformation (after 1989) to modern times, when the main challenge was to increase the competitiveness of large Polish cities – regional centers – as engines of economic growth. The period of the last 100 years was the time of shaping new ideas, methods and techniques of urban space management not only in Poland but also in Europe, associated with the gradual transition from the industrial era towards shaping the post-industrial era. However, the conditions for the development of Polish cities, especially in the second half of the 20th century, were fundamentally different from those in Western Europe. The formation of cities in this period was influenced by specific systemic and political factors, as well as demographic and social changes taking place. Changes in the administrative division of the country, taking place in the years 1944-1999, also had a significant impact on planning the spatial development of cities. Today, the development of Polish cities is determined by the need for reurbanization and the implementation of regeneration programs, primarily in downtown and post-industrial areas, as well as improving the quality of public space development, which is a factor consolidating urban communities. A significant challenge for urban planning is to control the spontaneous problems of urban sprawl and to coordinate development processes in functional urban areas


RE-CITY: Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards liveability for shrinking cities in Europe

Marco Bontje, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
René Fleschurz, Faculty of Spatial and Environmental Planning, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany

Processes of shrinkage are multidimensional phenomena encompassing cities, parts of cities, or regions that are experiencing a dramatic decline in their economic and social bases. While the causal factors are diverse and complex, the most evident factor in shrinkage is a loss of employment opportunities and out-migration of population. In many cities, decline is enduring, and shrinkage is most probably jeopardizing the prosperity of European competitiveness. The RE-CITY project explored a perspective for the robust and sustainably sound development of shrinking cities, while supporting elements of economic prosperity, liveability, social stability and innovation. This session discusses problems and novel solutions for shrinking cities in terms of four key themes: conceptualising shrinking smart, governing, greening/right-sizing, and regrowing shrinking cities, and following the tone of the recently published Handbook on Shrinking Cities, highlights the potential of dealing with new environmental and social challenges by simultaneously adapting to shrinkage. The realities of shrinking cities show a diverse picture of how shrinking cities are perceived in the respective locales and which policies or revitalization strategies are applied. Yes, there are opportunities mostly arising out of substitute industries, and, yes, many cities are actively taking on decline and are dealing with it in a creative mode. Some cities have accepted their post-industrial fate and today they offer ‘best practice examples’ which could encourage other cities to follow suit. Contributions to this pre-organised session will showcase differing responses to the challenges of shrinkage thus addressing the following questions:

  • Will shrinking cities be the new spaces for creativity and productivity, or will the downwards spiral prevail?
  • In how far do these spaces offer new modes of revitalization, and what seem to be the options?
  • What kind of planning approaches are needed when facing the specific realities of shrinking cities?


Comparing urban contractual policies for integrated transport and land-use planning in the Nordics: A Discussion on Practical Implications

Harriet Dunn, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden
Hanna Mattila, Aalborg University, Denmark
Oya Duman, Aalto University, Finland

The special session aims to provide an arena for the international comparison of urban contractual policies and their practical implications, with a specific focus on agreements combining transport and land-use in the Nordics. The use of deal-based instruments to integrate multi-level and multi-sectoral public actors have proliferated in recent years, with notable examples including but not limited to Urban Growth Agreements in Norway, Urban Environment Agreements in Sweden and MAL agreements for transport, land-use and housing in Finland, among others. Such urban contracts reflect a prevailing notion in both scholarly and policy literature concerning the need to improve integration of land-use and transport planning processes in the pursuit of sustainable development by providing incentives to undertake such integrated policy efforts. On one hand, urban contracts are regarded as a useful tool in aligning fragmented actors through formal or informal structures for collaborative governance, as well as incentives for the delivery of integrated land-use and transport policy. On the other, deal-making has been associated with a form of informal, experimental governance, which raises questions regarding democratic legitimacy and public accountability as well as the effectiveness of such policy-making processes. Within this contested policy-making context, this special session serves to comparatively discuss the ways in which urban contracts play out on the ground, that is to say, the successes and challenges of regional and local implementation. Through presentations on different Nordic cases, this session provides opportunities to discuss the lessons learned about the processes of urban contractual policies in Nordic governance contexts which have many similarities in their planning systems. Focussing on the Nordic cases of urban contractual policies provides a valuable possibility of policy transfer and comparison of research results.


Accountable strategic planning in the age of decarbonization

Cathrin Zengerling, University of Freiburg, Germany
Antje Matern, Erfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany

The global challenge of climate change can only be effectively addressed at the regional and local scale if a large number of regional and municipal systems in highly diverse contexts aim towards decarbonisation. Strategic planning – as a flexible planning tool for developing holistic and long-term development strategies in a cooperative and communicative way – is a popular form of shaping urban and regional futures in the age of decarbonisation. As a result, strategic planning instruments offer orientation to the involved actors, link goals and strategies with measures and, through their cooperative creation processes, support reflection on existing development and enable collaborative learning processes. They often form exceptional planning situations, use stage effects and enable planning for functional spaces that can overcome administrative boundaries. However, due to their characteristics, they also come with a range of difficulties with regard to their accountable development and implementation. The special session "Accountable strategic planning in the age of decarbonization "focusses on strategic governance for decarbonisation at regional and local scales in a variety of international settings. It aims to explore accountability gaps as well as approaches and measures that reconcile flexibility and accountability. Particular interest can be directed towards the interface that combines (innovative) approaches to strategic planning for decarbonisation with approaches that translate the mostly informally agreed upon strategies and measures into more binding targets, planning instruments and measures. The focus can also be on various elements relevant to the context of accountable planning such as responsibility, assessment, transparency and participation. Furthermore, contributions related to the embedding of regional and local strategic climate planning in multi-level and polycentric climate governance, respective accountability chains and designs are invited. Conceptual and empirical approaches, individual and comparative case studies from governance research as well as planning studies are welcome in order to reflect upon strategic planning tools and processes, involved actors, context conditions and achieved results in tackling a global challenge at regional and local scales.


Involving the Civil Society into Integrated Planning at the Regional Level: a Regional Design Perspective

Valeria Lingua, University of Florence, Italy

This Special Session is intended to discuss the role of regional planning and design in promoting sustainability, socio-spatial justice, health and well-being of individuals, organizations, and communities. It poses that these practices can provide actors with transformative power for the common good in collective contexts. Post-pandemic dynamics and climate change are triggering profoundly new social dynamics, and are calling for innovative forms of planning and development. They necessitate the participation of civil society at all levels: from collaborative regional planning and design to urban co-design in complex neighbourhoods.

In this direction, regional planning and design are called to promote participation even at a larger-than-local scale and to enhance future literacy among citizens and stakeholder for the future of their territories.

Stakeholder and citizens involvement is intended to enhance the development of territorial systems (in urban, rural and inland areas), to connect technological and social innovation and direct them towards the strengthening of social cohesion, health and well-being in families, in the workplace, in urban and residential structures, in a true perspective of sustainable human development. Moreover, the University can play a “civic” role within these processes by proposing learning and research approaches and methodologies for the whole community, targeted to promote future literacy and to enhance the construction and diffusion of spatial visions, imaginaries and design studios concerning the present and future of our cities and territories.


Future Narratives of Small Towns

Silke Weidner, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
Thora Haubold, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
Hélène Roth, Clermont Auvergne University, France
Arvid Krüger, University of Kassel, Germany

Urban studies are increasingly interested in the relationship between narratives and urban development and planning. Ameel even speaks of a “narrative turn” in urban planning (Ameel 2017). Academic research on small towns tends to focus on negative or deficient narratives (Hannemann 2004, 2018) for instance in the context of population decline, demographic changes, peripheralization, extremist voting patterns or brain drain. Mainet (2011) observes that small towns are systematically comparing themselves to other territorial levels without ever inventing their own territorial narrative. But the calls for developing more positive, spatial narratives of small towns have a particular resonance today: Small towns have become more popular than densely urban cores during lock-downs in the COVID-19 pandemic, in the context of the rise of digital, remote work, increasing rents and real estate prices in metropolitan areas etc. The idea for the special session results from a research project at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (Germany) that has been running since 2019. As part of the project, a broad network of small town researchers has been established, including researchers from the Clermont Auvergne University (France). The two universities are investigating future narratives of small towns in the peripheral regions of Lusatia (Germany) and Auvergne (France). Both regions are characterized by predominantly small and medium sized towns. They are located in areas considered peripheral and underwent structural transformations and significant demographical changes. The special session could address questions such as: How do small towns in Europe develop future narratives? How do new narratives, and the ways in which they are constructed locally, impact on urban development, planning practices and regeneration strategies of small towns in Europe?