Spaces of Struggle 3: Geography of Urban Planning Failure

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Regional Development and Planning Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM (MDT)
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Organizers: Robert Oliver, John Lauermann
Chairs: John Lauermann


Writing about the fate of Goddard’s Row in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1971, architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable noted that sometimes urban projects are “condemned by the invisible machinery of a non‐reversible bureaucracy and the lack of interest of local private investors.” Although her aim was to expose the “amentia of place” and “anomie of spirit” that can result if ‘heritage’ is wholeheartedly sacrificed for the ‘new’, she manages to pinpoint a positive outcome of the many “bulldozer disaster[s]” that characterized American urban development a half century ago. Huxatable found that as the failures mounted, everyday people became less keen “to help the process along” and “in the bumbling way of democracy” helped to connect a grassroots preservation movement to national policy. A number of urban scholars have echoed Huxtable’s concern of the economic and procedural failings of “prestige” or “flagship” projects (Loftman and Nevin 1995; Raco 2014; Swyngedouw et al. 2002), grand plans (Fainstein 2005; Enright 2014), strategic interventions (Smith 2012; Monclús 2003 ), mega-event development (Oliver and Lauermann forthcoming; Müller 2015; Kassens-Noor 2016). Less evident, however, is how various ‘geographies of failure’ have led to learning for planning practice and urban management.

This session explores the geographic impacts of urban planning failures, as well as subsequent efforts to constructively improve practice. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to:
• The impact of failed plans on the built environment
• Planning failures as learning events/environments
• The implications of planning failure at multiple scales (e.g. in regional planning)
• Planning failure and policy (im)mobilities
• The urban political economy of planning failure


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Robert Oliver Virginia Tech 20 12:40 PM
Presenter Victoria Habermehl*, Urban Institue, University of Sheffield, Beth Perry*, THE URBAN INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD, Failure for whom? Whose knowledge matters in consensus based planning in the UK? 20 1:00 PM
Presenter Joachim Thiel*, HafenCity University of Hamburg, Bad Practice? Planning Failures as Negative Role Models – Evidence from London 2012 20 1:20 PM
Presenter Luke Juran*, Virginia Tech, The geography of failure and hope in post-disaster reconstruction: planning problems and planning progress 20 1:40 PM

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