Spatial Planning for Decentralized Infrastructure – The Case of Urban Agriculture

Authors: Jason K Hawes*, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, Joshua P Newell, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: infrastructure, urban planning, spatial planning, urban agriculture
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Human experience of ongoing social-ecological changes will be governed by intersecting and interdependent infrastructures. Yet, existing evidence indicates that planning practice struggles to integrate social, ecological, and technological dimensions of infrastructures. Further, recent calls for decentralization of key life support infrastructures like electricity and water provision will require a spatial reimagining of planning frameworks. We are, therefore, presented with compounding challenges when considering multi-functional, decentralized infrastructures like urban greenspace. This paper presentation adapts an existing planning paradigm from Europe, Spatial Planning, to account for both multi-functionality and decentralization of infrastructure. By integrating existing Spatial Planning principles with knowledge systems of coupled infrastructure and urban metabolism, it may be possible to holistically assess infrastructure interventions in future cities. In an initial effort to assess model functionality, this work compares this proposed framework to existing knowledge of planning for the most widespread multi-functional, hybrid infrastructure in cities today: green infrastructure, with a further focus on urban agriculture. Existing research indicates that spatialized planning for green infrastructure is nascent, while integration of land use and food system planning for urban agriculture is still further understudied. We therefore consider how and to what degree spatial planning may serve as a tool for the integration of urban agriculture and greenspace more broadly into urban and regional planning. We conclude that existing practice in greenspace and urban agriculture planning lacks systematic assessment tools of the sort proposed here, and scholars should co-produce such tools with practitioners to support the ongoing development of more sustainable, resilient cities.

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