This first Guest Blog is contributed by Emeritus Professor Klaus Kunzmann from the Technical University of Dortmund. He is an Honourary Member of the RTPI and internationally renowned for his contributions to planning education, research and practice. His blog probes the idea of “regional design”.
In times of market-led neo-liberal policies regional planning has lost much of its appeal to policy makers and advisors. While there is a renaissance of the urban, promoted by global corporations such as Siemens, Google, IBM or Hitachi, the regional seems to loose out against the promises of the smart city marketing corporations, who claim to be the new smart urban planners.
Regions, rather seem to be a burden, when it comes to planning, at least, not much is heard these days about regional success stories. Cities are the winners. Architects, who still consider city planning just a strategy to locate a few houses on waterfronts, Olympic grounds or garden cities, are the heroes of the media, planners in turn are seen to be the culprits for failures of urban development across Europe.
From regional planning to regional design
Recently I read that there is an easy, way out of the eternal struggle of architects and planners, and a way out of the negative image of planners. If regional planning is replaced by regional design, regional planners will undoubtedly experience a renaissance.
Regional design does not represent the achievements of designers in a region. That would be a misunderstanding. The proposition to replace regional planning by regional design is a linguistic hoax. As I understand the motive of the inventor of the term, “regional design” is an approach to make regional planning more popular and easier to digest in political party banquets.
Like “creativity”, “design” is a positive term. It is an art. It represents Zeitgeist and modernity. Politicians would not be afraid of using it, when suggesting a new economic strategy to gobble up a greenbelt. The message it would communicate is that it is just a new design for the region, like a new chair for the study room. Design is adored by those, who love to consume and identify with the product. Even the weekend edition of the Financial Times (“How to spend it”) would cheer the term “regional design”.
Hence I suggest, we forget about everything, which has been said and written over the last century on regional planning. Instead we use the term regional design, and most challenges in promoting liveability in regions, protecting scarce resources and struggling with developers are solved. Words matter.