Matjaž Uršič: Cultural Sustainability in Spatial Planning, a lecture

Matjaž started his lecture pointing to the relationship between explicit knowledge (hard knowledge), data information and documents which accounts for the 5% of knowledge production (tip of the iceberg), and tacit knowledge (soft knowledge), which includes experience, thinking, commitment which accounts for 95% of knowlege production. His question deals with how to bring these two types of knowledge together in order to work on cultural sustainability?

Photo on 9-13-13 at 10.35 AM

The other similar opposition is between tangible material culture: individual buildings, object etc, and intangible cultural heritage (non-material): beliefs and values. How to evaluate intangible knowledge?

There are four pillars or circles of sustainability: economic sustainability, ecological sustainability, political sustainability and, finally, cultural sustainability which deals with identity, memory, belief and meaning, gender and generations, health and well being. However, cultural sustainability is still perceived as a form of a resource, rather than as a pillar of sustainability.

Approach to culture could be divided into:

1. promotional or consumptionist approach – gentrification, culture as a tool that would improve the quality of life

2. productional approach (creative economies) – culture as a field which gains in importance in the turn from fordist to postfordist economies, and provides new areas of employment and new jobs

3. integrational approach – culture as a mechanism that helps to diminish conflict

All of these approaches instrumentalize culture and see it as a part of the economy, trying to produce economic effects via culture.

We could distinguish between four major trends and traditions of spatial planning in Europe:

UK – land use management

Germany, Sweden – comprehensive integrated approach

France – regional economic plan

Eastern Europe- transformation processes

Mediterranean – urbanism tradition

The differences in cultural and social context produce different ways of urban spatial organization. Spatial planning always involves high level of conflicts, triggers emotions and discussions. People are less and less willing to except the decision despite the legal base, and civil initiatives get launched.

There seems to be a difference in the level of optimism regarding the state of civil society amongst us. Corina, Samo and Matjaž seem to be somewhat optimistic in the ability of civil initiatives to influence decision making processes.

Corina believes that the power of civil struggle, the joint effort of many people can, at times, beat the power of economic capital.

Pascal on the other hand seems to believe that the concept of civil society, public space isn’t as relevant as it used to be, at least in its monolithic form, and organization of social space requires different concepts, which are not fixed in old binary oppositions. Globalization brought new re-compositions and new roles of the civil society. Civil society is not longer a public body with a project. The idea of consensus need to be replaced by the idea of dissensus, dissensus as a very positive thing. So the struggle is led in terms of management of dissensus, how to play the social and political game in terms of new subjectivities and reorganization between centre and peripheries.

Difference between legality and legitimacy in spatial planning: something can be legally supported, but lack social legitimacy.

According to Istvan, law is basically a tool for the legitimation of oligarchy, and the question is how can other people who are not in the position of power influence the process of decision making.

Matjaž continued with Scenario of subjective evaluation of costs arising from a formal system of spatial planning: he is applying cost benefit analysis, but reading it not simply in relation to monetary logic, but also regarding emotional investment, different types of affective production which form the part of this tacit knowledge and cultural context. At a point when costs overcome benefits, the equilibrium point inside the individuum breaks – the disenchantment occurs.

Mechanism of urbanisation include various methods of exclusion on the basis of cultural difference. Exclusion happens through distancing, indifference, stigmatization, objectification, exoticisation and different citizenship. The paradox is that cities prosper with more heterogeneity (cities with bigger diversity index are economically more succesfull). Heterogeneity is directly linked to cultural sustainability.

One of the problems with globalization is that it brings standardization – places are becoming more and more standardized, but also more and more disciplined.

In terms of Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation, which goes from manipulation, therapy, informing, consultation, placation, partnership, delegated power to citizen control, it is very difficult to pass the level of consultation. Examples of Rog factory in Ljubljana and Tokio fish market.

The question always revolves around dealing with intangible cultural value.

In terms of urban planning failures, they include communication errors, communication incompetency of actors, intermittent engagement process, failure of new plans to comply with the socio spatial characteristics of location, mismatch of new projects with local development plans.

Pascal argues that there is a difference between technocratic issues, and issues of policy.

Kyohei Sakaguchi – a proposition not to build more houses, but to make do with what is already there.

Future of the war – guerilla war.


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