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MPlan Planning / Course details
Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
Urban Theory, Planning Ethics
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Offered by||Planning and Environmental Management|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This course unit provides an introduction to some of the most important debates in contemporary urban theory, planning theory, and practice. It does not, and could not, attempt to cover all of planning theory and urban theory. Rather, it looks at the intersection of the two. The particular ‘take’ of this course unit involves exploring evolving issues in these two sets of literature around ‘the good city’ and ‘the good planner’. The exploration of planning theory offers a number of benefits to those engaged in planning activity. It provides the opportunity to re-evaluate the fundamental basis of planning activity and enables us to consider the role that planning should play in democratic society.
To explore the relationship between planning theory, urban theory and planning practice.
To question the main functions of planning intervention.
To explore the development of different (often competing) modes of planning thought.
To consider the impact of ethics and values upon planning thought and practice.
By the end of the course unit students will have developed:
1. Critical awareness of the broader social and environmental context to planning activity.
2. An appreciation of the dominant themes in planning theory and urban theory.
3. Awareness of the nature of the theory-practice gap.
4. Understanding of the impact of differing social and political agendas upon the direction of urban planning.
5. An appropriate framework for reflective practice
Why plan? Planning theory and the justifications for planning
Modernism and postmodernism: the making and unmaking of modern urban planning
Collaborative planning, agonistic planning, and the attempt to re-make the role of urban planners
Neoliberalism and neoliberal planning
Planning and postpolitics
Sustainability, just cities, and planning
The good planner: an introduction to professional ethics and values
Postcolonial urban theory
Mobile urbanism: travelling theory, travelling policy
New model cities: New Urbanism and suburban utopias
Planning through projects
Ethics for professionals in the built environment
Seminar 1: Planning and the State: why plan?
Seminar 2: The communicative turn and the dark side of planning
Seminar 3: Neoliberalism and urban governance restructuring
Seminar 4: Critical urban theory and postpolitics
Essay workshops: week 8 and week 11
Teaching and learning methods
The lectures are structured into two thematic sections. The first part of the course unit considers the justification for planning intervention in society and provides an overview of early approaches to planning. In the second part of the course unit, an overview of various theories that have been influential in planning and urban policy debates are introduced.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
At first glance this course unit may seem not to offer much by way of employability skills, but actually it is core to how professional bodies such as the RTPI expect graduates to be trained. Specifically, there are two core features of this course unit that are critical: Becoming a reflective practitioner – this is a crucial requirement for any professional in the built environment. Within planning in particular, there is a high value placed on the reflective practitioner. The context for this is that we need to be critically aware of the history of our professions, including past failures, if we are to learn from them. Equally we need good critical awareness of practice today in order to situate our work as being more than just ‘following orders’. Being an ethical practitioner – those involved in improving the built environment have a series of personal and professional obligations which it is important to be aware of. This course unit helps to make these explicit and to encourage critical reflection. This is not just about avoiding corruption – it is about taking responsibility for our own action. It is never an adequate position for any professional to simply deny responsibility for our actions because we were ‘following orders’. Thinking now about how we might deal with difficult choices and ethical dilemmas can help us when we meet them in our working lives. It is for these reasons that planning theory and professional values are core requirements for any student undertaking an RTPI recognised course.
Method of assessment and assessment details Assessment is by coursework only. There will be two pieces of coursework. The first is a 1,000 words essay (worth 35% of the overall marks available) and the second is a 1,500 words essay (worth 65% of the overall marks).
Written feedback on both assignments within 15 working days, excluding hols
Haughton, G. and White, I. (2019) Why Plan?: Theory for Practitioners. London: Lund Humphries. Fainstein, S.S. and DeFilippis, J. (eds.) (2015) Readings in Planning Theory (4th edition). Chichester: Wiley. (Earlier editions are fine, but very different – the current edition says it has 70% new chapters in it)
Fainstein, S.S. and Campbell S. (eds.) (2011) Readings in Urban Theory (3rd edition). Oxford: WileyBlackwell.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Practical classes & workshops||2|
|Independent study hours|
|Yueming Zhang||Unit coordinator|