The aestheticisation of strategic planning

  • Hamish Sinclair

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Strategic planning praxis is seen as failing to address the community dissatisfaction with the aesthetic quality of the urban environment. Aesthetics can make a positive contribution to the aims of planners to provide quality spaces and healthy places that improve the community quality of life (Maslow 2013). Gehl (2010) argues the solution to poor quality environment is in planning cities for people and Jacobs (1961) calls for planners to allow people to be at the centre of that planning. However, the strategic planning of the city is a contested space that does not directly address the aesthetic outcome. It is acknowledged that strategic planning is broken and in need of reinvigoration through community co-production of planning practices and their augmentation of planning knowledge (Albrechts, Barbanente & Monno 2019). The contested space of strategic planning appears to converge at the community experience of urban form and planners’ knowledge of aesthetics. To explore community dissatisfaction with strategic planning, this research draws on the literature of collaborative planning (Healey 2006), strategic planning (Mintzberg 1994a), planning culture (Flyvbjerg 1996) and aesthetics (Berleant 2017). The study examines the context of strategic planning in the capital cities of Abu Dhabi, Canberra and Edinburgh and investigates planning culture and planners’ aesthetic appreciation of the quality and appearance of the urban form through photo elicitation. Responding to Airey et al.’s (2018) call for aesthetics to be brought into planning, along with community concerns regarding the aesthetic experience, this research shows that these issues have been met with a planning culture of avoidance and aesthetic snobbery. The justifications planners rely on are derived from subsidiarity principles that separate strategic policy from regulation of the built form, and illustrate the difficulties planning culture has with comprehending aesthetic judgements, preferencing elites and the subjectivity of beauty. Enabling the community to participate in the design of the city and inform aesthetic decision-making that affects quality of life, Berleant’s (2013) aesthetic engagement approach is proposed as a pathway forward. This approach recognises that everyone’s aesthetic experiences are equally valid and that the inclusion of aesthetics adds value to strategic planning. Planning culture and praxis can also benefit from the inclusion of the community actively participating in the appreciative process of aesthetics.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorLain Dare (Supervisor), Barbara Norman (Supervisor), David Marsh (Supervisor), Richard Hu (Supervisor) & Hitomi Nakanishi (Supervisor)

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