Last week, 12th March, Markus and Constance travelled to the ETH Zürich to present and discuss the findings of our SUSTAIN_GOV-study on spatial planning, land use and governance in the Glatt region of the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland. Present were some of the project partners Dirk Lohaus (IBA Basel), Prof. Dr. Christian Schmid (ETH), and Dr. Reto Nebel, ETH, who helped us in the initial phases of getting the project started, and getting us connected. Engin Imrak and Dr. Ileana Apostol, and Dr. Marco Pütz (WSL Birmensdorf), were also present, who in the past have kindly let us pick their brains about general issues concerning spatial planning in Zürich and in the Glatt. Special thanks to Dr. Nebel for helping make the event on March 12, 2015, happen.
After a few words of welcome, thanks, and context, Carr presented “Befunde und Interpretationen“ based on our study. This was followed by some comments and questions from Nebel, who kindly volunteered as our discussant, who sparked a great discussion afterwards. As in our previous project, SUSTAINLUX, this workshop fulfilled the purpose of discussing our interpretations of the research findings together with local experts. As it is generally useful to take an independent and unbiased look at a certain local or regional setting, the local experts’ perspective is helpful in providing an appropriate analytical framework. Methodologically, this is important for achieving or ensuring “Richtungssicherheit” – a certain sense that our interpretations are basically shared by the local partners and thus be considered relevant or in the right direction.
Carr presented primarily empirical research with some preliminary conclusions for consideration. The lively debates that transpired showed that the results can be interpreted in a variety of directions. It is clear now that our research speaks to wider discussions on urbanization in conditions of growth pressure, suburban development, planning practice and institutional fragmentation and mismatch, the orthodoxy of density planning, democratic practices and political theory, (im)possibilities of sustainability or social justice, inter-municipal development/co-operation/conflict. We look forward to exploring these and other conceptual angles in the coming months.
In closing the evening, Hesse presented some thoughts on the comparative dimension of urban research, “Zürich/Glatt aus der Sicht von Luxemburg.” There is not only a stunning range of similar developments going on in both countries, and related attitudes to be found among planning institutions. Switzerland and Luxembourg have also experienced a rather comparable trajectory of socio-economic and spatial development for which two issues seem to be particularly important:
- first, the fact that this unfolded against the background of small states within a certain niche of capability and sovereignty to act,
- second, the clash between the old and the new as a consequence of modernity and the - neither deliberate nor accidental - internationalisation of the two countries and, particularly, of their economies.
The workshop was thoroughly productive, and we went away with renewed inspiration, concerning the various themes, dilemmas, and implications that were discussed. We’ll keep you posted on findings and results soon.