Planning is invisible

Planning sociology between relational design and actor network theory (ANT)

Traditional planning theories are increasingly being criticized: instead of considering the city as a given unit, which has to be controlled and optimized in planning, new relational approaches are spreading, especially in the planning sociology, which are programmatically oriented towards science and technology studies (STS). These new approaches see planning as a hybrid practice that is constantly being renegotiated and established in the socio-material interaction between the built environment and the social practice of its users in specific contexts. The interaction of the "urban form" and social life, i. e. the interaction between material things and social structures, are central to this process. Against this background, STS-inspired planning theories are increasingly oriented towards the actor-network theory (ANT) (Latour 2005).
The relational planning sociology understands planning as a socio-technical network. From this point of view, planning is not primarily understood in its technical dimension. Rather, the relational views of planning open up a new perspective, which makes the complexity and uncertainties associated with it visible. It also opens up a new approach to rethinking space and power, i. e. artifacts, practices and interests in (city) planning processes.
Sociologist Lucius Burckhardt is regarded as a pioneer of relational planning theory in the German-speaking world. In his essays Design ist unsichtbar (Design is invisible) or Bauen - ein Prozess ohne Denkmalpflichten (Construction - a process without obligations to preserve historical monuments), Burckhardt dealt with the relational approach as early as the 1960s and recognised the interaction between man and the environment as a central reference point for all planning projects. Even back then, Burckhardt criticized one-dimensional planning approaches, which pay too little attention to the interaction between material and non-material elements in space. According to Burckhardt, planning cannot be understood in isolation from its social actors and aspects. Burckhardt anticipated the idea of the interaction of actors and artefacts underlying ANT at an early stage.
2016 to 2018