Can e-planning make for better communities? The parallel case of architecture, ethics and New Urbanism

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Abstract

Social Engineering (the “possibility of making society”) and physical determinism (influencing or determining human behaviour through space) are two ideas that have been deeply imbedded in modern urban planning from the start. More recently these issues re-appear in the debate on ‘New Urbanism' as well as in questions concerning contemporary architecture and planning. New Urbanism's self-conscious concern is to bring urban planning into line with the ethical (including social and political) standards and values that its charter delineates as consonant with what urbanism, democratic values, social justice, and more generally human flourishing require in a contemporary urban environment. It sees the architect's task as one of interpreting and helping to build, in Giedion's terms, “a way of life valid for our time.”More pointedly, New Urbanism illustrates Lagueux's (2004) contention that architecture and ethics are joined indissolubly at the hip. It assumes that, like it or not, and no doubt many architects relish the role, not only is architectural practice inextricably bound to ethical decision making, but design practitioners generally are arbiters and promulgators of value and taste. This article examines problematic aspects of New Urbanism's assumptions about the relation between architecture, planning and social justice. As a subsidiary or parallel case, the article considers e-planning's position in these relations. As regular readers of this journal will most likely recognize, e-planning encompasses a range of services including the online lodgment of planning documents, processing of development applications and distribution of information (maps, policies and regulations). The movement promises planners, developers and additional stakeholders in the built environment greater freedoms and efficiencies as they pursue their interests. However, in the realm of values, ‘efficiency' is not necessarily an obvious or desirable outcome of deliberations over the proper form that communities should take. Rather, the goal of ‘efficiency' in planning and design through electronic, digital or web-based practices may serve to obfuscate important ethical concerns from the start.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-76
JournalInternational Journal of E-Planning Research
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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ethics
moral philosophy
Planning
planning
community
Urban planning
social justice
architect
urban planning
efficiency
Values
information policy
human behavior
determinism
way of life
charter
deliberation
stakeholder
Decision making
decision making

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title = "Can e-planning make for better communities?: The parallel case of architecture, ethics and New Urbanism",
abstract = "Social Engineering (the “possibility of making society”) and physical determinism (influencing or determining human behaviour through space) are two ideas that have been deeply imbedded in modern urban planning from the start. More recently these issues re-appear in the debate on ‘New Urbanism' as well as in questions concerning contemporary architecture and planning. New Urbanism's self-conscious concern is to bring urban planning into line with the ethical (including social and political) standards and values that its charter delineates as consonant with what urbanism, democratic values, social justice, and more generally human flourishing require in a contemporary urban environment. It sees the architect's task as one of interpreting and helping to build, in Giedion's terms, “a way of life valid for our time.”More pointedly, New Urbanism illustrates Lagueux's (2004) contention that architecture and ethics are joined indissolubly at the hip. It assumes that, like it or not, and no doubt many architects relish the role, not only is architectural practice inextricably bound to ethical decision making, but design practitioners generally are arbiters and promulgators of value and taste. This article examines problematic aspects of New Urbanism's assumptions about the relation between architecture, planning and social justice. As a subsidiary or parallel case, the article considers e-planning's position in these relations. As regular readers of this journal will most likely recognize, e-planning encompasses a range of services including the online lodgment of planning documents, processing of development applications and distribution of information (maps, policies and regulations). The movement promises planners, developers and additional stakeholders in the built environment greater freedoms and efficiencies as they pursue their interests. However, in the realm of values, ‘efficiency' is not necessarily an obvious or desirable outcome of deliberations over the proper form that communities should take. Rather, the goal of ‘efficiency' in planning and design through electronic, digital or web-based practices may serve to obfuscate important ethical concerns from the start.",
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