Lack of Participatory Effort: On the Ethics of Communicating Urban Planning

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Lack of Participatory Effort: On the Ethics of Communicating Urban Planning

  • Gunnar Sandin Department of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund University, Sweden

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Abstract:  In all planning processes, including those we label participatory, there are neglected parties. Even when co-produced decisions, equity objectives, or common initiatives are at hand, some actors are likely to be less listened to, or they are never even recognised, hence, ‘perfect’ participation does not exist. Nevertheless, participatory objectives continue to be an important resilience factor in attempts to make—and architectonically shape—new built environments, based as much in concerned parties’ wishes and knowledge of local circumstances, as in the repertoire of traditional professional solutions and political or profit-driven exploitation. This article makes a sample survey on land-use oriented planning and its capacity to include concerned parties, ranging from total neglect of residents to formalised government-steered participation and more spontaneous or insurgent community-driven attempts to communicate a wish. Two basic questions with ethical implications are here raised concerning how planning communication is grounded: Who is invited into dialogue, and what kind of flaws in the establishment of communicational links can be found? These questions are discussed here as examples of ethical dilemmas in planning concerning previously analysed cases in Sweden with an initial reflection also on known cases in India, Germany and Australia. Communicational mechanisms such as ‘dialogic reciprocity’ and ‘successive translational steps’ are especially discussed as areas of possible improvement in participatory practices.

Keywords:  architecture; citizen participation; dialogic communication; land use; public consultation

Published:   12 November 2020


© Gunnar Sandin. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.