Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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Urban Planning by Experiment at Precinct Scale: Embracing Complexity, Ambiguity, and Multiplicity

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Abstract:  Urban living labs have emerged as spatially embedded arenas for governing urban transformation, where heterogenous actor configurations experiment with new practices, institutions, and infrastructures. This article observes a nascent shift towards experimentation at the precinct scale and responds to a need to further investigate relevant processes in urban experimentation at this scale, and identifies particular challenges for urban planning. We tentatively conceptualise precincts as spatially bounded urban environments loosely delineated by a particular combination of social or economic activity. Our methodology involves an interpretive systematic literature review of urban experimentation and urban living labs at precinct scale, along with an empirical illustration of the Net Zero Initiative at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, which is operationalising its main campus into a living lab focussed on precinct-scale decarbonisation. We identify four processual categories relevant to precinct-scale experimentation: embedding, framing, governing, and learning. We use the empirical illustration to discuss the relevance of these processes, refine findings from the literature review and conclude with a discussion on the implications of our article for future scholarship on urban planning by experiment at precinct scale.

Keywords:  experimentation; governance; net zero; precinct; urban living labs; urban planning



© Darren Sharp, Rob Raven. 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.