The conference SHAPING REGIONAL FUTURES: DESIGNING AND VISIONING IN GOVERNANCE RESCALING discusses the role of regional design and visioning in the formation of regional territorial governance. The conference aims at an increased understanding of how practices, engaged with the imagination of possible futures, support the creation of of institutional capacity for strategic spatial planning at regional scales.

Governance rescaling in spatial planning is about shifts in organisational and institutional structures that are the result of a search for efficiency, effectiveness and legitimation in planning. Such processes of rescaling take place in many European countries and find different expression: the amalgamation of municipalities, the definition of new urban/metropolitan authorities and the emergence of new commitments to co-operate in planning, for instance. Rescaling can have various forms: up-scaling of planning responsibilities from local to higher levels of scale or down-scaling: responsibilities, resources and competences are devolved from national and regional to local. Rescaling of governance has generated considerable debate, particularly in metropolitan regions leading to a wide set of questions. Who is best equipped for regional planning? How can planning actions across administrative boundaries be motivated? How can they be legitimated?

Regional design concerns the imagination of spatial solutions for problems in particular regions and the use of these visions, even in the form of metaphors, for planning purposes. Both processes are deeply engaged with specific spatial environments and their distinct geographies. Both processes can have territorial implications. They challenge formal planning by leading to the definition and re-definition of boundaries, often around non-statutory areas.

Designing and visioning practices in planning are employed in many European regions. While in some countries they are a formal requirement to underpin operational planning, in many cases designing and visioning are voluntary activities, employed to unlock capacities for strategic spatial planning which are often hindered by formal administrative boundaries.

Focus of the conference SHAPING REGIONAL FUTURES is the role of designing and visioning in processes of governance rescaling. It investigates two prepositions.

  1. By recognising and understanding spatial dynamics within metropolitan regions regional design and visioning seek to go beyond administrative boundaries.
  2. The imagination of possible spatial futures through regional design and visioning contributes to shared planning agendas which seek connect broader planning objectives with concrete spatial interventions.

Discussions around these two prepositions is expected to lead to a more profound understanding of how design, visioning and governance rescaling are interrelated.

Practices of regional design and visioning differ across European regions depending on planning cultures and planning systems as well as the presence of shared histories of regional governance and capacity building. This is why the conference seeks a comparative perspective: a variety of governance rescaling processes and of design and visioning practices are discussed.

The joint conference of University of Florence, Delft University of Technology and Munich University of Technology continues an academic reflection on the interrelations between regional design and planning which started in 2014, when a first conference on regional design was organised by the Munich University of Technology. Results of this conference are available here. The 2017 conference represents the occasion to enlarge the network by bringing together a growing international network of scholars and practitioners who have an expertise in designing, visioning and governance.