Federation for
Housing and

AESOP Annual Congress 2013

University College, Dublin, July 15th-19th.

The past couple of years, IFHP has developed a constructive and productive partnership with AESOP, involving the mutual use of each other’s websites, organising joint activities (lectures, summer schools, young planning professional awards) and playing an active role in each other’s congresses. The basis of this partnership is the clear complementarity of both organisations’ networks: the one focussing on education and research, the other on policy and practice.

The 2013 congress was a joint event with the American ‘Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’ (ACSP). Because of this and its own Centenary, IFHP was not an active partner for a working session at the congress as it has been the past two years. This joint event, with some 1100 participants, was, however, a very good opportunity for finding new experts who can potentially contribute to IFHP’s on-going programme of activities. Interesting was the fact that, as well as Europeans and Americans, there were really a considerable number of participants from other continents, especially China and elsewhere from the Asian-Pacific region. It underlines the continuing good reputation and popularity of European schools of planning in the world.

The theme of AESOP’S 2013 annual congress was ‘Planning for resilient cities and regions’, one of the underlying general themes of IFHP’s centenary congress. No matter what the general overlying theme, AESOP congresses fit basically into the same 16 ‘tracks’ for each of which AESOP has a thematic group.

  1. Advances in Planning Theory and Practice
  2. Planning for Gender, Diversity, and Justice
  3. Environment, Energy and Climate Change
  4. Housing, Regeneration and Community Development in Time of Crisis
  5. Transport and Infrastructure Planning
  6. Governance, Institutions and Civic Initiatives
  7. Land Use Policy and Planning
  8. Innovation in Planning Education
  9. Design and History of the Urban Environment
  10. International Planning, Cross-border and Inter-regional Cooperation
  11. Spatial and Planning Analysis Methods in a Digital World
  12. Planning for Urban Regions in Transition, Growth and Shrinkage
  13. Urban and Regional Economic Planning under Prosperity and Austerity
  14. Planning for Risks - Health, Safety and Security
  15. Planning Law, Regulation and Dispute Resolution
  16. Rural and Landscape Planning

So too the theme of planning for resilience, that formed the common focus through all these track issues in Dublin.

The congress call for papers attracted some 1500 abstracts! As AESOP traditionally invites the authors of a relatively large proportion to present papers at the congress (and a number of others to present posters), the result was a huge number of papers and parallel sessions from which one can choose but a few. As the congress itself was spread over 4½ days, the programme booklet needed 108 pp to put down all the papers that were presented! The AESOP congress is a mass knowledge-generation exercise with very limited ‘reception’ possibilities at the event itself. This is to some extent compensated by the possibility of downloading the abstracts of all the papers presented at the congress on the AESOP website. Many of the papers are, of course, also published later in different journals.

In addition to this mass of knowledge transfer at the working session level, all participants were able to attend the plenary keynote speakers. This year these were Prof. Thomas Elmqvist (Stockholm Resilience Centre), Prof. Susan Fainstein (Harvard), Prof. Michael Batty (Centre of Advanced Spatial Analyses at UCL, London) and Prof. Peter Clinch (UCD itself), all of whom are decorated authorities in their fields. Personally, Susan Farnstein made the most impression. She gave a critical assessment of what was actually being done in practice in the US under the justification of ‘planning for resilience’, often damaging socially less resilient communities to deal with potential natural hazards. She also pointed out very succinctly that there is probably a greater need to plan for resilience against man-made hazards, particularly damage caused by the greed and irresponsibility of the financial world and certain captains of industry (Detroit!!). If there is sufficient political will, it is easier to avoid repeating such disasters than to plan to absorb the impact of what Mother Nature can throw at us.

There were 19 half-day ‘mobile workshops’ (a good name for ‘study tour’!) to choose from in and around Dublin.

The next AESOP will be in Utrecht and Delft (Netherlands) on 9th – 12th July 2014. The theme is ‘From control to co-evolution’. IFHP and AESOP are looking at the possibility of organising a round table on co-evolution in which academics and researchers can enter into a dialogue with people from policy and practice to improve their "co-involvement in co-evolution”.