comparing Finnish and Austrian Planning Cultures [FWF-J3993-G29]

Objectives and research questions

Many cities and regions across Europe face demographic decline and economic downturn and this was taken as the starting point for this project. The growing urban and metropolitan regions have so far received much higher attention in public and academic discourse, especially when it comes to urban planning and economic performance. In contrast to the majority of spatial planning studies, this study seeks to shed light on the urban and regional developments of shrinking and decline, instead of growth and enlargement. It will offer a contribution to the ongoing academic debate on strategic spatial planning by introducing the problem of urban and regional shrinking. The main research question is: How can strategic spatial planning be adapted and developed to deal with urban and regional shrinking? Strategic spatial planning is more than the formal and legal system of statutory spatial planning; the concept includes citizen participation, the involvement of private actors, planning for the future and breaking with past development traits. The reason for focusing on strategic spatial planning is that the statutory planning (like local zoning plans) is fairly limited when it comes to  responding to complex regional processes such as shrinking. Urban and regional shrinking is a politically delicate and complex matter and one can assume that awareness, perception and responses especially vary according to different planning cultures. Therefore, this study follows a culturally sensitive approach and compares planning practices in two different, yet comparable, planning cultures: Finland and Austria. The main methods are literature, document and data analyses as well as expert and stakeholder interviews in case studies. The study will be enriched by workshops and panel settings in which the local and international scientific communities as well as planning experts and practitioners are given the opportunity to interact on the basis of the study findings. Overall, the study will not only contribute to the ongoing theory building around strategic spatial planning, but also add to the empirical knowledge for a better response of spatial planning to urban and regional shrinking.


Dr. Alois Humer


May 2017 – April 2019: Aalto Universität

May 2019 – April 2020: ISR, ÖAW