"Planning in times of multiple crises"
The Dortmund Conference on Spatial and Planning Research is jointly organized by the Department of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund University, the Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association, Hanover (ARL) and the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS), Dortmund.
“When we think of planning, we usually think of shaping the future in advance. But the future is and remains unknown, even if it is planned. In the complexity of planning, we seek a kind of certainty that the future cannot offer.”
Planning practice implicitly presumes relatively stable basic conditions: urban development is predictable, property is robust, institutions are stable, the financial system works, and geopolitical and environmental conditions remain largely stable. Within spatial planning methods and techniques are applied which alleviate uncertainty and predict future population development, traffic flows, or flood events as precisely as possible to provide the basis for long-term plans.
The current crises are challenging the foundations of such an assumption of stability and predictability. The 2008 economic crisis questioned growth-oriented spatial planning, natural disasters question land use designations in risk areas, the pandemic has called into question fundamental assumptions about the use of public space. However, after a brief period of shock, stability returns. For example, after the flood events between 1993 and 2021, only a few building areas were actually withdrawn. Planning – it seems – is not changed by crises. It is robust and therefore creates stability and planning security. Is planning unshakable and not adaptable?
Currently crises are occurring more and more frequently and simultaneously: climate crisis, energy crisis, housing crisis, looming wars, migrations, pandemics, social inequalities, radicalization of milieus - these are multiple crises that spatial planning can and may not ignore.
What does this mean for planning? How can planning be justified in times of multiple crises? How can planning act in the face of uncertain futures? After all, most coping strategies for crisis require more space: the pandemic requires more distance for “social distancing”, migration needs housing, wars destroy urban areas and landscapes and require more military areas, rivers need more space for dealing with floods. The Building Land Commission recommends active land policy for German municipalities, at the same time, land consumption shall be reduced, public infrastructure should facilitate different forms of mobility in a just way. In short: planning also needs space. These spaces is owned by various landowners. The recognition and consideration of diverse interests and human and non-human perspectives increase complexity.
The Dortmund Conference on Spatial Planning 2025 deals with such fundamental questions of planning with discussing planning in times of multiple crises.
 Luhmann, N. (2011). Organisation und Entscheidung. Wiesbaden: VS, Verl. für Sozialwiss. p. 231
Society for the Promotion of the Department of Spatial Planning at the TU Dortmund University