International Institute for Innovation in Governance



The contingency of landscape design interpretations

To address visual communication issues in landscape planning and design processes, an analytical framework that enables the study and possible anticipation of the interpretation of visual design representations is presented here. This framework consists of a hybrid theory of Peircean social semiotics and Laclaudian post-foundational discourse analysis (PDA). The semiotics of Peirce, through the concept of the interpretant, enable the conceptualization of the discourses that make up the socio-political contexts of design projects as so-called ‘interpretive habits’. This framework is demonstrated by partly reconstructing the socio-political context of Rebuild by Design, a design competition organized in the wake of hurricane Sandy in New York. It is suggested through this demonstration that the sign systems and discursive networks that influence the interpretations of design images by different stakeholders can be partially uncovered during the design process itself. By recognizing these interpretive habits during specific phases of the design process, planners and designers could potentially better anticipate the productive and counter-productive interpretations of their design representations.

Raaphorst, K. (2018) Knowing your audience: the contingency of landscape design interpretations. Journal of Urban Design. Online first


Call for papers: land use instruments

The Journal Land Use Policy is organizing a special  issue on land use instruments to mitigate radical shifts or boom and bust cycles in communities. The special issue will include papers from well-known universities and research institutes in the United States, Indonesia, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, among others, and is currently looking to expand the breadth of topics and geographical areas in order to have a genuinely comparative approach.

The special issue starts from a broad understanding of land use tools that includes all those institutional tools that affect the coordination of land use. Various sorts of planning, zoning, economic development strategies, preservation policies, etc. can have the character of land use policy tool if they aim at the coordination of land use and the reorganization of land. They can include and activate more circumscribed and focused land use tools.

The cases presented in this special issue are expected to highlight the diverse ways communities have confronted the radical changes associated with boom and bust and the lessons learned to try to mitigate them.

If you are interested you can participate by sending a 300 word abstract to Monica Gruezmacher (gruezmac[at]ualberta[dot]ca) by December 30th this year. 

Via this you will find a short explanatory document with details on the content, process and approach.

Institutions and Urban Space

This paper develops an historical institutionalist approach to municipal governance, infrastructure, and property institutions, suggesting that the dense matrices of institutions in cities are co-evolutionary and path dependent. Property, infrastructure, and governance institutions play a central role in regulating capital investment in cities, structure urban change, protect and structure property’s meaning and value, and demonstrate enduringly different approaches between jurisdictions. The institutions in place when land is urbanized have profound impacts on the institutionalization and forms of urban property and the accompanying infrastructure created. The primary positive feedback that contributes to path dependence in cities flows from existing sets of property in any given jurisdiction. Cities from this perspective are path dependent landscapes of property that are differentiated primarily by the enduring imprint of the institutions that produce them.

Sorensen, A. (2017). Institutions and Urban Space: Land, Infrastructure, and Governance in the Production of Urban PropertyPlanning Theory & Practice, 1-18.


A community survival guide to turbulent times


IN PLANNING has published a new book by Kristof Van Assche et al, a community survival guide to turbulent times. The book presents a wide range of planning strategies communities can use to deal with uncertain futures and to adapt to ever changing boom and bust cycles in the local economy. The book offers an interesting read for planning and governance scholars, students, and professionals, as well as all those who are in some way involved in community development and planning. It describes the struggles that many communities in western Canada are going to, the challenges they face, and many enlightening examples. Furthermore it offers theoretical reflections on the diversity of strategies and practices, as well as practical recommendation on how to develop context-sensitive strategies.

And the best thing: the e-book is freely available.



Spatial planning in cross-border regions: A systems-theoretical perspective


Most scholarship in spatial planning presupposes an established institutional setting, where a specific legal framework is in place, one is accustomed to certain procedures and routines, and planning has a certain (national) history. In cross-border regions, however, this becomes problematic as different institutional settings clash. Combining systems and organizational theory, this article constructs a theoretical perspective on planning, explicitly conceptualizing differences, that is, boundaries, in institutional settings. This sheds new light on the prospects and realities of spatial planning across national borders. National borders double the complexity of spatial planning, and organizations working in cross-border spatial planning need to take this into account by acknowledging their own and others’ organizational boundaries as well.

Jacobs, J. (2016) Spatial planning in cross-border regions: A systems-theoretical perspective. Planning Theory 15(1): 68-90.




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