The learning objectives of the course are to deliver an innovative teaching and learning experience, broad enough to encompass a wide range of complex interrelated dimensions which constitute contemporary planning, which can be distinguished in three categories: theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and “procedural” elements.
The course is organized in such a way as to ensure that students learn about planning methods, policies and procedures, they have the chance to implement them in “real life” conditions, and finally they participate in an evaluation process for which they make use of an elaborated evaluation tool, proposed and elaborated by themselves as part of the course requirements.
The aim of this course was to have them master in one main sector of planning. This also implies a deep understanding of related sectors, of specific frameworks and conditions, and of issues of a more “procedural” nature. Students in this course already possess significant knowledge in the fields of spatial planning and development from their up-to-then studies, or from their professional experience.
Theoretical knowledge is transferred by the series of lectures and the bibliographical sources which are organized by students’ groups. It includs principles of urban management, urban networks, urban economics, planning methodologies, infrastructure planning, planning for minorities and social groups with special needs, and collaborate planning. Practical experience is gained through the process of full preparation of the particular project which has to be delivered at the end of the course. “Procedural” elements enhance learning about assessment and evaluation of both: a. the products of students’ work, and b. the procedures, roles of involved actors, structural elements and effectiveness of the course as a whole.
A fundamental objective of the module is to enable people to understand how to arrive at sound conclusions and to elaborate a proposal through competition and cooperation. It is believed that this procedure is been made very clear during the sessions of the module. The experience gained in this manner can be very useful for all people involved especially those who are already employed in or deal with local or central government.
The subject of the main project of the course involves a real issue, faced with serious concern by local societies. It is elaborated in “real life” terms and conditions, and this is reflected in both, the products of the exercise and the procedures. Most part of what is produced, is in accordance to the planning framework in Greece. This also allows external agents to appreciate students’ work and this appreciation can be an asset for their professional careers.
Contacts with politicians and stakeholders are also a very useful element of the course, which prepares students for practice.
Planning in Greece was traditionally mostly attempted by legislation and not by policies. This was the result of two things: 1. local administration had few rights and responsibilities and even fewer resources. This disadvantageous position of local administration led to its inability to formulate policies on the local level, which is the most suitable environment for such. 2. Central government was not in favor of wider participation processes in planning that has been always a prerequisite for effective policies. To the contrary, they preferred laws that were not negotiable, were mostly of restrictive nature, did not necessitate participation and were enforced by authority. There were also very few examples of policies that were initiated without equivalent legislation, namely concerning regional planning. In both cases, there was no long lasting or viable planning process or outcomes. In comparison to legislative frameworks of other European countries, Greek planning legislation has been excessively complex. Trying to foresee all possible problems that might arise in the future, it deprives planning from its necessary dynamism, continuity and flexibility. Furthermore, the majority of planning laws remained inactive, the reasons for it being that the overprotection of private rights and property, in combination with the patron – client relationship of the political parties, were always invincible obstacles for any implementation. Finally, for most of its history, planning has been faced in Greece as a product of technical nature that was a task exclusively for architects. This undermined the role of strategic planning and of planning policies.
During the last decades, an effort has been made to change the traditional concept of planning in Greece and enrich it with new ideas and dimensions. The contemporary developments in planning in the E.U. served as study cases and good practices towards this direction. The new approach to planning considers all its multiplicity, complex nature, various dimensions, and its potential for social, political and economic effects, with the aspiration that the new generation of planners, through this concepts, can also transform reality.
This concept of planning underlies the course of the Graduate Studio in Spatial Planning being characterized by the following principles:
• Planning is not a product but a dynamic process with political, economic, social, and technical characteristics.
• There are three levels characterizing planning as a political action: the constitutional (legislation), the institutional (policies), and the implementation (planning tools, finances etc.). If their inter-relation, balance, and cooperation are not secured, the effectiveness and viability of planning is at risk.
• Planning is multidisciplinary and multidimensional.
• Planning is developing in accordance to governance. A collaborative approach to planning is significant not only for planning itself, but also for the democratic nature of the society affected.
• Planning should encompass the principles of sustainability.
• Local scale is important for planning. Planning in various levels should be in accordance to the equivalent levels in local administration/government. Similarly, competences and responsibilities of administrative levels should “cover” the equivalent planning levels. Local levels should decide and higher levels should coordinate, direct and approve.
• “Institutional transplantation” is essential for planning, especially in our era, where globalization is a main trend of society, and Europeanization is a conscious effort in most fields of functions in the E.U. countries. Gaining from others’ experiences, being taught from good practices, and being aware of developments in the field of planning in other countries, is of high importance. For this, collaboration in planning projects, visits, joint training and courses etc. among partners and colleagues from different countries are significant. The educational trip of the students as part of the postgraduate programme in Urban and Regional Planning partly fulfills this principle.
• Finally –and this reflects more the current reality in Greece- planning might function as a means of reversing attitudes of apathy and depression in broad sectors of society, including young planners, by offering alternatives to economic and social depression. Indeed, in view of the current economic crisis, there has been serious questioning by policymakers of whether the country should host the 2013 Mediterranean Games. This year’s Studio in Urban and Regional Planning course has shown, first to students as young professionals facing unemployment, and hopefully to politicians and local societies, that the Games can still be organized and, furthermore, offer a potential for development, which is so much needed. This last principle inspired the subtitle of the course: “From decay to opportunity”.
“Graduate Studio in Spatial Planning” is a spring term obligatory course. It has the form of a planning exercise which combines practice and research, in “real life” conditions. Emphasis is given to the use of innovative methods and planning tools, which could improve existing policies, practices, or the existing planning framework. Each year the focus of the Studio is on a subject of planning nature, highly interesting, either in Greece or abroad.
Evaluation of students refers exclusively to the project and the process of elaboration. Final grades are extracted as outputs of the assessment tool proposed and produced by the students during the term. It involves evaluation of students, and evaluation of teaching staff. Evaluation is conducted by teachers and students alike, and self-evaluation is an important part of it.
Bibliographical sources are proposed according to the needs of the course, all during the term. Students are responsible to organize a common “small library of the course”, with the supervision and the assistance of the teachers.