17 June, 2013

Big Projects in a Small Country

This came out of the press at ETH Zurich, recently published in 'disP - The Planning Review': 'Das "Kirchberg-Syndrom": grosse Projekte im kleinen Land. Bauen und Planen in Luxemburg.

('The Kirchberg Syndrome: Large-Scale Projects in a Small Country – On building and planning policies in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg'). Author: Markus Hesse, UL

English abstract reads as follows:
The paper deals with planning strategies and building practices in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, particularly in its capital city Luxembourg-City, which is a small but highly internationalized metropolis. The main goal of the paper is to reconstruct local planning trajectories, starting with the 1960s urban extension of the European quarter and banking district of the “Kirchberg”. Since then, spatial planning in city and country seem to favour relatively large-scale projects, considered as drivers of both economic growth and apparently sustainable patterns of spatial development. This particular style of planning and policy making is also coined the Kirchberg-Syndrome.

However, the tendency to favour big projects (of which the new, €1bn university campus/science district in Esch-Belval is the most recent incarnation) faces serious problems, such as the dominance of office space, a lack of urban integration, and high risks of financing and implementation. It also happens in a fragmented, intricate environment of urban policy, characterized by small towns and municipalities, limited public planning capabilities and an only recent tradition – and thus limited acceptance – of planning, policy and regulation. This rather specific “exceptional urbanism” of Luxembourg does not fit with contemporary planning theories. It can only be understood against the contradictory background of rapid development dynamics, unusually ‘thick’ ways of decision making and international policy mobilities.

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