The Swedish School of Planning
Researchers study how planning works and which control mechanisms have an impact on spatial planning. They also study how planning processes, at different levels, are initiated and controlled and which institutions and actors are involved. The environmental and sustainability effects are also included.
Research on spatial planning is a multidisciplinary activity. As spatial planning is part of society’s governance system, research on planning in the broad sense is conducted within a variety of subjects, such as architecture, sociology, political science, human geography, environmental science, ethnology, and more. This is partly reflected in the department’s composition of staff, where several different subject areas are represented. More importantly, the theoretical and methodological basis of research is not limited to one subject, but spans many different sciences; consequently, the researchers receive impressions, inspiration and tools from a variety of disciplines.
Two different research fields
Research in the field of spatial planning at BTH does not take place in separate research teams, but individually and in different networks according to various theoretical perspectives, the methods applied and concrete research assignments.
Two main research fields can, however, be identified even if there is no sharp boundary between them:
- planning as a control system for societal change and
- the built environment as an outcome of planning.
Research on planning as a control system
Research on planning explores how planning works and the different control mechanisms (ideologies, legislation, professional norms, technologies) that affect spatial development, but also how planning processes are initiated and managed, as well as the institutions and stakeholders involved. Special emphasis is placed on how planning is influenced and changed under pressure from political trends and societal transformation in general, such as climate change, increased globalisation, alongside increased supranational governance and decentralisation. It also includes study of the democratic dimensions of planning and how different groups’ scope of action is influenced by and changes during ongoing processes, not least in terms of citizen participation in planning.
Research on the built environment
Research on the built environment explores how different perceptions of space affect planning in practice and thus the form and design. A starting point here is to understand how different material and social conditions produce space, that is, build space as a venue for a daily practice, but also how the space is a background to subjective experiences and notions about what the space is, or should be, in its new form. Another area of interest in this context is how different perceptions of general virtues, such as security, integration or meetings, affect the design of spaces in terms of their physical form. Similarly, the research explores how spatial structure has an impact on human life and daily patterns of activity, and how the urban form affects mobility, flexibility and identification issues.
Research at the Department of Spatial Planning is conducted in research projects and environments consisting of doctoral students and senior researchers. One of the research projects includes six PhD students and four senior researchers, and is also part of an internationally funded project and consortium of four European universities. Another research project is conducted in collaboration with researchers at Stockholm University, and yet another is a collaboration project within a broad Nordic research network. Research is also conducted, to a limited extent, by teaching staff with PhDs and doctoral students, focusing on planning issues in both a national and international context.
The research in planning and the built environment is conducted at the Department of Spatial Planning.
Smart Energy Solutions for Africa: Accelerating the green transition and energy access Partnership with Africa (SESA)
SESA: Building on and expanding existing partnerships between Europe and Africa, the SESA project aims to support leapfrogging sustainable energy solutions while substituting fossil-fuel-based energy. Embracing a cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, the target is to mitigate climate change and avoid lock-in situations while improving access to sustainable energy under affordable, reliable conditions. To do so, the project supports solutions that harness the sustainable and promising opportunities already present on the African continent, such as the highest solar radiation in the world. It includes increasing the use of renewable energies and, supporting and scaling-up nascent technical and financial innovations in order to steer energy in selected African countries towards more sustainable pathways. Conditions for successful implementation and replication are set to enable long-term sustainability of the project.