2005 Winner

Four books, a chapter of a book and five articles were submitted for the GAA 2005 covering a broad spectrum of content.  The entries were of high quality and came from a wide range of countries and continents.  The jury (Detlef Kammeier, Teresa Franchini, Judith Ryser and coopted members to deal with the wide range of languages) was encouraged by the emerging popularity of the GAA Award.  The trend so far points to a growing number of submissions from an increasing range of countries.  In the light of this development, the jury decided to allocate two Awards: one for books and one for articles.  The jury is confident that the contributions for next year will match the 2005 ones and possible surpass them in numbers, countries of origin and breadth of topics.

Books:

•          Aristides Romanos: La question de l‘urbanisme du point de vue du citoyen, le cas d‘Athenes (In Greek, summary and chapter in French) 2004. Potamos, Athens

•          Parysatis Papdopoulou-Symeonidou: Welches Europa (In Greek, summary in German) 2004. Kyriadis Brothers, Tessaloniki

•          John Udy: Man Makes the City, urban development and planning (In English) 2004. Trafford, Canada

•          Khondker Neaz Rahman: Adversities of Development, a case study of involuntary resettlement (In English) 2004. Academic Press and Publishers Ltd, Bangladesh

•          Peter Robinson, Jeff McCarthy, Clive Foster: Urban Reconstruction in the Developing World (In English) 2004. Heinemann

Chapter of book:

Luis Ainstein: Physical accessibility, dynamic demographic and social stratification, three problematically interactive processes of the urban agglomeration of Buenos Aires (In Spanish) 2004. Siglo Veintiuno editors Argentina

Articles:

•          Nupur Prothi Khanna: Conflicting Perceptions (In English) 2004. In: Seminar Issue No 542, Working Conservation, October 2004. Publisher Malvika Singh, New Delhi

•          John Zetter: Sustainable Shelter. 2004. In: Town and Country Planning, Vol 73, No 11, November 2004

•          John Zetter: Frameworks for Sound Urban Policy Implementation. 2004. In: Town and Country Planning, Vol 74, No 2, February 2005

•          Olusola Olufemi & Doory Reeves: Lifeworld Strategies of Women who Find Themselves Homeless in South Africa. 2004. In: Planning Theory and Practice, Vol 5, no 1, pp69-91, March 2004. Routledge

The jury selected the book on Cato Manor by Peter Robinson, et al. and the article of Olusola Olufemi”s et al on women street dwellers for the 2005 GAA.

Cato Manor

This well written book by Peter Robinson, Jeff McCarthy and Clive Foster, based on an international conference on urban reconstruction is far more than an evaluative record of the outcome of the authors‘ engagement over the last ten years in the reconstruction of a large area with a turbulent history.  It enables other planners and urban development practitioners, especially in the developing world to learn from international best practice.  Every aspect of this enormous reconstruction project, Cato Manor near Durban town centre, South Africa, has been put into an international and theoretical context.  Its multidisciplinary approach to urban reconstruction focuses on planning and human resource management, together with their institutional requirements.  Each chapter is written by relevant specialists of the professionally comprehensive but small CMDA team.  Undoubtedly, the evaluation process has been influenced by donors such as the EU which, demanding replicability, put two staff at the disposal of this Section 21 NGO, the Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) to assist with EU reporting requirements.  Typical for CMDA‘s approach, it turned this constraint into an asset by incorporating EU project management expertise into its own activities.

Capable of obtaining multiple public funding and getting on budget streams early at city, regional and national level for its area based project CMDA was able to progress swiftly, expecting to attract also private capital to a contested area in a very politicised country.  The latter has still to materialise and hopes are pinned on the new industrial parks being established on new thoroughfares.

Every aspect of the project is thriving on innovations.  They are critically analysed in four parts of the book: the context and foundations of urban development; institutional and developmental  dimensions of urban reconstruction; lessons for the future; and training for replicability.  This informative and self-critical account of a project which required motivation beyond call of duty and ‘planning on the run‘ is an inspiration for planners, managers and decision makers involved in the development process.

Particularly useful is the combination of project related issues, presented in detail inclusive drawbacks and well referenced theoretical inputs from national and international sources.  This approach was initiated by the editors of the book who were all actively involved in CMDA when they set up the Cato Manor Research and Documentation Project.  Contributing a strong theoretical and research input to the CMDP (CMD Project) at the outset they combined academic research with hands-on knowledge of CMDA managers.  This resulted in the catalytic mix of international theoretical debate and practice based experience elucidated in this book.

Lifeworld Strategies of Women who Find Themselves Homeless

This article of Olusola Olufemi and Doory Reeves is of great interest as it asks what planning can do for those homeless women who belong to the usually ignored lowest layer of society.  It takes conviction and courage to push the boundaries of professionalism as far as living with horrendously deprived women in the centre of Johannesburg to discover their lifestyles and their needs.  From the references it appears that Olusola Olufemi (OO) has dealt with this issue for some time, including in her PhD thesis.  She adopted phenomenology as her research approach which fills part of the article, in my view unnecessarily (perhaps she had to show ‘academic‘ credentials for her article to be accepted in this journal).  What she is doing in reality is high quality empirical action research based on her own observations.  The flaw of phenomenology is to assume that life can be cloned.  Even OO‘s fortnight on the streets where she observed and interviewed 12 street homeless women can never substitute for the real lives of these women, as their backgrounds which influence their life strategies are a world apart from hers.

Nevertheless, OO‘s systematic work about and with these women and their children is proficient and produced disturbing results, as well as thoughtful proposals for government action and challenging ones for planners.  The way planners and urban policy makers approach homelessness, especially in the developing world, is to produce shelter which, in reality is taken up by the poor but not the most destitute parts of society.  OO mentions in passing the fate of women who manage to better their living conditions because they have access to shelter, on which all other support systems seem to depend.  The South African constitution proclaims ‘the right to housing‘.  What it does not do is to extend this right to ‘free housing‘.  Hence shelters produced by governments and aid agencies have a cost tag, no matter how small which the poorest women cannot afford.  OO graphically describes their downward spiral of social exclusion, especially gender stereotyping, lack of education and jobs, insecurity, ill health without support structure, isolation and final self-destructive behaviour.  She also points out their contradictory resignation and hope which keep them going despite most abject circumstances.  For professional planners in comfort this is a disturbing account and should make them reassess the role, expense and concrete effects of international consultants.

OO proposes a cooperative exploration approach to improve the understanding of these marginal homeless women as a starting point to put into place a support system which would involve them actively and continuously.  She mentions a series of existing support agencies at micro, sub-regional and international levels, often initiated by such women themselves which could be replicated or joined up.  OO has devised a step by step participation process towards which she has contributed several steps herself: the quantitative identification of such homeless women in central Johannesburg; the preparatory work to gain necessary confidence of these women to cooperate; interpretation of observations and contextual information.  What needs doing next is to elaborate with these women experiential learning programmes which would equip them to get a better chance to be housed.  Any further work would have to incorporate the complexities which produce their homelessness in the first place.  She makes eminently sensible and realisable proposals for local governments, housing agencies and their planners with emphasis on responding to these homeless women‘s specific needs.  This includes shelter provision as well as their own training.  Besides the need for non formalised, flexible and truly interactive planning techniques she advocates determination and perseverance, as well as the benefits of taking risks with these sometimes unpredictable street dwellers.  OO certainly showed all these qualities in her several years of work with homeless women.  Hopefully, by her example she will inspire others to follow suit.

Short presentation of the other entries

Involved in the Athens Olympic village 2004 design, Aristides Romanos uses it as a case study in his book to evaluate urban development from both a strategic planning and a citizens‘ viewpoint.  He concludes that the advantages which reach only part of the local population do not justify the expense to the nation as well as to the local population.  He demonstrates that the conditions of the Olympic committee which require to generate post game long term beneficial effects for the host city stand little chance of getting achieved.  The games are likely to incur long term costs to the local population, including sustained price inflation and upkeep of oversized ‘white elephant‘ buildings which are of no direct use to Athens and its population. His book may trigger off a fundamental rethink about the physical, economic and social effect of such events in future. An English translation might be an inspiration for the London Olympics 2012.

Albeit of great interest Parysatis Papdopoulou-Symeonidou‘s book does not address the main planning concerns of Isocarp, except for the regional economic policies of the EU which he describes, together with other EU policy areas.

John Udy‘s book is intended as a basic teaching aid for undergraduate students of urban and regional planning.  It adopts a functionalist approach to transportation, industry, housing, city centres, new towns, open spaces, public facilities and ‘flow‘ systems‘ (utilities).  In an era of integrated planning, such a segregated discussion of the built environment may surprise.  Practical examples, compiled in Annexes, focus on particular projects or urban spaces, as well as planning literature reviews as basis for student exercises.  The printing quality does not do justice to the interesting illustrations.  This systematic textbook is written in jargonless language suitable for students and lay people alike who are interested in urban development.  It conveys the author‘s vast experience with metropolitan planning worldwide. The problem is that this book does not bring all its strands together anywhere.  The diagram in the concluding remarks does not suffice.  While the book contains a lot of information, it is not a planning history and competes with many other didactic planning instruments.

Khondker-Neaz-Rahman‘s book focuses on the polarisation process induced by infrastructure development imposed from the outside and its divisive inequitable impacts on those directly or indirectly affected.  Based on his empirical study of the Jamuna and Bangali River Bank Protection Project in Bangladesh, he shows that many displaced people became worse off under the Resettlement Plan and were not sufficiently compensated by the legislation in force, published in full.  The aim of this advocacy study is to convince the government to improve its compensation strategy for those adversely  afflicted by its land acquisition policy.  His approach can be a useful instrument for communities and their leaders in similar situations which occur the world over, and especially in developing countries.

Luis Ainstein‘s chapter is well documented with statistics and maps.  His argument is that the transportation policy of the Buenos Aires metropolitan region is exacerbating social segregation by confining the poor to the ever growing periphery of the agglomeration with diminished survival chances.  The country‘s economic crisis leaves little means to reverse these trends.  He shows the importance of research for policy makers and planners, but does not propose solutions or methods of mobilising material and human resources to improve the urban structure and development of Buenos Aires.

Nupur Prothi Khanna‘ article deals with the designation of world heritage sites, a complex issue of global significance.  She considers this process demonstrably contentious as it singles out Western values or claims universality of cultural property which, by nature, is of national, regional or local tradition.  Focusing on monuments and surrounding them with narrow protection boundaries is damaging their broader symbolic meaning and traditional use.  She demonstrates various deficiencies of the Heritage designation process with sites in India but leaves the consequences of changes in operational guidelines to future investigations.

John Zetter provided two submissions.  His useful article on sustainable shelter is a review of existing literature, institutional positions and planners‘ views.  They include sustainability as optimising the use of non renewable resources, avoiding pollution and waste, requiring durability and adaptability (of shelter) but not how this could or should be achieved.  He is not expanding on, nor explaining the many statements.  However, he identifies contradictions, for example, concerning residential densities which above a certain level are not sustainable if more land consuming services are provided at adequate level.  It would have been useful to learn more about planning policies, instruments, measures, resources, finance, etc which could make the developments more sustainable, or how this could be assessed in an overall equation.  In his article on frameworks for sound urban policy implementation he identifies new requirements for institutional arrangements, but shifting urban policy from the public good to greatest s for the greatest number may not have universal appeal.  He does not dwell on implementation but focuses on controlling institutions and target oriented tools, such as environmental impact assessment.  The discussion on what makes a sound legal framework for urban policy may be of wider interest.  Yet, a clarification of planners‘ powers and responsibilities, possibly welcome by planners, may be context and timeframe bound.

Postscript

One of the objectives of the Gerd Albers Award is to encourage Isocarp members to be forthcoming, write and write well about their professional achievements or about planning issues in general.  All the submitted books, chapters and articles for the 2005 GAA were of high quality and well written.  Isocarp is keen to give all GAA entries more exposure in future.  In turn, their writings should give Isocarp a higher standing.  A new venture of Isocarp aims to achieve this. The “Isocarp Planning Transactions” (IPT) will take the place of the discontinued Isocarp Bulletin to provide an outlet for practising Isocarp planners to get their work known more widely.  Articles and reviews or summaries of books submitted to GAA will also be published in IPT, together with other original writing of Isocarp members.  This should assist both Isocarp members and Isocarp itself to get better known in the international planning world and, more widely among the professionals of the built environment.

by Judith Ryser, chair of editorial board

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