Analysing Cartographic Representations in Spatial Planning

Authored by: Stefanie Dühr

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Research Methods

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  August  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415727952
eBook ISBN: 9781315851884
Adobe ISBN: 9781317917038


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Spatial planning maps are powerful instruments to frame discussions in plan-making processes and for the visualisation of existing and envisaged land uses on which future decisions are based. Yet despite their communicative potential, the role of cartographic representations has received less attention in spatial planning research than communication in planning processes through text or actions. Many planning researchers may therefore feel poorly prepared to analyse the design, content and meaning of planning maps and how they are used in planning processes. However, the analysis of maps and cartographic representations should be an essential part of the toolbox of every planning researcher interested in policy analysis and policy design. The visual expression of spatial policy can offer a different, and sometimes complementary, view on the envisaged use of space to that put forward by policy text. After all, planning maps have been described as the ‘forms and crystallizations of the thought of […] planners as they go about their work’ (Söderström 1996: 252). Moreover, any spatial planning researcher interested in unravelling power structures in planning processes and planning outcomes should develop a keen analytical interest in cartographic expressions of spatial policy. Especially in comparative planning research, analysing the style of spatial images in different spatial planning traditions – and the reasons for these differences – is a promising avenue to pursue to better understand how spatial planning systems function and perform.

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