Spatial planning has become an application-oriented spatial science during the last four decades. It deals with the analysis and design of spatial structures as a sphere of human activity. Very few scientific disciplines convey such a holistic, integrative view on things by combining engineering and social-scientific approaches, ways of thinking and methods.
Today spatial planning is understood as a systematic approach to formulate decision premises for future spatially relevant actions on a supra-local level (transnational, national, statewide and regional). Among the tasks of spatial planning is the coordination of land use demands, the provision of equivalent living conditions in all regions and the development of integrated strategies for a sustainable regional development. This requires profound knowledge of spatial dynamics and planning methods as well as broad knowledge about regional structures and development processes and the important theoretical explanations. Today the traditional competence field of planning is more and more supplemented by coordination and moderation tasks in open planning processes. Therefore, methods of exploring interests and opinions, methods of information, participation and cooperation as well as methods and techniques of designing and moderating group work processes rank among the elementary competences of urban and regional planners.
Since the spatial planning programme has been established at TU Dortmund in 1968 the profound education in the field of comprehensive supra-local planning for the development, allocation and protection of space is a quality feature of the spatial planning education in Dortmund compared to other programmes. Here, the cross-sectional Department of Spatial Planning and Planning Theory has been playing a major role in the Faculty of Spatial Planning for years. A fact substantiated by the high number of theses supervised by department staff. Today the excellent competences of Dortmund graduates in the field of supra-local planning are acknowledged so that many of them found jobs in national, regional and urban administrations, in private planning offices or in project and real estate development.
The department Spatial Planning and Planning Theory represents the field in its entire thematic scope. Foci are the description of national, state and regional planning in Germany, the European spatial development policy, the restructuring of cities and regions undergoing demographic change as well as various aspects of planning theory. Besides complex analytical and methodical processes of spatial planning und strategy development, methodical knowledge in the field empirical social research and group moderation is also imparted. Geographically, Germany – especially North-Rhine Westphalia – is in the focus of teaching. Beyond that, planning systems in other countries, especially in Europe and North America are also dealt with.
Central goal of teaching is the practical impartation of fundamental knowledge about spatial analysis and spatial planning in Germany and Europe and about scientific work. Students are to understand historical relationships, which led to the characteristics of today’s planning systems and to have fundamental knowledge about sectoral planning (especially landscape planning, structural policy, transportation planning, and rural development planning). Aside from that, they should gain profound knowledge about selected aspects of spatial planning (structure and functioning of planning systems, instruments and procedures of national and regional planning, legal aspects, informal instruments, trends of settlement structures and societal conditions) and know about planning approaches and implementation instruments (planning statements, regional planning procedures, strategic environmental assessments, impact analyses, scenario techniques, evaluation methods) on different spatial levels (municipality, region, state, country, Europe). Finally the students are to be put in a position to know about essential methods of developing spatial plans and concepts (planning-methodical basics, analyzing-, creativity-, structuring-, evaluating and predicting methods) and to be able to analyze problems of spatial planning, to develop and interpret spatial plans and to assess their practical application.
Furthermore, focus is laid on teaching essential basics of planning theory (planning as a technical and political process, control and governance theories, public management, communicative and pragmatic planning theories etc.) and on the knowledge about planning systems in other countries. Moreover, techniques of project management and strategy development in complex organizations as well as goal-oriented management and moderation of communication processes are procured in a practical way, so that students are able to use them for dealing with real-life problems.