I Want to be a Planologist When I Grow Up

This summer I attended a six-week program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design called Career Discovery. It’s an intense introduction to the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning & design, loosely modeled on Harvard’s respective graduate programs. During a Q&A session with one of the faculty I asked if he could speak about job opportunities within the field of urban planning beyond that of an urban planner. He looked confused. Urban planning is a job, he seemed to say. Done by urban planners.

I might have been naive and uninformed – I might still be – but I didn’t find his answer satisfactory. My notion of urban planning, as a field, included anyone who consciously shaped the built environment. Urban planners, architects, developers, sure. But also journalists writing about how we build our cities, why, and how we might go about the process differently. Artists, too, especially those whose art is public: muralists, graffiti artists, sculptors of civic art, chalk artists. Urban planning, to me, was this vast, multifaceted field that brought together intelligent, talented practitioners from a thousand different disciplines because they were all actively engaging in the process of world-shaping. Apparently I was wrong. So I’ll call what I thought of as urban planning by its real name: planologie.

My interpretation of planologie is given a bit more depth in the about section of this blog. In short, it is a Dutch word typically translated as synonymous with urban planning. The distinction between the two, however, can be found in the etymology of their respective suffixes. –logy (or -logie), indicating a branch of knowledge, is derived from the Greek -logia, which means speech and is related to lecturing and the knowledge a lecturer must first accrue. -ing comes from Old English and denotes the continuous nature of an action. Planologie (or planology) is therefore a branch of knowledge, while urban planning is an action continuously being taken, an action within spatial planning, which is itself an action within planologie.

Why keep the Dutch spelling, instead of the Americanized version? Firstly, because I see no need to Americanize everything. The Dutch have proven to be awfully good planologists; we Americans not so much. Why change something that already works? Secondly, I just like it better that way.

So, since this is the first post of my planologie blog the question might as well be asked…why am I doing this? Good question. Because I’m new to it all, I guess. Because I’m diving in head first. Because the hundreds of articles and books I’ve been burning through excite me and I need an outlet. Because there’s too much specialization, not enough interconnection. Because our standing in this world is increasingly precarious, and it’s a safe bet that repeating our mistakes won’t dig us out of any holes. Because I want to learn. I want to explore. I want to question. I want to experiment. I want to engage. Because wordpress blogs are free.

Because I want to be a planologist when I grow up.

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One Response to I Want to be a Planologist When I Grow Up

  1. Josh,
    I concur with your statment about the s–thole we currently find ourselves in with our slash and burn planning model. I like your definition of planologie and believe you’re onto something. I say go for it full steam ahead. I hope you continue to poke, prod and provoke others to think differet about how we live and “plan” our homes, businesses, schools, streets, stores, parks, etc. The entire environment, both built and natural. Before it’s too late.

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