(February 2011) Spatial planning, institutional diffusion and the politics of space in Albanian cities after Socialism

Spatial planning, institutional diffusion and the politics of space in Albanian cities after Socialism image

The collapse of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe after 1989 gave way to remarkable changes on a political, economic and social level, with a direct impact on the cities of the region. The investigation on the Albanian cities, in particular, along with their historical and spatial specificities offers useful insights into the ‘southeast European city’, the ‘post-socialist city’ and the ‘less developed city’, and more generally into the contemporary city in a global context. The research uses the notion of ‘institutional diffusion’ that refers: first to the transfer of responsibilities from the national to the local level and the administrative decentralisation; and second to the rise of multiple local and international actors in the political stage. Subsequently, the research links institutional diffusion to spatial planning, focusing besides the shift from comprehensive to strategic planning, to the new parameters for urban development as set by the introduction of the free market economy. Under this theoretical scheme, the research focuses on selected cases of spatial planning in Albania, by presenting the wide variety of studies and plans that have been elaborated, over the last years, through the cooperation of local and international actors. The examination of the case studies will develop along a tripartite structure: first, the examination of the changing context of spatial planning in Albanian cities after Socialism; namely how the planning field is set, by whom, how and on what purposes; second, the process of planning; namely the plan-making with the various actors involved and the ways that these actors interact with each other and relate to the planning processes; third, the product of planning; the outcome of the process, which is the plans themselves. The research will eventually connect the initial theoretical considerations to city-specific evidence, in order to reach conclusions. It is expected that the examination of the ways that space is regulated and planned in order to fit in the wider socio-political and economic context of the transition from the centrally planned to the free market system, will provide useful theorizations on the wider dependencies of society, economy, politics and urban space in contemporary cities. The research rests methodologically on the following pillars:

 Examination of the academic literature in fields as: the socio-political transformations in Eastern Europe after Socialism, urban politics, urban governance in the context of globalization and the new world economy, the theories of development with an emphasis on development aspects on cities of the global South, as well as contemporary theoretical approaches on urban and spatial planning.

Analysis of the relevant legal and institutional framework, including Albanian legislation on planning, land management, administration, and all the binding documents (approved urban and regulatory plans, laws, official policies).

Analysis of selected plans (as texts, maps, reports, visual material) along with their publicity in local media.

Fieldwork observation and interviews with representatives from the central government and the local authorities, international organizations, local stakeholders, and the involved consultants, experts and planning companies.

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