Workshop Report: Spatial Strategies at the Land-Sea Interface, Hamburg, September 2019

Spatial Strategies at the Land-Sea Interface: Rethinking Maritime Spatial Planning – Hamburg September 2019: A Workshop Report

A three-day workshop on spatial planning at the land-sea interface took place at Hamburg University, Institute for Geography from 11-13th September. The workshop took place under the umbrella of the Marine Spatial Planning Research Network and the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Thematic Group on Transboundary Spaces, Planning Cultures and Policy Diffusion. It explicitly sought to the bring together these two academic communities engaged with spatial planning at sea and on land respectively. In this spirit, Prof. Simin Davoudi (Newcastle University, UK) provided the opening keynote, introducing the concept of spatial imaginaries as way of coming to grips with taken-for-granted geographies of the coast. This conceptual introduction was followed by three papers providing reflections on current practices in MSP research and policy in Poland, Denmark and the UK.

On the second day, the themes of the opening keynote were taken up one again with a paper by Cormac Walsh (Hamburg University) on current governance practices at the Wadden Sea coast of the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Subsequently, Lodewijk Abspoel (Dutch Ministry for Water and Infrastructure Development) and Eric-Jan Pleijster (LOLA Landscape Architects, Rotterdam) discussed two innovative spatial visions from the Dutch North Sea context, the North Sea Spatial Agenda 2050, and the 2200 Plan B spatial vision produced by LOLA.

Spatial Agenda_small

North Sea Spatial Agenda 2050: Key Diagram

The final day of the workshop opened with a keynote by architect and independent researcher Claudia Bode (THING Research Collective), who discussed how marine space is mapped and represented and importantly to what ends. Provocatively, she challenged us to reflect on whether MSP represents more than a modernist exercise in ‘ordering’ the sea, making it legible and manageable within the logics of state administrative systems. Drawing on her practical experience in preparing marine spatial plans in Orkney, Scotland, Dr Shona Turnbull, confirmed that MSP in practice does indeed often resemble a ‘tick the box’ exercise, in a context of bureaucratic overload and limited resources. Her insights, however, also indicated that there are opportunities for substantial community engagement, to connect with the lived experience of an island region where the sea is omnipresent and boundaries between the terrestrial and the marine exist only on maps. The event successfully brought together interdisciplinary perspectives on the governance challenges associated with spatial strategy-making at the land-sea interface. Perhaps most evident is a shared recognition that addressing land-sea interactions requires much more than technical solutions. Spatial planning at sea and the at the coast is an act of place-making in a complex dynamic environment.

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