Strategic incrementalism of Lahti master planning

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


The paper contributes to the recent theoretical debate on the dialectics between strategic spatial planning and statutory land-use planning (Albrechts & Balducci 2013; Mäntysalo et al. 2015; Tuomisaari 2017; Kanninen 2017) by reviewing the specific policy of strategic master planning developed in the city of Lahti, Finland. The Lahti case exemplifies the capability of using the highly regulative instruments of Finnish statutory master planning in a strategic manner, even though these instruments lack the characteristics associated with strategic spatial planning, such as visionary selectivity, action orientation, relational spatiality and orientation towards uncertainty. To understand this capability, the focus has to be uplifted from the characteristics of the master plans themselves produced in Lahti to how the making of these plans is framed in an ongoing broader policy of strategic development of the city. In Lahti, an iterative system of strategic planning has been developed, connecting the processes of overall city strategy-making with master planning in council term cycles, backed by a continuously updated system of survey and monitoring datasets and procedures for public participation. Through this policy, a new incremental master plan is produced every four years, fixing certain land uses in a short term in a regulative and absolute manner, while the policy itself provides the broader strategic framing for these “increments”, with an action-oriented view on longer term uncertainty and relationality. The Lahti case study thus exemplifies how strategic spatial planning is rather an issue of planning policy than individual plans (cf. Friedmann et al. 2004; Faludi 2000).
Period10 Jul 201814 Jul 2018
Event titleAESOP Annual Congress: Making Space for Hope
Event typeConference
LocationGothenburg, SwedenShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • strategic spatial planning, land-use planning, policy, Finland