Managing urban complexity: Participatory planning, self-organization and co-production of urban space

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Contemporary urban planning theories and practices are still dealing with the linear procedures and institutional sense-making. However, a new planning paradigm is emerging. The actor-based perspective acknowledges self-organizing urban development, which is able to operate apart from statutory government and decision-making. This dissertation is a longitudinal case study analysis on local urban development in Herttoniemi, Helsinki. The dissertation is based on meta-analysis of an action research, which operated with the local stakeholders for almost a decade since 2004. The aim of this dissertation is to provide theoretical and practical solutions that enhance the comprehension of urban development patterns in the Finnish context, and to explore the role of citizen engagement in urban planning. The dissertation answers the questions: What is urban complexity? What is the role of civil engagement in urban planning and development? How can e-planning enable civil engagement and urban transformation? The analysis of urban complexities indicates that the civic engagement is an advantage in planning and development initiatives. Unlike the public participation in the planning discourse, which often emphasizes conflicts, the self-organization fills in the discontinuity of the statutory processes. For example, neighbourhood activists created new public space, supported local services and maintain urban events. In addition to the self-organizing activities, mundane everyday life improved the local surroundings and nurtured the local identity, while the formal planning initiatives have been less effective to develop Herttoniemi. The dissertation suggests that urban complexity emerges due to a systemic gap: the one within planning and implementation, and the other between the planners and the local diverse realities. There are several reasons for this systemic gap. Namely, the linearity of the planning procedures and the lack of versatile planning methodology which prohibit adequate approaches to steer and feed urban transformation. Therefore, I argue that there is a need for expanded urban planning, which acknowledges the grass root level dynamics and systemic urban change, and integrates different planning approaches, including the promise of urban and community informatics in e-planning. The dissertation presents different types of urban complexity, and the means to cope with them.
Translated title of the contributionKaupungin muutos ja hallinta - osallistuvan suunnittelun ja itseorganisoituvan toiminnan välimaastossa
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Kyttä, Marketta, Supervising Professor
  • Horelli-Kukkonen, Liisa, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8701-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8702-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • urban planning and development
  • complexity
  • self-organization
  • civil engagement
  • urban change and transformation


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