Planning competitions as tools towards sustainable community development: A critical case study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Planning cities and communities is a complex task, which requires knowledge from and interaction between the multiple disciplines involved. In the recent decades, the task has become even more complicated and demanding due to the challenges posed by environmental and climate change. A lot is yet to be solved in order to fully understand sustainability of communities, and new solutions and innovations are needed. Planning competition is a specific tool which can be used in exploring transformative solutions and creating knowledge for sustainable community development. In this thesis, the instrumentality of planning competitions in generating solutions to promote sustainable community development is investigated. The thesis is framed by case studies of two planning competitions: the Ylläs competition for a new resort community, and the Sibbesborg competition for sustainable community development. With the help of the case study data it is examined how appropriately the competition entries responded to the demands and goals of the competition briefs. A key observation is that the tool itself, the planning competition, creates restrictions to what can be solved with it. Within the competition practices, intrinsic mismatches were found. Further examination suggests that planning competitions are dominated by the traditions of the architectural profession, and thus effective, multidisciplinary collaboration becomes crippled. Other professionals may not be familiar with visual tools as methods of knowledge production. Therefore, they are at risk of receiving a secondary role in a collaborative and multidisciplinary design team. The results of this study include suggestions on how competition practices need to be reformed in order to better respond to the demand of transdisciplinary knowledge production. Moreover, the results imply that similar difficulties may be experienced beyond competitions; within the practice of urban planning.
Translated title of the contributionSuunnittelukilpailut välineenä kohti kestäviä yhdyskuntia – Kriittinen tapaustutkimus
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Mäntysalo, Raine, Supervising Professor
  • Staffans, Aija, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-3911-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3912-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • planning competition
  • sustainable community
  • design tool
  • knowledge production
  • multidisciplinary collaboration
  • transdisciplinarity


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