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Urban Planning In Theory: The Rational Paradigm

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There are various theories that planning practitioners may use to guide their practice. Theories that form part of the rational paradigm in urban planning suggest that the process of improving the built environment should be systematic and it should be rational.

This article discusses two theories that form part of the rational paradigm of urban planning. This information would be most useful to students of environmental science.

The Blueprint Theory Of Planning

Proponents of the blueprint theory advocate for the built environment to be improved with various key spatial factors in mind. The key spatial factors referred to include the extent to which newly-built structures are directly exposed to sunlight, the direction in which vehicle traffic moves within the area of improvement and the extent to which the design and construction of residential dwellings is standardized.

In order to ensure that new structures are built with the mentioned factors in mind, the blueprint theory emphasizes the importance of involving highly skilled technicians (e.g. urban designers and architects) in the process of planning. Because a large percentage of the population often lacks the same level of skill that planning technicians have, the blueprint theory essentially limits the extent to which members of the public/community can make a meaningful contribution to the planning process through their participation.

The Synoptic Planning Theory

According to the proponents of this theory, the planning process should place emphasis on the four main elements listed below:

  • The specification of targets and objectives of the planning process
  • The adoption of quantitative analysis in the planning process
  • The identification and evaluation of alternative policy-related options in the planning process
  • The evaluation of means vs ends in the planning process

The synoptic planning theory is different from the blueprint theory of planning in the sense that it integrates public/community participation into the urban planning process.

However, proponents of this theory seemed to be of the idea that there's a single public interest in the planning process and that finding out what this interest is would require minimal participation from members of the public/community. Thus, this theory is still seen to downplay the importance of public participation in the planning process.

The rational paradigm of planning clearly has negative implications with respect to public participation in the planning process. Despite this, the rational paradigm is often considered the conventional approach to urban planning by a large number of scholars and planning practitioners alike.