CANactions
Swiss urban planning:
to find the dynamic elements
of urban development

Interview with Philippe Cabane
Swiss urban planning: to find the dynamic elements of urban development
Interview with Philippe Cabane
Philippe Cabane is an urban planner from Switzerland, a scientific researcher at ETH Zurich, experienced in cooperative and participative urban design projects. In the interview for CANactions Philippe Cabane discussed the features of Swiss urban planning, the role of communities in the transformation of territories, as well as the relevant tasks of the specialists in the field of urban development.
CANactions: How do you see your main professional mission?

Philippe: I am not an architect, I am an urban planner with a sociological background. I work on urban design projects in the team with architects. My mission is, in general, to design programs and strategies to activate urban life in developing аreas with a focus on the important per groups for urban change.

How could you define the specific of Swiss urban planning?

Swiss planning is dominated by a mentality of local autonomy and a high level of participation in planning processes. That makes it difficult to plan big scale projects. The political territories of the cities are quite small and their autonomy quite high. Because of the permanent danger of referendum by the citizens against urban projects we have a high level of participation of the people in planning processes. This is very expensive and wastes a lot of time. In practice, there is one positive aspect. We don't make mistakes as big as other countries. But we also don't take any risks. That makes it a little boring. But in general, I observe a lack of planning culture and self-reflection.

What single words would you use to describe your projects?

My work consists in the creation of physical, economic or social frames to make it possible, that those groups, that are important for sustainable and dynamic development, may realize their creative ideas.
What do you take from traditional urban design to your contemporary practice?

There is not to much urban design culture in Switzerland. Maybe more culture in the public dialogue. But Switzerland is famous for its sense of quality in architecture and public space design.

What do you pay most attention to when working on a project?

To find the dynamic elements of urban development. This starts always with an interdisciplinary team of planners and should be continued in multimodal cooperative development processes.

How the nature of a place and people who live there affect your approach to urban development?

The nature of a place, its morphology and particular genius issued also by the social milieu may be a central aspect of every urban development. Every urban change will bring new social groups in an urban area. One of my main topics is, how to create a habitat of mostly small scale local activities together with big scale urban developments.
Text: Olena Vozniak