In this paper, we reflect on the role of concepts in spatial planning as reproductive devices of discursive configurations. In contrast to instrumentalist interpretations of spatial concepts, we start from the idea that spatial planning concepts are inherently political. Building on post-structuralist strands of thought, we discuss the theoretical concepts of “empty signifier” and “master signifier” and instead, after analysis, put forward “open concepts”, in order to grasp the richness of meanings and functions of seemingly vague concepts. This manoeuvre allows us to analyse the trajectory and performance of the spatial concept of the “innovation campus” in the Netherlands. This, in turn, opens the door to an analysis of planning concepts as crystallization points and enablers of discursive configurations. The Dutch innovation campus is shown to be a result of a confluence of various national and international discourses, an open concept, flexible enough to enable the continuation of the planning game within the familiar set of coordinates. Because of the particular set of expectations associated with the innovation campus, promising structural change, it is bound to produce disappointment.
Kooij, H. J., van Assche, K., & Lagendijk, A. (2014). Open Concepts as Crystallization Points and Enablers of Discursive Configurations: The Case of the Innovation Campus in the Netherlands. European Planning Studies, 22(1), 84-100. https://doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2012.731039