Without vision no transition: exploring the potential of planning design studios

Patrick Witte*, M. Meijer, Peter Pelzer, Iris Veenvliet, Lieke Vermeulen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportReportAcademic


Representations of the future – plans, visions, scenarios – guide us in taking complex decisions in the present. In our current day and age, we face multiple societal challenges, for example, climate, ecology, and social exclusion. This makes long-term thinking more relevant than ever. However, this core idea of spatial planning as a future-oriented discipline seems to have been eroding over the years. We teach our students to critically assess what is and not so much what could be or should be. The educational format of planning design studios trains long-term thinking and students' imaginative capabilities in an experiential, real-life setting. In this contribution, we evaluate 25 years of planning studios at Utrecht University.

This essay reviews the history and discusses adaptations in course design and -objectives, student involvement and -experience, and teachers' evaluations over the years. We position these empirical impressions against a brief comparison of the 'Utrecht model' with studio exercises at planning schools of other Dutch universities. We discuss whether planning studios as a form of real-life, experiential learning still succeed in triggering the long-term thinking abilities of students. We scrutinize to what extent students are still capable of thinking so far ahead and summarize both the bottlenecks and enablers for an educational environment in which long-term thinking can flourish. We suggest that the biggest challenge to fostering long-term thinking is not so much the potential of studios but rather their decreasing importance as an integrative course in the curriculum design, which may limit the efficiency of training the futures literacy of planning students.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameEssay Series 'Transitions in Planning': challenges of the 21th century for Dutch spatial planning


  • education
  • spatial planning
  • planning studios
  • futuring
  • experiential teaching


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