University of Oulu

Kaj Zimmerbauer & Anssi Paasi (2020) Hard work with soft spaces (and vice versa): problematizing the transforming planning spaces, European Planning Studies, 28:4, 771-789, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2019.1653827

Hard work with soft spaces (and vice versa) : problematizing the transforming planning spaces

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Author: Zimmerbauer, Kaj1; Paasi, Anssi1
Organizations: 1Geography research unit, University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Informa, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-02-16


This article studies spaces and spatial imageries in planning from two viewpoints. First, it discusses how contemporary planning paradigms contribute to a process that can be labelled the ‘softening of hard spaces’. This means that typically old, well-established (planning) spaces with relatively hard administrative borders become redefined and treated in planning practice as soft entities with fuzzier or more porous borders. Second, it discusses how new soft spaces — such as gateways, new cross-border supranational spaces and ad hoc regional spaces — tend to simultaneously harden through intensifying institutional practices and discourses, as well as because of the need to define what is included and excluded in such new spatial structures/networks. These two processes, the softening of hard spaces and the hardening of soft spaces, are then scrutinized in tandem, and a conceptualization of intermediary hybrid planning spaces is proposed. This conceptual opening, labelled ‘penumbral’ space/border, is then examined. The explanatory value of these arguments is demonstrated by comparing the transformation of Northern Ostrobothnia, an old, well-established region in Finland, and the mobilization of Bothnian Arc, a new soft space stretching across the Swedish-Finnish border.

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Series: European planning studies
ISSN: 0965-4313
ISSN-E: 1469-5944
ISSN-L: 0965-4313
Volume: 28
Issue: 4
Pages: 771 - 789
DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2019.1653827
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland [RELATE CoE, grant number 307348].
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 307348
Detailed Information: 307348 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2019 Taylor & Francis. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in European Planning Studies on 16 Aug 2019, available online: