Great Problems, Great Minds Seminar Series: ‘Planning With Extended Urbanization—Elements of a Strategic Spatial Planning Vocabulary’

Join the Social Sciences Colloquium at the Department of Social Sciences for this Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series event featuring guest speaker Nicholas A. Phelps, a professor and chair of urban planning and associate dean international at The University of Melbourne, who will give a presentation on “Planning with Extended Urbanization: Elements of A Strategic Spatial Planning Vocabulary.” This seminar will take place on Wednesday, February 14, from 5–6:15 p.m. over Zoom.


The seminar is to anchor a facet of planning theory in a language for, and examples of, purposeful planning with the relational complexities of the extended urban forms that characterize our urban age. The challenge is one of the conceptual repertories—strategic spatial planning being better attuned to the extant realities of patterns of extended urbanization. The concepts this presentation suggests as part of additions to the strategic spatial planning conceptual vocabulary are: (i) ‘white space’ regions; (ii) edges; (iii) boundary objects; (iv) interstices; and (v) coalescence. This talk seeks to elaborate them as both theoretically and practically meaningful concepts. In conclusion, this presentation notes how, in their relationality, these elements of a new vocabulary signal how questions of the physical arrangement of settlements—the questions of what goes where and how—cannot be divorced from consideration of urban social relations and questions of for whom and why what goes where.


Nicholas A. Phelps is a professor and chair of urban planning, associate dean international, and faculty member of Architecture Building and Planning at The University of Melbourne. He previously was a professor of urban and regional development at the Bartlett School of Planning and pro vice provost regional (Southeast Asia) at University College London (UCL). His research interests cover the geography of urban economic agglomeration and the planning and politics of suburbanization. He is the author of Sequel to Suburbia (MIT Press), Interplaces (Oxford University Press), and The Urban Planning Imagination (Polity Press), as well as over 100 international peer-reviewed articles. His research has been funded by the British Academy, the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council, National Geographic, The Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Town Planning Institute, and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, among others. He presently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Planning LiteratureJournal of Urban AffairsEconomic GeographyJournal of Economic Geography, and Urban Geography. He gained a bachelor’s degree (Hons) and a Ph.D. degree in geography from UCL and Newcastle University, respectively.

“Planning with Extended Urbanization: Elements of A Strategic Spatial Planning Vocabulary” is part of the Social Sciences Colloquium of the Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series which explores the major problems facing humanity as we move into the heart of the twenty-first century. To see the full schedule and videos from previous events, visit the seminar series page.

For more information, contact Associate Professor of Social Sciences Hao Huang at