Analysing Place and Place-making: Urbanization in Suburban Oslo


  • This article is an outcome of a research project entitled ‘Sociocultural Place Analysis’, parts of which have been used in Norwegian publications with limited circulation. I am grateful to Roger Keil and colleagues at my department, as well as the IJURR reviewers, for their valuable comments. I also wish to thank Frøydis Eidheim and Lene Schmidt, fellow researchers taking part in the project on which this article is based, and Aase Kristine Lundberg, who drew up the excellent map of greater Oslo. Finally, I also wish to thank the interviewees.


Despite developments within planning theory challenging the ideal of the rational master plan it may be argued that there is still use for the production of knowledge through analysis in planning. However, the cultural complexity of today's planning contexts, and a move towards governance and entrepreneurial policies, makes it difficult to make places, to achieve social welfare and sustainability. Traditionally, the analysis of places has been done by architects and planners focusing on physical form, having an essentialist perspective of place resembling the theory of genius loci. In Norway, the planning authorities refined this methodology in the 1990s. This approach is, however, not in tune with a progressive view of places as multiple and dynamic social constructions, and may be accused of ‘symbolic violence’. If one is to take this view seriously and still be able to make plans, planning must also be based on other types of knowledge. In this article I argue for a socio-cultural approach to reveal social representations and practices that make a place. I use the case of place-making in Sandvika, a suburban ‘minicity’ outside Oslo, as an example of how a constructivist understanding differs from and may supplement an essentialist approach.