Making things irreversible. Object stabilization in urban planning and design

Based on a detailed reconstruction of the planning process of a controversial major building in the Dutch city of Groningen, we develop a theoretical and conceptual framework for studying object formation and stabilisation. We argue that the many forms of resistance against the object itself triggered a variety of counter-strategies of object formation. We make a distinction between sites, paths and techniques of object formation. To study object formation in more detail we distinguish three techniques: reification, solidification and codification. The techniques of object formation are accompanied by three techniques that produce a relative stability of the object, that increases its irreversibility, the likelihood of object survival: objectification, naturalisation and institutionalisation. We conclude that complete irreversibility is an illusion in governance and planning processes.

Article published in GEOFORUM: