In this paper we describe how adaptive planning emerges from a tradition of blueprint planning, and analyze how different forms of planning are related to the implementation of innovative urban projects. We use two concepts from complexity sciences to discuss adaptive planning versus blueprint planning, namely the concept of contingency and the concept of (dissipative) self-organization. In our paper we demonstrate that the apparent dichotomy between blueprint planning and adaptive planning might not be as strict as often assumed. Our case study Water Square Rotterdam reveals how adaptive planning can coincide with elements of blueprint planning, shaped by so-called 'situational responsive leadership', with attention for context and complexity. Based on our case study, we argue that situational responsive leadership, with a mixture of adaptive and traditional project planning elements, improves successful implementation of innovative urban projects.
Emergence: Complexity and Organization
Department of Public Administration

Bressers, N., & Edelenbos, J. (2014). Planning for adaptivity: Facing complexity in innovative urban water squares. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 16(1), 77–99. Retrieved from