Which Scientific Status for Territorial Development?

Amenagement du territoire (territorial development) cannot be considered as a science, which is a coherent ensemble of knowledge based on specific concepts and on theories and developing rules proved either by a rigorous demonstration or by experimentation.

It can no more be qualified of being a technique, that is a savoir faire, a set of processes, of means, and of methods applied to an activity. Indeed, there is no controlled knowhow or tested processes. Methods used are diverse and changing and do not receive generalized recognition.

It is no more an art, which is ‘‘an ensemble of processes, of knowledge and of rules concerned with the practice of an activity or an action and aims at searching an ideal of beauty.’’ Processes and knowledge are imperfect, rules are fluctuating, and the ideal of beauty rarely reached.

It seems more careful to bring back territorial development to its character of voluntary intervention, of territorial aspect of planning. Therefore, it is a ‘praxis’ (a set of actions aiming to the same objective). It is fed less with theoretical rules or savoir faire than with empiricism. This praxis is exercise of application, execution, way of doing, and confrontation with complex and multiple realities, and hesitation.

Interventions of territorial development need many different specialists: the researcher, interdisciplinary, alone, or within a team who collects the information, analyzes the data, prepares a diagnosis, proposes a choice of alternative solutions for the future; the elected member in charge of decision by choosing between these possible solutions; the administrative official who has to implement this solution; the lawyer who translates it under juridical terms; the engineer who builds the infrastructures; and the architect who designs the buildings. Territorial development can be efficient only through continuity in action and consensus between these different actors.