The professionalization of spatial planners in Portugal

The professionalization of spatial planners in Portugal (Raquel Rego, with João Mourato)

The professional identity of spatial planners (SP) is consolidated in some European countries. However, in Portugal they emerged only in the late 1990s following the mandatory implementation of Municipal Master Plans. The ‘cognitive exclusivity’ of SP is based on hybrid educational backgrounds, thus in this ‘community of practice’ we find a mix of architects, engineers, geographers, etc. performing their role.

For over two decades, professionals and occupational associations competed for the control of this field, exploring the lack of regulation, and preventing SP of having their own voice.

In 2008, the Junior Minister of Spatial Planning and Cities kicked off a process aiming to create a system of accreditation and registration (SAR) of SP putting together professional associations with self-regulating powers, voluntary associations, and experts. But, two years later, the replacement of the Junior Minister led to the freezing of the process, thus leaving free space for the revival of the conflict.

This project intends to describe the professionalization of a new (semi)profession, aiming to understand in particular the attempt of a top-down process of professionalization. This initiative reflects the challenges raised by the new knowledge composition of some occupations, and the professionalization role of state institutions guided by democratic values.