Throughout my life as an active planner, I have focussed my attention on places, their identity, their history and people, and their political and economic environment. For me places are more important than planning theories, more important than Zeitgeist approaches to the development of cities and regions. Places refl ect the cultures and values of those who live and work there, and they determine the actions of those who plan or guide their spatial development. Places are made and defended by people who speak a local language when they defend the spaces they love. Places are embedded in cultural traditions, in art and craft environments, which refl ect the past but also show pathways into the future. I identify places by their images, both positive and negative. They may be images of historic monuments or iconic buildings, of waterfronts or spectacular hillside locations, of skylines and townscapes, of boulevards and parks or of war-demolished city centres, deserted ruins and even obsolete brownfi elds. Wherever I have lived and worked, whether on shorter or longer assignments-and my passion for planning took me to many places around the globe-I tried somehow to identify with them and address their challenges, as I perceived them. I have lived and worked in Augsburg, Munich, Stockholm, Paris, Vienna, Bangkok and Potsdam, and more recently in Taiwan and China, though most of my professional life I spent in the Ruhr, that old industrial region which is still struggling to fi nd a new post-industrial identity after the demise of its coal mining and steel production. For shorter periods of time, I also lived and worked in other places in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North and South America, before retiring to Potsdam, where I live in winter, and nearby Templin, where I live in summer, and where I enjoy life with my second wife, Wang Fang, a Chinese citizen from Beijing.