Shrinking Cities

Throughout history, cities have experienced cyclical periods of construction and destruction according to different population needs, economic growth/decline, immigration/emigration, war, disease and natural disasters.  Urban morphology is often defined by these periods of growth and decline, both of which leave traces in the physical manifestation of a city.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, 350 cities worldwide suffered a decrease in population.  The United Nations predicts that for the next 100 years the growth rate of the world’s population will markedly decrease compared to the population increase seen in the twentieth century.  Depopulation in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is having a profound impact on city form and function, including increased urban fragmentation and perforation; social segregation; public and private disinvestment; decreased social creativity and innovation; reduced accessibility to education, health services and employment; and changes to the urban ecological function.

As a consequence of the Shrinking Cities phenomenon, researchers and practitioners are increasingly exploring the concept and promise of an Expanding Landscape within cities.  This expanding landscape includes the patchwork of abandoned, vacant, or underutilised properties that are just one consequence of depopulation. This unintended “production” of voids can be considered an opportunity with multiple modes of expression.

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