The Handbook on Shrinking Cities addresses the fundamentals of urban shrinkage, exploring its causal factors, the ways in which planning strategies and policies are steered, and innovative solutions for revitalising shrinking cities. It analyses the multidimensional phenomena involved in processes of urban shrinkage, where cities experience a dramatic decline in their economic and social bases.
The contributions to this book showcase a wide range of perspectives on the ongoing challenges of urban shrinkage, grouped in four sections: ‘conceptualising’, ‘governance’, ‘greening’ and ‘right-sizing’, and ‘regrowth’. Leading experts in the fields of urban and regional development contribute novel ideas pertinent to the future of shrinking cities, considering factors such as economic prosperity, liveability, social stability, and innovation, ultimately representing a paradigmatic shift from growth-centred planning to the notion of ‘shrinking sustainably’.
The book examines the making of temporary commoning ventures under conditions of crisis, using as a case study alternative grassroots experiences that have emerged in Greece during the last decade: occupied squares, solidarity clinics and pharmacies, cooperatives, workers’ collectives, solidarity food structures and self-organised refugee camps. It addresses issues of organisation, expansion, closure, openness, subjectivity, trust and motivation in commoning endeavours and explores the transformative potential of these experiences for individuals, groups, local societies and even large-scale formations such as countries.
The book develops an original theoretical framework called “the liminal commons” to approach these issues. It draws a parallel between the rituals of passage observed by anthropologists in archaic societies, in which participants went through a phase of liminality, and the transitional dynamics of the new commons. It argues that ephemeral commons can act as modern rituals of transition, whereby people and collectives who, on account of the crisis, have lost their core identity search for and form new identities. The liminal commons are transitional forms of commoning that do not aspire to endure for long but rather facilitate transitions. Yet, despite their short lives, they can have considerable transformative potential from the level of the individual to the macro level of society.
Angelos Varvarousis is an urban planner and Senior Researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. He is the co-director of the International Master's Programme "Degrowth: Ecology, Economics, Policy".
Enough! insists there is enough for all. Creating such a future is not about producing more or living with less. Instead, it starts with rethinking our politics, economics and approach to livelihoods. Mary Lawhon and Tyler McCreary develop a "modest approach" to justice and sustainability, drawing across ecology and postcolonial theory, as well as their research on infrastructure in African cities and the Canadian north. The authors chart a pathway beyond modernist and arcadian environmentalisms, emphasizing uncertainty while holding onto hope for creating better worlds. The chapters tack between conceptual contours, concrete examples, proposed inventions, and personal narrative. Theorizing from the struggles of the global south and Indigenous peoples, Enough! proposes delinking livelihoods from work through a redistributive basic income. A UBI enables enough without overreliance on modern states. It also enables us to prevent conflicts over jobs, reduce some types of production, and deploy resources towards building postcapitalist worlds.
Mary Lawhon is a Senior Lecturer of Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh. My research interests include urban political ecology and theorising from cities in the global south.
How did Amsterdam become a middle-class city in four decades? Next to the impacts of gentrification, this book charts the electoral dynamics, policies and politics that have underpinned the developments. By situating urban change in institutional context over time, this work will be of interest to geographers, sociologists and political scientists working on the politics of class, housing and urban development everywhere.
Since the 1990s, increasingly multinational modes of urban planning and architectural design have arisen, especially concerning flagship projects, prominent buildings, and places. Drawing on his recent book titled “Transnational Architecture and Urbanism: Rethinking How Cities Plan, Transform, and Learn”, Davide Ponzini presents problematic issues such as the spectacularization of the urban environment and the global circulation of similar plans and projects. He shows how architects, planners, and policy makers can critically learn from practice, cope with these and other transnational issues, and put better planning in place.
Davide Ponzini is a Full Professor of Urban Planning at Politecnico di Milano, and the director of the TAU-Lab. He has been a visiting scholar at Yale, Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, and Sciences Po and Visiting Professor at TU Munich. Co-editor (with Harvey Molotch) of the book The New Arab Urban and author of the book Transnational Architecture and Urbanism.
Bhan (2019) has recently drawn on the figure of ‘repair’ to capture the set of practices of collective life emerging in response to conditions of sustained crisis in southern urbanism. Significant in this account is the suggestion that repair is an act of immediacy and assumes a cyclical temporality.
This concept is intriguing for what it gestures to as a response to an immediate state of breakdown and as an aspiration. However, repair practices often serve to mitigate the effects of structures of inequality and, as an assemblage of practices, is variegated. It is also the work of state and private actors guided by differing notions of what requires fixing.
This paper is interested in exploring these differing yet intersecting notions of repair, by examining the case of an occupation of an abandoned hospital, in Woodstock, Cape Town. The building was occupied in 2017 by Reclaim the City (RTC), a housing justice movement, and renamed Cissie Gool House.
Although property remains a critical topic in urban studies, most research on real estate has focused on formal property markets on the global east and north. On the other hand, urban informality literature tends to privilege squatted settlements and subaltern practices over informal land markets. This study shifts the attention to more commodified forms of informal access to land and housing in the global south. It is based on empirical evidence that reveals the extent and persistency of irregular subdivisions in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, showing that informal land developers continue to thrive under conditions of economic restructuring, neoliberalism and financialization, providing not only housing for the urban poor but also a frontier of land investment.
This panel session aims to bring together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across European cities to exchange knowledge and experiences on redirecting the urban economy towards wellbeing, instead of GDP growth.The need for a new economic narrative that ultimately serves us – the people – is no longer implicit. Researchers, civil society groups and (inter)governmental organizations, such as the OECD and the Council of the European Union, embrace the idea that we need to move beyond GDP growth, towards an economy that places the inclusive and sustainable improvement of citizen's wellbeing at its heart. This implies also different ways of working in urban governance that demand more citizen-centered decision-making and bottom-up, co-creative approaches.
Together we want to inspire and cross-fertilise initiatives taken across cities and share knowledge on implementing a wellbeing economy approach that includes the design of new policy instruments and methods. For instance, our research in Amsterdam aims to develop a ‘Community Wellbeing Dashboard’ for specific neighbourhoods in co-creation with the neighbourhood residents. Such a Dashboard will display people’s wellbeing within multiple dimensions, and the interaction between these dimensions, to inform economic policy accordingly. The panel debate and interactive discussion with the participants will be centered around a few guiding questions on the key challenges and new directions for innovative solutions. For example, what can we, as policymakers, researchers, and practitioners, and as active agents of change, do to create a Wellbeing Economy?
In the last year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered new challenges in urban governance and the provision of services, as well as in the adaptation of social groups in most cities around the world. In addition, the policies of social isolation and distancing have posed enormous challenges for conducting research in urban settings, leading many researchers to explore digital methods to explain ongoing urban processes. This workhop promoted an interregional and multidisciplinary dialogue around the cities of Amsterdam and Lima, two paradigmatic and contrasting cities of the Global South and the Global North.
The activity consisted of three round tables. The first round table entitled "Urban Restructuring and Belonging before and after Covid-19 pandemic" was led by Dr. Wouter van Gent, Associate Professor at the Department of Urban Geography, Planning and International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam.
The second round table entitled "Urban Centralities, before and after the Covid-19 pandemic" was led by Dr. Paola Moschella, Associate Professor and Researcher of Urban Planning, Urban Centralities and Urban Geography of the Architecture Research Center of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru; and the third round table entitled "Informalities, housing and labor before and after Covid -19 pandemic" was led by Dr. Julio Calderon, Senior Professor at the National University of Engeniering and at the Social Sciences Department of the Univesity of San Marcos in Peru; and senior researcher with more than thirteen years of experience in urban research in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The workshop included the presentation of 10 papers by senior and junior researchers and 40 attendees from Europe and Latin America. The discussion in the roundtables revolved arround the following questions: How does the role of the state influence urban experiences similarly or differently in Amsterdam and Lima? What can researchers in Amsterdam and Lima learn in the theoretical formulation of urban dynamics from the different experiences of both cities?
This workshop was possible thanks to a seed grant from the Center for Urban Studies of the University of Amsterdam and was organized by Mirtha Lorena del Castillo, PhD candidate at the Center for Latin American Research and Documentation of the University of Amsterdam and Kelly Gómez, researcher at the Institute of Urban Territories and City of the Ponthifical Catholic University of Peru.
The goal of this project is to creatively experiment with children’s perception and experience of the urban commons. To this end, we worked with an art teacher and a film-maker, and involved children from four primary schools in Almere Poort. So far, we’ve conducted walk-along discussions and art workshops with the children.
The children’s drawings and models were analyzed using object analysis and artistic research methods, of which we will present the preliminary results to CUS. Those methods contribute to knowledge of children's perception in peri-urban areas, such as emotional safety, fun and play vs. boredom and danger, awareness of spatial changes and the ways in which they envision possibilities for development.
From the perspective of artistic research, we explore the significance of non/rationality to produce knowledge in urban planning. The analysis showed that children's neighborhood places tend to reflect adults’ values and space production and that creative output is confined without top-down intervention.
In practice, this project’s results can help urban planners and policy-makers to address urban development, with an intergenerational approach that supports co-creation of public spaces. In the next phase, the children along with a local artist will build a temporary art installation in a public, neighbourhood space.
This CUS funded project explores children’s perceptions and experiences of the urban commons through ethnographic and artistic research methods. To this end, the involved children collectively experimented with ways of opening up the public spaces in their neighbourhood to meet their needs and desires.
As a conclusion of the project, a short video summarizes the walk-along discussions, drawings, models and art workshop that have been conducted along with their results. The video has been showed in a conclusive panel discussion with researchers, artists, policy-makers, school directors and community members. By using video instead of text-based documents, the aim is to disseminate the work to a wider public.
By Francesca Ranalli, with Jade Mandrake, edited by I. Petros Samiotis
In this Urban Dialogue Session Federico Curugullo will present his new book “Frankenstein Urbanism: Eco, Smart and Autonomous Cities, Artificial Intelligence and the End of the City”.Frankenstein Urbanism is a book that tells the story of visionary urban experiments, shedding light on the theories that preceded their development and on the monsters that followed and might be the end of our cities.
The narrative is threefold and delves first into the eco-city, second the smart city and third the autonomous city intended as a place where existing smart technologies are evolving into artificial intelligences that are taking the management of the city out of the hands of humans. In this talk, the author will present the book, introduce the end of the city thesis and answer your questions.
Federico Cugurullo is Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism at Trinity College Dublin. His research is positioned at the intersection of urban geography, political philosophy and experimental urbanism, and explores how ideas of sustainability are cultivated and implemented across geographical spaces.
Olga Sezneva, Anastasiya Halauniova, and Giselinde Kuipers demonstrate new analytical possibilities that research on urban aesthetics brings. Such notions as historicity, authenticity, ‘modern-ness,’ and Europeanness of urban built environments appear at the frontstage of negotiations over what, indeed, deserves care, emotional investments, and financial resources. Drawing on the results of their case-studies in cities that underwent total population transfer and occupation after the WWII, Olga, Anastasiya, and Giselinde address urban professionals’ and inhabitants’ preoccupation with architectural aesthetics and examine how the appeal of some of urban spaces — their perceived ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ — turn to acquire its immediate relevance for people. In the presentation, they foreground methodological and theoretical intricacies of studying people’s practices of evaluating and substantiating their aesthetic claims in order to call for the scholarly attention towards the growing role that aesthetics plays globally.
Sociological perspectives in Urban Studies, it is argued is enmeshed in evolutional theory, from rural-agrarian to urban-industrial. It also equates urbanization with the spatial form of the city. Consequently, the study of cities becomes studies of urbanization and of modernity. Alternatively, the study of cities in the South become studies of slums. In what way does the postcolonial and decolonial perspectives help to deconstruct and present alternatives to such social theorising?
After distinguishing between the postcolonialism and decolonial perspectives, this presentation will use the Indian case to argue how postcolonial deconstruction opens up a new way of thinking of categories of ‘rural’ and ‘urban’. It suggests that scholars have not given enough attention to comprehend the uneven processes of urbanization that occur in the periphery of the world system wherein the ‘rural-agrarian’ combines with the growth of low-end service economies within towns and cities to provide informalized employment for a large mass of the population.
It raises the question whether studying cities/slums in the periphery helps in understanding urbanization and if not, what does one study? I will argue the study of labour may help to comprehend both global capitalist connections, unevenness and stagnation that occur today. This presents a challenge to the field of urban studies which needs to be interdisciplinary and examine the urban at it moves through many geographies. I give examples from India to explain the above points.
What if we could easily offer our education and research output to a much wider audience? What are possible pathways to support people around the world with structured courses? And how can we generate more visibility for our research and teaching products? With those questions in mind, we have started to develop so called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform in the last two years.
At first, we thought that we needed to find the funds to develop well-designed content. But after months of trying to find financial support, we decided to make a MOOC based on open access materials: academic articles, newspaper items and YouTube video's. We spend our own time mostly in curating this into a consistent course and in adding assignments, MC quizzes and short introductions (in on-street interview style).
In 2020 that resulted in running three MOOCs with a similar setup: Unravelling the Cycling City, Reclaiming the Street, and Alternative Mobility Narratives with now over 11.000 students from more than 130 countries and received high ratings. This year we will develop a fourth one (Smart Cycling Futures) and we have now secured some support and funding to further work on supervising and supporting the community. Also, we look for ways to use the MOOCs to enrich our on-site teaching. During our talk, we will give you a view behind the scenes and hope to inspire you to also think about such development.
Common mental health disorders (depression and anxiety) are a worldwide epidemic and there is no evidence that the epidemic is subsiding. Depression is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease (WHO). Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression. Psychological and pharmacological treatments are effective treatments but only for half of treated patients. Further, relapse rates in depression after remission are unacceptably high.
Evidence for leading theories that explain the onset and maintenance of depression is fragmented. Whereas, depression is seen as a disorder that is caused by interplay of mental-, biological, stress related- and societal factors that can change over time characterised by large individual differences. One of the main research challenges is to understand the causal interplay between these factors in order to explore new targets for prevention and treatment. In this talk a multidisciplinary project is presented on how complexity modelling tools successfully can be applied and explored to understand the onset and maintenance of common mental health disorders like depression in order to explore new targets for prevention and treatment.
Since 2018, a group of Amsterdam Zuidoost expert-citizens are collaborating with municipal partners to produce a 55 HA urban food forest in already designed parcels of public space greens. Amidst contestation and unclear routes to institutional mandate, this institutionally diverse community of practice is co-establishing an experimental governance infrastructure driven by multispecies interrelations that give primacy to care for the ‘natural world’.
In Urban Dialogue #5 Debra Solomon describes this case study project and her PhD research which enquires how producing an urban food forest can contribute to extending the right to the city as a right to urban natures. Based on this case study – and a decade-plus of critical spatial practice, Solomon is developing 'multispecies urbanism' as a research terrain. Proposed as a means to survive ongoing crises of democracy, planetary climate catastrophe and uneven resource distribution, multispecies urbanism proposes methods, values and domains that centre ‘more-than-human’ inhabitants – and engage human inhabitants in multispecies communities.
This new urban planning and urban design paradigm is only now beginning to take shape in municipal practice and in long-term action research projects such as the Amsterdam Zuidoost Food Forest. Short bio Debra Solomon is an artist-researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam in the department of Urban Planning and with the PhD group Designing Urban Experience.
Both Solomon's critical spatial practice and academic research ask how to produce urban natures for and with the people that require them and how groups from civil society might collaboratively engage in the production of a democratically landscaped public space. In 2019 she introduced the term multispecies urbanism to describe urban development driven by multispecies interrelations that give primacy to the care of the 'natural world'. Solomon’s PhD research is supervised by professors Caroline Nevejan (Chief Science Officer Municipality of Amsterdam, Cultural Sociology) and Maria Kaika (Dept. of Urban Planning, director of the Centre for Urban Studies) at the University of Amsterdam's AISSR.
Currently, the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most important indicator of the performance of the economy and employment. However, this indicator says little about what economic growth or decline means for our society. Moreover, it stimulates an urban economy in which more growth instead of human wellbeing is central. Even in periods of growth (as well as in decline), inequality has been increasing for decades.
The assumption that economic growth automatically has positive consequences for all kinds of groups in society has not proven true for years. To pursue an economy in which the wellbeing of everyone is the goal, we need to rethink our economy, governing frameworks and other measuring ‘tools’ that monitor the development of a wider range of indicators. These indicators need to be integrally connected to the municipal budgets and instruments. If not, alternative indicators will not be used in the daily practice of urban policy and planning. To that end, this projects aims to develop a wellbeing index – and an accompanying “dashboard” that can be used to guide and monitor policy. It is embedded in an integrated trade-off framework and new vision of the economy. More specifically, it aims to develop indicators (at the level of households, individuals, neighbourhoods and the city) that are in line with daily practice and urban policy, audit institutions and citizen perceptions, and; provides a broader set of indicators for government, businesses and civil society to look ahead and back.
In the third edition of the Urban Dialogue Series, David Evers presented the ESPON project ‘Sustainable Urbanization Practices in European Regions’ (SUPER). This project sought to measure land use changes in Europe and provide recommendations on how to make this more sustainable.
It used mixed methods for this: quantitative analyses of land cover data for 2000-2018, land-allocation modelling for the 2050 scenarios, surveys to collect examples of interventions and their effects, and eleven in-depth case studies to understand land development practices. In addition to the evidence base, the project also produced a Guide to sustainable urbanization for policymakers, which is now being applied in Lithuania and Croatia. Finally, SUPER wishes to reframe the European debate through its use of concepts and terminology: using ‘urbanization’ instead of ‘land take’ and by viewing urban form as a continuum from compact to diffuse rather than (not) sprawl.
European cities call for improved connections between science and policy as they are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on their cities. As global urbanization continues, the role of cities in tackling today’s global challenges also grows.
Cities call to improve the relevancy of European research for their challenges, ranging from health to climate and socioeconomic issues. An extensive report called ‘City Science for Urban Challenges’, based on the experiences of 35 cities collaborating within the European City Science Initiative, published on behalf of the City of Amsterdam and 5 leading cities, describes the needs that cities have to make better use of available research. One of the findings of the report is that public administrations and science do not always effectively collaborate.
Cities ask for more support in translating the findings of European research into applicable solutions. Cities also have issues with the availability of data. The absence of attention in the EU for local data on COVID-19 is just one example where the lack of data is seriously impacting the possibility to make fact-based policies. This is especially important in times of crisis. The cities call for stronger supporting instruments to improve cooperation between themselves, universities and the Commission and to improve the uptake of research on the local level. Find the report here.
Charalampos Tsavdaroglou and Maria Kaika bring to the fore two parallel processes concerning the refugees’ housing situation in Greece, during the covid-19 pandemic. On the one hand they critically reflect on the state policies of campization that involve hyper-isolation and neglect for refugee housing. On the other hand they explore commoning practices of self-care by refugees who claim their right to adequate housing. Contextualizing these two conflicting and interrelated processes, they propose the notion of refugees “carescapes” against state policies of fencing and marginalization.
Hidden among the mountains north of Beijing, a Wild West-themed gated community promises to deliver the American dream to its several thousand Chinese residents. In Americaville, Annie Liu escapes China’s increasingly uninhabitable capital city to pursue happiness, freedom, romance, and spiritual fulfilment in the town; only to find the American idyll harder to attain than what was promised to her. A documentary about Chinese suburbanisation and the move back to the countryside. Tonight we'll speak about this and the documentary with a.o. director Adam Smith James.
In Americaville, we spend an eventful 2 years in Jackson Hole with characters who set out to live their interpretation of the American dream, only to find it fraught with unexpected complications. After widespread criticism from the Chinese media and feeling pressure from new breeds of nationalism radiating out from both the Chinese and American governments, the community becomes split between those who cling to the American dream and those who seek to reclaim their Chinese national identity within this idyll.
Adam James Smith is an award-winning, US-based filmmaker originally from the United Kingdom. His films focus on the expression of identity in urban China and include The Land of Many Palaces (2015) co-directed with Song Ting, on the “ghost city” of Ordos, Inner Mongolia and his first solo-feature, Americaville (2020) on an American Wild West-themed community in Beijing’s suburbs. Adam holds degrees from Stanford and Cambridge, the latter of which he is currently an Affiliated Filmmaker at the university’s Visual Anthropology Lab.
Tjalling Valdés Olmos is a PhD Candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research within the ERC-funded project ‘Rural Imaginations’ examines how the US rural is represented across popular culture, and which effects of globalization are made in/visible in these imaginations. His work specifically engages questions surrounding the politics of representation, and pays particular attention to imaginations that entail the queer rural, the black rural, and the indigenous rural. What are his observations on Americaville?
Youqin Huang received her Ph.D. in Geography UCLA in 2001. Since then she has been a member of the Department of Geography and Planning and a Research Associate of Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) at University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). Her main research interests are housing, migration and urban development in China. She is interested in understanding the unprecedented market transition and its impact on Chinese people and places. Tonight we will talk with Youqin Huang about Chinese (sub)urbanization. What is happening? And what drives people to move to places like Americaville?
Thijs Jeursen is assistant professor at the University of Utrecht. In 2019 he defended his PhD dissertation on safety & citizenship in Miami, a research based on long term ethnographic research in the city. His research focuses on policing, institutionalized racism and urban inequalities. Thijs is writing a book on vigilant citizenship, publishes articles in academic journals and writes opinion pieces for Dutch newspapers like De Volkskrant and NRC.