Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

What Drives Planning in a Shrinking City? Tales from Two German and Two American Cases

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

What Drives Planning in a Shrinking City? Tales from Two German and Two American Cases

Article excerpt


Urban shrinkage and economic downsizing in structurally weak areas - e.g. in old industrialised 'rust belts' or in peripheral rural areas - are most commonly symptoms of transformations that can be observed both in Europe and the US (Pallagst and Wiechmann, 2005). As mentioned in the introduction to this thematic issue, many cities around the globe have to deal with the challenges of long-term demographic and economic changes. However, the extent and spatial distributions of population decrease differ significantly between Europe and the US. In Germany, declining birth rates and the effects of the German reunification are the main triggers of shrinkage. In addition, the West German and East German contexts need to be distinguished, as the massive wave of shrinkage affected East Germany starting with the German reunification. In the US, shrinkage can usually be attributed to post-industrial transformations related with a long-term industrial transformation process due to the decline of manufacturing industries (Pallagst, 2008).

On an international scale, it is still not clear if and how planning paradigms, planning systems, planning strategies and planning cultures are changing when shrinkage and decline are taking place. This paper investigates how planning is transformed in view of shrinking cities. For this purpose, the paper introduces four cities' storylines framed by shrinkage. A particular focus lies on the question if and how dealing with decline and shrinkage led to changes in urban planning and brought about different planning styles. The research presented here sets a basis for identifying traces of paradigm shifts, and possible changes in planning systems, planning styles, and planning cultures by means of comparative, evidence-based urban research. Yet, planning cultures is a new domain when it comes to evidence-based research, as in the field of comparative planning studies there is no systematic conceptual framework (Othengrafen, 2010, 86). Moreover, international comparative work on the topic of planning cultures is lacking a concise methodology (Fürst, 2009). In this respect, the paper combines the topics shrinking cities and planning cultures in a research approach that is new and experimental.

Identifying changes in planning for shrinking cities: defining an analytical frame

The policies and strategies applied when it comes to dealing with shrinkage are manifold. An interesting fact is that how shrinkage is perceived and accepted largely influences the choice of planning approaches in shrinking cities.

In order to investigate changing planning strategies and planning policies for shrinking cities, the correlation between perception and strategies might be helpful. In search of this correlation, the authors merged two typologies for shrinking cities: one based on phases of perceptions of shrinkage (Farke, 2005, 179), the other based on types of strategies (Danielzyk et al., 2002, 25). Farke's typology suggests four stages of perceptions of shrinkage: 'ignoring', 'observing without acceptance', 'certain acceptance', and 'acceptance'. Danielzyk et al. describe the following typologies: 'decline as vicious circle', 'expansive strategy', 'maintenance strategy', and 'planning for decline'. Interestingly, both typologies correspond with each other, as displayed in Figure 1. Nevertheless, since shrinkage is a very complex problem, it is difficult to distinguish sharply between planning strategies and underlying perceptions (see Figure 1).

In order to investigate how planning is changing in view of shrinking cites, the authors turned to the research sphere of planning cultures. Research work by Othengrafen (2010) specified the criteria for defining planning cultures. Table 1 distinguishes the following criteria:

* general context displays the basis of a planning culture comprising more general understandings;

* planning context displays the values and beliefs of the planning profession;

* planning toolset refers to the strategies and applications at hand. …

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