Shrinking Cities, Shrinking World

Urban design for an emerging era of global population decline

Authored by: Brent D. Ryan

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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During the mid-to-late 20th century, economic and social forces caused population decline in the deindustrializing, “shrinking” cities of many developed nations, particularly in the United States, northern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. Urban designers struggled with varying degrees of success to confront problematic conditions like housing abandonment, vacant land, and disused factories. Germany, with abundant state funding and a design-oriented culture, achieved the greatest success in instituting comprehensive design strategies for its shrinking cities. Today, shrinking cities are growing in number as demographic decline resulting from income growth drives population loss in northern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as in Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, and Mediterranean Europe. Nascent urban design strategies include compact city strategies in Japan and state-led housing consolidation in China. As demographic decline spreads elsewhere in an increasingly shrinking world, novel urban design strategies will be required for an ever more diverse range of urban built environments.

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