Professur für Internationale Planungssysteme

wissenschaftlicher Hintergrund des Workshops

The idea for the workshop is based on the observation that differing institutional and cultural conditions have brought about spatial planning systems that show basic comparable features; however, these planning systems are tailored to specific cultural, normative, and spatial situations. Despite the growing demand for an international viewpoint in urban and regional planning, “planning cultures” is not an established research topic in the sphere of urban and regional development. However, recently the topic seems to be on the rise as a discourse in planning. Interest in the topic planning cultures may be fuelled by the so called “cultural turn in planning” (Soja, 1999; Knieling and Othengrafen, 2009b), emphasizing the role of culture in spatial planning, and thus recognizing the impact of culture on spatial planning’s international comparative research component. In particular, the growing demand for carrying out comparative research projects in the frame of EU’s Community Initiatives, such as INTERREG, makes clear that planning culture is a component which is deeply embedded in a nation’s planning system, and thus needs to be considered in any comparative spatial research (Fürst, 2009).

Current debates show a rising awareness that several cities in Europe and the US have to deal with challenges of long-term demographic and economic changes leading to urban shrinkage associated with housing vacancies, underused infrastructure and other negative impacts (compare ongoing research work by the COST Action 0803 Cities ReGrowing smaller). Often, issues of shrinking cities were predominantly interpreted as effects of hollowing out processes of the urban centres, triggered by suburbanization and urban sprawl. In contrast to such assumptions, overarching globalization pressures initiated decline in many American and European regions. Urban shrinkage and economic downsizing in structurally weak areas – e.g. in old industrialized ‘rust belts’ or in peripheral rural areas – are most commonly symptoms of societal transformations that can be likewise observed in Europe and the US (Pallagst and Wiechmann, 2005).

However, extent and spatial distributions of population decrease differ significantly between Europe and the US. In Germany the situation is driven by declining birth rates and the effects of 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 the manufacturing industry (Pallagst, 2008).

In view of the shrinking cities reality in planning, one has to ask if the one-sided focus on growth in planning is over. Pallagst and Wiechmann (2005) hypothesize that planning for shrinking cities does not work under the preconditions of urban growth, but requires a paradigm shift somewhat different from growth. The challenge of shrinking cities seems to have the potential to trigger change in planning cultures, which makes the workshop theme a timely and necessary topic.

The workshop theme places shrinking cities in a global perspective setting the context for in-depth investigations in the USA and in Germany. The discourse provided at the workshop considers specific cultural, social, economic, and legal issues.

In preparation of the workshop four case studies will be investigated: two cities from Germany (Zwickau and Kaiserslautern), and two cities from the USA (Flint/MI and Youngstown/OH). These case studies are carried out jointly in Spring 2012 by Prof. Pallagst’s team at IPS, giving three young researchers the opportunity to work jointly on the preparation of the workshop, and on setting the stage for high profile discussions with experienced researchers.

The choice of cities is based on the following characteristics: All cities are comparable in size, all cities have applied strategies to counteract shrinkage, and three of them share a history of auto manufacturing. Zwickau (95,000 inhabitants), a post-industrial/post-socialist city located in the eastern part of Germany, has gained popularity as a traditional auto-manufacturing city. The city’s strategic approach towards shrinkage is embedded in the Federal Government’s program “Rebuilding the City East”. The city Kaiserslautern (100,000 inhabitants), located in the western part of Germany, has an ongoing history of shrinkage reaching back to the 1970s. The city has been largely dependent on manufacturing industries and the military sector, which have disappeared or are on the verge of being shut down during the ongoing economic recession (e.g. a General Motors plant, operating under the German auto manufacturer label Opel). Both cities display an array of strategies, such as redevelopment, greening, and promoting substitute industries, which qualify them as cases for investigating shrinking cities and planning cultures.

Flint, Michigan, (112,000 inhabitants) is a single-industry based town which has suffered from economic decline triggered by layoffs in the auto industry (General Motors operates several plants in the city). In 2009 the city made media headlines with its downsizing and land banking strategy to tackle shrinkage in a way that is rather new for the US planning realm. Youngstown, Ohio, (72,000 inhabitants), a former steel town, has been one of the forerunners in the US regarding an active embrace of urban shrinkage. Both cities demonstrate wide-ranging strategic approaches regarding shrinkage processes, and thus can be considered appropriate testing grounds for changing planning cultures.

The preliminary case study research comprises analyzing documentation, archival records, and planning documents regarding planning and rebuilding activities in the case study cities.

The workshop will set a stage for discussing knowledge on shrinking cities and planning cultures gained so far in the respective case studies and their changes in planning cultures, and in particular investigate possibilities for cutting-edge future oriented research work based on shrinking cities and innovative planning tools.


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