Smart accessibility patterns and shrinking cities: The added value of urban design. MARCO NEGRI

Smart accessibility patterns and shrinking cities: The added value of urban design. MARCO NEGRI

150 150 Sadmira Malaj

Smart accessibility patterns and shrinking cities: The added value of urban design. MARCO NEGRI

DOI: 000-000
SKU: 2959-4081

Author: Marco Negri
Affiliation: Ferrara University

During these last decades, the shrinkage of cities has become a major urban issue, a process caused by many factors but one that will generally increase during the next years. This is mainly because of the trend of urbanisation: in 2016 the UN estimated that 54.5% of people live in urban settlements, and that by 2030 it will become 60%. The non-urban areas impacted by depopulation, will face several issues in terms of land maintenance, heritage preservation, and conservation of local traditions.

This dynamic is strongly related to the notion of accessibility, which, here, stands for the possibility of people to access places, spaces, items, and services. This approach tries to include different points of view such as the notion of accessibility seen in transportation terms, based on its efficiency and multimodality, or the issue of accessibility concerning people with disabilities.

The ongoing digital revolution has further impacted the issue of accessibility. The pervasive transition from analogue to digital processes and the development of Information and Communication Technologies has provided new opportunities to supply information, infrastructures, and public services to people. With our smartphones, citizens can access and produce data, which can then be used by them to increase their awareness about urban opportunities and optimize urban projects and policies. Worldwide internet connection has blurred the relation between a place and its use, deepening reuse strategies for buildings and neighbourhoods. The development of shared and circular economy and new health standards in cities has led to the innovation of public services both in an evolutionary way (e.g. water supply and management, waste management) and in a disruptive way (e.g. transportation design, urban hybrid services). Smart Cities projects try to catch most of these opportunities, focusing on innovative urban solutions able to exploit this potential.

This article aims to contribute to this debate, reviewing some of the main definitions of urban accessibility and showing the possible added value given by innovative urban strategies open to ICT solutions. To better understand this approach these notions will be related to Gjirokastra, one of the most important cities in southern Albania. Its distinctive combination in terms of heritage, strategic position and business opportunities are facing urban shrinkage, with the consequent loss of city population, lack of maintenance of its renowned heritage and a declining economy. Then a design proposal that uses the notion of accessibility to analyse and indicate strategic accessibility patterns to challenge shrinkage will be outlined. These actions will be referenced to pilot projects and case studies to prove how innovative urban design can add new value to urban accessibility patterns. The conclusions will resume the role of urban design dealing with these issues, indicating constraints and potentials of this approach.

Publisher: Polis_press

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