Smart accessibility patterns and shrinking cities: The added value of urban design. MARCO NEGRI
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.
Grasland, C., et al. (2008) Shrinking Regions: A Paradigm Shift in Demography and Territorial Development.
Study for Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policy, European Parliament. Brussels: European Parliament.
United Nations, (2016) The World’s Cities in 2016 – Data Booklet (ST/ESA/ SER.A/392).
EEA (2015) European environment — state and outlook 2015: Assessment of global megatrends, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.
Oswalt, P. (2005) Shrinking Cities volume 1 – international reseach. 1st ed. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Verlag, p.12.
ITF (2019), “Benchmarking Accessibility in Cities: Measuring the Impact of Proximity and Transport Performance”, International Transport Forum Policy Papers, No. 68, OECD Publishing, Paris
Geurs, K., Wee, B. (2004) Accessibility evaluation of land-use and transport strategies: Review and research directions. Journal of Transport Geography. 12. 127-140. 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2003.10.005.
Baran, P. (1964) On Distributed Communications. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
Boorsma, B. (2018) A New Digital Deal. Beyond Smart Cities. How to Best Leverage Digitalization for the Benefit of our Communities. [S.l.]: Rainmaking Publications.
Weiss, D., Nelson, A., Gibson, H., Temperley, W., Peedell, S., Lieber, A., Hancher, M., Poyart, E., Belchior, S., Fullman, N., Mappin, B., Dalrymple, U., Rozier, J., Lucas, T., Howes, R., Tusting, L., Kang, S., Cameron, E., Bisanzio, D., Battle, K., Bhatt, S. and Gething, P., 2018. A global map of travel time to cities to assess inequalities in accessibility in 2015. Nature, 553(7688), pp.333-336.
Clinton E. R., (2013). Environmental accessibility and its implications for inclusive, sustainable and equitable
development for all [https:/www.un.org/disabilities/documents/ accessibility_and_development_june2013.pdf]. Martinez-Fernandez, C., Kubo, W., Noya, A. and
Weyman, T. (2012) Demographic Change and Local Development. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development. [http:/www.oecd- ilibrary.org/content/book/9789264180468-en]. ESPON (2017) Policy brief: Shrinking rural regions in Europe. Luxembourg : ESPON EGTC. [Https:/www.espon.eu/rural-shrinking].
ESPON (2020) ESCAPE Interim report. Annex 10: Draft. Luxembourg: ESPON EGTC. [https:/www.espon.eu/escape].
Rink, D., Haase, A., Bernt, M. and Großmann, K. (2010) Addressing Urban Shrinkage Across Europe –Challenges and ProspectsShrink Smart Research Brief No. 1, November 2010 On behalf of the Shrink Smart consortium .Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research –UFZ, Leipzig [https://shrinksmart.ufz.de/data/D9%20 Research%20Brief%20214223.pdf].
Valdes, L. (1998) “Accessibility on the Internet,” report to the United Nations (16 June 1998, updated 31 March 2004) available at http:/www.un.org/esa/ socdev/enable/disacc00.htm, cited in Report of the Secretary-General, “Implementation of the world programme of action concerning disabled persons,” (United Nations document (A/54/388/Add.1). UNESCO, 2020.
UNESCO World Heritage Centre - State Of Conservation (SOC 2019) Historic Centres Of Berat And Gjirokastra (Albania). [https:/whc.unesco. org/en/soc/3960/].
URBACT,2013. FromCrisisToChoice:Re-Imagining The Future In Shrinking Cities. [https:/urbact.eu/sites/default/files/import/ general_library/19765_Urbact_WS1_ SHRINKING_low_FINAL.pdf.
Saladin, M., 2003. Community Water Supply In Switzerland - What Can We Learn From A Century Of
Successful Operation? [https:/www.ircwash.org/sites/default/files/ community_water_supply_in_switzerland_0.pdf].
ICLEI, 2020. Adaptive Reuse Of Cultural Heritage - An Examination Of Circular Governance Models From 16
International Case Studies. CLIC project. [https:/ iclei-europe.org/publications- tools/?c=search&uid=ewTajtJT].