Edited by Jean-Christophe Dissart and Natacha Seigneuret
Chapter 3: Reconsidering the ground: new opportunities for shrinking cities. Lessons from the cases of Dessau and Halle
Sowa posits that, since the 2000s, research on urban shrinkage has tended to focus on defining the concept, understanding the process and analysing the economic, political and urban strategies that address the situation. Her chapter presents the issue of the urban fabric in the early 21st century by exploring urban remodelling practices in particular and focusing on the ground as a territorial resource. She hypothesises that neglected urban spaces offer fresh perspectives to restructure the city, a reassessment of open spaces in the urban setting and a definition of new ecosystems to improve the urban environment for the remaining population. To test her hypothesis, Sowa analyses two urban projects in Germany – in Halle and Dessau – and a combination of data including urban planning documents and development plans, aerial views of the cities before and after their transformation, photographs and interviews with actors. Two major results are found: on the one hand, abandoned areas should be seen no longer as land reserves but as a territorial resource with a high social and ecological value; on the other hand, we need to think about urban space in its entirety and return to a ground project. In this way, an updated view of the city emerges, as inscribed in multiple urban cycles, having to adapt to the dynamics of both shrinkage and growth, each of which has advantages, potentials, constraints and threats.
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