Contemporary landscape urbanism principles as innovative methodologies: the design of an armature of public spaces for the revitalisation of a shrinking city
This paper explores the potentials of a series of Landscape Urbanism strategies for the revitalisation of a 'shrinking city', through the construction of an armature of public spaces and the reactivation of collective activities and social encounters. Looking through a series of theoretical approaches and case studies, mostly associated with Landscape Urbanism theory, this paper looks for typical interventions in the design of public spaces in a pattern of decreased socioeconomic activities. In addition, the paper provides an original contribution in the form of a review of a Studio research project developed during a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design at Columbia University, New York, in 2008. In more detail, the first part of the paper introduces the theme of shrinking cities with a series of theoretical approaches and a toolkit of possible interventions. The theoretical approaches derive from a new consideration of the contemporary city in the light of its spatial morphology. This is described through an excursus of previous studies and contributions to the analysis of the urban form and to the change of state that many cities are experiencing together with the decaying of their economic activities. A few case studies, beginning with the project by Oswald Mathias Ungers on the city of Berlin, further explore the role of open, 'left over spaces' in providing opportunities for a networked system of public spaces in contemporary urban conditions. The last part of the paper introduces a series of strategies that respond to similar situations on Governors Island, in New York, and the small town of Cohoes, in the State of New York. In particular, in the case of Cohoes, the proposal looks for opportunities in the existing downtown area- and articulates a series of strategies focused on the reprogramming and conversion of the existing 'left-over' open spaces- to turn them into 'public spaces'. These mechanisms aim to trigger several micro processes within the project, in order to follow through on the shrinking pattern in a positive, ecologic way. The last part of the paper offers a critique of the theories and case studies analysed, using these case studies as a way to test the theories already reviewed. Moreover, the conclusions introduce some definitions of networks from the theory of Space Syntax. In this way, the paper offers itself as a theoretical tool for the approach to shrinking cities and their evolutionary patterns through the design of an armature of public spaces.
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