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Scientific paper


Depopulation and Public Spaces: The Case Study of Lisbon

Francisca Machado Lima

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Degrowth Conference Venice 2012


Keywords: Demographic Change, Urban Public Spaces, Wildscapes, Tradicional City

Abstract: Urban depopulation has been a growing phenomenon since the mid 20th century namely in developed countries of the northern hemisphere (Oswalt, 2008; Pallagst & Aber, 2009; Rink & Haase, Annegret; Bernt, Matthias; Grossmannn, 2012). Among the general drivers are the processes of de-industrialisation, peripherisation, post- socialism periods, suburbanisation and birth rates decline (Audirac, 2011, Fritsche et al., 2007; Hollander, 2009; Oswalt, 2008).
Depopulation is having profound impacts in the city’s form and in it’s livelihood including an increased social segregation followed by public and private disinvestment with consequences to the accessibility to education, health services and employment combined with an increased sense of insecurity, either perceived or real (Glock & Håussermann, 2004; Schetke & Haase, 2008). Other impacts include the rise of urban fragmentation and perforation, when demolitions are put forward (European Environmental Agency, 2009; Haase, Lautenbach, & Seppelt, 2010; Haase & Seppelt, 2008; Oswalt, 2008); spontaneous vegetation growth (Ryznar, 2001) and; a decrease on social creativity and innovation (Knudsen, Florida, Gates, & Stolarick, 2007).
Along with a contraction in the population size, there is the potential “landscape expansion” inside the city with the increase of urban open-wild sites where biodiversity can growth exponentially and where some communities such as groups of adolescents (Ward Thompson, 2012), immigrants with community gardens (Bartlett, 2005; Rosol, 2005) or environmental activists and concerned residents (Kuhoutek & Kamleithner, 2003) occupy the space spontaneously.
This expansion can be capitalized in different ways. Either by endowing the city with more and better green infrastructure, with the known benefits for citizens wellbeing and to the cities’ ecological balance, or by increasing cities’ density and avoiding urban sprawl and the associated energy consumption. Although, the two previous perspectives are not necessarily opposites they can compete in the everyday political decisions. The inner cities of most cities in Europe are inherently denser being potential assets to the resolution of such potential conflict between greener and/or denser cities. However, precisely in these areas the abandonment has been more intense in the last decades. This paper intends to explore the role of public open spaces in the rekindle of inner European cities having as case study Lisbon city.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

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