The research 

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With the Post-Growth City research we want to explore what the city would look like if we design within the planetary and social boundaries, with the knowledge that cities (such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam) are still magnets in terms of economy and population growth, and therefore also should be able to facilitate certain forms of (demographic) growth. We do this in close collaboration with the municipalities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In both cities, we will select a neighborhood or district where we will test and research the principles of the Post- Growth City together with representatives from both municipalities. 

The results of the research will be discussed during expert meetings and a closing event that will be organized in collaboration with the Independent School for the City. The national government is also involved in the research, in the person of Wouter Veldhuis (CRa) and possibly Hans ten Hoeve (min. BZK). 

Research question

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Post-Growth City questions our current (economic) growth-driven thinking. The research by design we propose analyzes what drives our cities today and outlines an alternative way of developing and shaping our society and cities. 

The design research “Post-Growth City” builds on existing studies and articles that are critical of the current capitalist system and describe alternatives to it, such as degrowth. However, these studies are mostly theoretical and to a very limited extent have a real spatial, visual and design component. Herein lies a great value of this research project. The research gradually works towards the answer to this complex issue. There is a central question and a number of sub-questions have been formulated that address the Why?, What? And how? 

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Central question in this research: 

What does the Post-Growth City look like and what does that mean for the way we develop and design our cities? 

Sub-question 1a: 

How are city and (economic) growth thinking intertwined historically and which underlying systems and mechanisms play a major role in urban development? 

Sub-question 1b: 

Why do we as designers have to look for an alternative? 

In this preliminary study we already partly answer the first sub-question, but we want to refine this further in the follow-up study. 

Sub-question 2: 

What are the characteristics of a post-growth economy, how can the city facilitate these, and what spatial consequences and characteristics will this entail? What are inspiring examples, tools and case studies can inform this? 

It is important to thoroughly understand the current philosophy and system. In the interviews with experts, general trends were discussed and various mechanisms were briefly mentioned, such as our land policy, tax and ownership situation. We want to clearly visualize and categorize these and other trends, systems and mechanisms. 

Sub question 3a: 

How could this be translated into concrete interventions and cases, and what does the transition to this Post-Growth City look like? 

Sub question 3b: 

What is the designer’s role in the realization of and transition to the Post-Growth City and how can the designer contribute to the debate about this complex transition? And what does this mean for our vocabulary, imagination, instruments, and drawing techniques, among other things? 

In order to actually take a different direction, both centrally controlled interventions and local initiatives are important (Jan Rotmans). Architects and urban planners have already developed concepts that question the current system and are in line with a Post-Growth approach. We will investigate which concepts are relevant and which can possibly be scaled up in the Post-Growth City. In addition, we are testing what these two types of interventions mean for what the city looks like and how we use it.