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Resilience to Urban Shrinkage in Riga

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Kurzfassung in Englisch

Riga has suffered a population loss of more than 29% between 1990 and 2014 which has led to increasing number of abandoned and degraded buildings in the city and optimization of the network of educational and cultural institutions. These trends are characteristics of urban shrinkage – a complex process affecting Riga for more than two decades and resulting in a pattern of growing, shrinking, and stable districts. A similar pattern has also been identified in other shrinking cities in Europe, but it has not been researched in more detail.

In the given context, this research aims to narrow the knowledge gap on processes occurring in shrinking cities and to provide some understanding of the determinants of these processes on the city and local level through analysis of single embedded case study of Riga. To achieve this aim, resilience is used as an analytical concept. It allows to conceptualize urban shrinkage as a slow-burn (slowly occurring disturbance) and propose three possible responses - adaptation, transformation, and decline. These responses emerge from actions of actors on various spatial scales and lead to different outcomes. It also provides the basis for analyzing the determinants of these responses by conceptualizing them as sources of resilience and suggesting seven different aspects found in literature: leadership, networks, resources, learning, people-place connection, common cause, and system of institutions and governance. Finally, these theoretical assumptions are used to define two main research questions: (1) what are responses to urban shrinkage in Riga? (2) what are sources of resilience to urban shrinkage in Riga?

The need for in-depth research of urban processes led to choosing mixed method strategy for both selecting the embedded units of analysis (districts) in Riga and finding answers to the proposed research questions. Based on combined results of secondary data analysis, controlled expert group discussion, and structured site visits, five districts in Riga were selected – Avoti, Maskavas forštate, Bolderāja, Sarkandaugava, and Ķīpsala. Further data collection and analysis included semi-structured interviews with different actors at the city and district level and document analysis.

The study finds that there are four different responses to urban shrinkage in Riga: mitigation, adaptation, transformation, and possible decline. Mitigation can be identified on city (also national) level and is closely linked with the strategic actions proposed by the local and national government in response to population decline. Adaptation can be observed on the city and local level. It is the dominant response type in Riga emerging from strategic actions and different activities by various actors in response to all of the identified processes associated with urban shrinkage in Riga. Transformation, however, can be found only on local level – district (in one specific case) or unit level. It emerges from activities of mostly non-government actors that are making use of the opportunities provided by urban shrinkage in Riga. Finally, further decline is a potential response in several Riga districts resulting from strategic actions of local municipality and inability of some of the actors to deal with the existing situation.

The analysis of sources of resilience reveals that there are four main determinants of adaptation and transformation – leadership, networks, resources, and learning. Other sources of resilience (people-place connection, common cause, and engaged governance) function as additional drivers or catalysts. All of these sources of resilience can be identified in Riga, but not consistently across all spatial scales and units or actor groups. The main deficiencies are linked with availability of resources (human and financial) among different actor groups, the existing system of governance (involvement of actors in the decision-making process) and leadership (on city level). The study also shows differences related to responses to urban shrinkage and different sources of resilience, especially leadership, learning, and resources.

Overall, the findings support the main theoretical assumptions of the study and allow refining the understanding of responses to urban shrinkage and sources of resilience. The results can be used as the basis for developing an approach for assessment of the level of resilience to urban shrinkage or other slow burns in the urban context.

weitere Metadaten

Resilienz, Schrumpfende Städte, Anpassung, Transformation
resilience, urban shrinkage, slow burn, adaptation, transformation
DDC Klassifikation711
RVK KlassifikationRQ 22906, RQ 22612
HochschuleTechnische Universität Dresden
FakultätFakultät Umweltwissenschaften
ProfessurProfessur für Raumentwicklung
BetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernhard Müller
Dr. geogr. Kristīne Āboliņa
GutachterProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernhard Müller
Prof. Dr. Annika Mattissek
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Alexandra Weitkamp
Tag d. Einreichung (bei der Fakultät)08.03.2016
Tag d. Verteidigung / Kolloquiums / Prüfung09.05.2017
Veröffentlichungsdatum (online)06.03.2018
persistente URNurn:nbn:de:bsz:14-qucosa-232632

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