Cities, as living -breathing- entities follow through different cycles - they expand but also shrink, sometimes to expand again later, others to dilute themselves forever.
Unfortunately, today, most cities are projected and designed with projections of growth; master plans that are very much ingrained in capitalist rhetoric of accumulation of population, territories and resources. This notion, sets these built environments into one specific vector, obliterating other possibilities for existence that do not involve growth.
How does the future look like in the cities whose inevitable reality is less buildings, less people, and less economic activities?
Since the beginning of the industrialization era, numerous cities have been built around a single industry at different points in time; the so-called 'monotowns': from Jubail in Saudi Arabia, to the Ruhr region in Germany, to the Rust Belt Cities in the USA, to Donbass in Ukraine. Settlements in these regions tend to grow rapidly, meeting a demand for labor from the factories that lie at the hearts of their economies. In many instances, the economies of these cities often fail to diversify enough, and continue to depend on that one particular industry.
With shifts responding the global capitalist trends or extractive exhaustion (such as the outsourcing of jobs, the depletion of a particular resource at a local level, or the increase in automation of the production line), many of the factories around which these cities were expanded, start a process of paced shutting down.
Beyond the ecological consequences that these processes often convey, the downsizing or closure of the city's main industry normally result in population loss, decrease of economic opportunities, lost sense of identity, and an increase of vacant and unused spaces within the city.
Baptized as 'shrinking cities' -referring to their population downsizing-, different approaches -from attracting new populations through plans to attract creative industries, to providing tax incentives, to more aggressive strategies of 'smart decline' (which often involve cutting off public services or demolishing buildings) - have been carried out to address the issue of shrinkage.
How is the success of the city measured? How would the futures of shrinking cities look like if they reverted the paradigm of growth and embraced their shrinking populations, reduced density and increasing abundance of space?
This is a conversation of uncertainty. A conversation of determining heritage. Of sharing memories. And ambitions. Of establishing ruinification protocols. Of creating platforms for different people to be heard. Of collectivizing master-planning processes.
Of shifting paradigms, and changing vectors.
AFTER <ITY, a collaborative project between the Degrowth Institute (Kyiv) and Dekabristen e.V. (Berlin), is inviting twelve young practitioners (under the age of 35 at the time of applying) - architects, city planners, policy makers, municipality workers, civic activists, artists - living in or working with shrinking cities in Ukraine and Germany to work together on new imaginaries and tactics for urban degrowth. Duos working with or living in the same city are strongly encouraged to apply. (maximum 2 people).
The aim of AFTER <ITY is to create a community of practice between different individuals in shrinking cities, to share ideas and methodologies to shift the paradigm of urban growth, and develop tools and conversations where other vectors are explored.
From 26th May - 1st June, the twelve selected participants will meet in Mariupol (Ukraine) to develop participatory urban planning practices, and basic structure for a one-day workshop, that would later on be implemented in their own cities.
Between June and May, the participants will develop knowledge exchange workshops in their own cities.
From 02nd September- 08th September, the twelve participants will meet in Germany (place to be confirmed) for a symposium devoted to degrowth urbanism, as well as sharing their workshop results, learnings and reflections of the overall process.
The main language of communication, and working will be English. Support for translations from Ukrainian/Russian to English will be available.
Participation in AFTER <ITY requires every participant to commit to attend the workshop in Mariupol (26th MAY to 1st JUNE) AND the symposium in Germany (2nd SEP to 8th SEP), as well as the ability to carry out a knowledge exchange activity in their own cities of residency between May and September. . AFTER <ITY will cover the travel of the participants between Ukraine and Germany, as well as their accommodation and per diems during the workshop and symposium. Each participant will also be allocated a modest production budget to organize a one-day workshop in their own cities between May and September.
Participants need to be residing in or working with cities with ebbing (shrinking) populations in Germany or Ukraine.
If you have any questions regarding the project application or the project itself, please, do get in touch with us at:
________________________________________________________________________________________***THE DEGROWTH INSTITUTE***
The Degrowth Institute is an initiative started by METASITU, whose aim is to establish emancipatory narratives in cities whose populations have been steadily decreasing in recent years. We base our work on proposing different knowledge exchange tools for addressing challenges that emerge from population degrowth, such as vacancy, ruins, infrastructural maintenance, and identity.
NGO and a network of activists, culture and project managers. We support civil society initiatives in Eastern Europe by capacity building and micro-grant programs. We develop an ecosystem of social entrepreneurship, coach civic initiatives, and conduct exchange programs.
The project is supported by MeetUp! German-Ukrainian Youth Exchange Program