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Cities in Recession

05 November 2014
Cities in Recession

The Cities in Recession Series aim to investigate how the design and physical planning of urban environments are making cities more or less at risk to economic recession, what factors are making cities more resilient to recession and what measures can be taken to survive recession, benefit from an upturn and plan ahead for future downturns in the global economy.

Cities in Recession Part I: Resilience, Regeneration & Reinvention is the first in the series of articles and presents current research and debate into the issue. The paper investigates how cities across the world have been affected by recession and the procedures taken to recover from economic downturns. Written during the economic slump caused by the American Sub Prime Mortgage crisis in the late 2000s the paper presents a topical analysis into how well modern cities are prepared for the current situation they face.

The late 2000s recession has arrived with unprecedented ferocity and caused widespread economic and social upheaval at an alarming rate across the world. The recession, defined as a significant decline in economic activity spread across the country, lasting two consecutive quarters1 has been experienced by countries across the world. The recession is being experienced sharply by nations in terms of real personal income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. The peaks and troughs experienced by a country’s economy is an inevitable symptom of local and international economic patterns and has followed a long period of sustained growth for many of the world’s countries. The rise of globalization has meant economic downturns are felt far and wide with the after-effects of the sub prime mortgage crisis being felt through the developed and developing world. The role of cities in the rise and fall of a country’s fortunes is increasingly important as, according to the United Nations, over half the world’s population now live in cities, a figure that is expected to rise to 60% in 2030. The dynamic role of cities has been critical in promoting and sustaining economic growth and many are the main economic drivers and providers for the countries in which they exist. The way cities can cope and fight through the recession will be crucial if the country is to be well-placed to benefit from the upturn in the world economy. This article aims to discover why some cities are better placed to deal effectively with economic downturn and researches the resilience components necessary to allow cities to survive, prosper and prepare for future recessions.

Much research and debate currently exists into the economic conditions causing and resulting from recessions. This paper instead focuses upon the physical and urban design challenges and opportunities faced by cities in times of recession. Inevitably an overlap of research will occur in the ever complex matrix of urban conditions and will aim to discover how physical design can directly influence the economic and social sustainability of cities. Drawing upon the historical experience of cities, current literature and the author’s own experience gained through working, living and studying in various cities, to evaluate the resilience of cities during recession. Research will be evaluated from a wide range of sources considered fundamental to the design of cities, including urban economics and land uses, infrastructure and movement, the built environment and human capital. The author hopes to provide a critical analysis of the challenges ahead for cities, whilst positively highlighting their crucial role in improving the economic and social conditions for many people across the world.

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