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…Smart district development in small towns

09/14/2018 |

By Aglaée Degros

Aglaée Degros, head of the Institute of Urbanism at TU Graz, describes how small and medium-sized towns are able to deal with the challenges of sustainable urban development.

© Martin Grabner

Scant sustainable forms of mobility, vacant shops in the town centres and stagnation in the implementation of the energy revolution particularly affect small and medium-sized towns and European urban regions. The Institute of Urbanism at TU Graz is giving its attention to this topic and together with TU Wien and the Salzburg Institute for Regional Development and Housing (SIR), is offering continuing education in sustainable urban development for practitioners in urban planning offices.

Increasing vacant shops in the town centres, difficulties in managing sustainable mobility or in maintaining socio-cultural infrastructure as well as absent energy-development planning affect in particular small and medium-sized towns.

Spotlight on small and medium-sized towns

The vast majority of Austrian towns are small or medium-sized towns and urban areas. Nevertheless, these areas have garnered much less attention from town planning and urban research than the cities. And yet towns are also affected by the challenges of urban development. Increasing vacant shops in the town centres, difficulties in managing sustainable mobility or in maintaining socio-cultural infrastructure as well as absent energy-development planning affect in particular small and medium-sized towns, which have insufficient financial and personnel resources available to deal with these challenges in a future-proof way.

New societal challenges for urban planning

We are living in a stage of rapid, intensive and far-reaching societal and technological change. The massive influence of digitalisation on work and society, transport and mobility, on trade as much as on culture and our living together in towns has been noticeable for some time. This technological change is accompanied by societal and demographic changes. The thus associated differentiation of society, millieux and lifestyles changes demands on space and on responsible spatial and urban development in a crucial way. For the small and medium-sized towns and urban areas of Europe, these developments and dynamizing tendencies can become big, almost insuperable challenges. In the smaller towns, daily tasks leave hardly any time for developing strategic concepts. What is missing is the possibility and space for reflection, for the exchange of expertise with colleagues and for in-depth research on relevant topics and fields of activity.

A two-day pilot conference showed through high numbers of participants that there is much interest in and a need for practical and solution-oriented discussion and exchange on topics of urban development in small and medium-sized towns. Building on this, in February 2019 we are offering the university course ‘Smart district development in small and medium-sized towns’ at TU Graz.

The role of the universities

Universities and research institutions can and want to play their part in supporting the responsible actors in small and medium-sized towns and urban areas. For example, through significantly stepped-up research which will focus on the economic, ecological and societal challenges linked with structural and climate change. And also research that points to the instrumental possibilities of particular relevance to small and medium-sized towns. A two-day pilot conference at TU Graz in the autumn of 2017 showed through high numbers of participants that there is much interest in and a need for practical and solution-oriented discussion and exchange on topics of urban development in small and medium-sized towns. Building on this, in February 2019 we are offering the university course ‘Smart district development in small and medium-sized towns’ at TU Graz highlighting among others topics of public space, mobility, inner city development, governance, energy and technical infrastructure.

Into the future

It is important to support smaller towns in the current challenges of urban development to maintain existing qualities and to make these places fit for the future. The Institute of Urbanism is happy to address this important and worthwhile task with our university course and additional research projects.

Information

The university course ‘Smart district development in small and medium-sized towns’ starts in February 2019.
This continuing education range of courses offered by TU Graz, TU Wien and SIR Salzburg imparts knowledge about topics of sustainable urban development to practitioners in urban planning offices of small and medium-sized towns and communities and market towns.

Application for participation in the course is open until 10 January via TU Graz Life Long Learning.

Contact

Aglaée DEGROS
Arch. Univ.-Prof.
TU Graz | Institute of Urbanism
Rechbauerstraße 12, 8010 Graz
Tel.: +43 316 873 6283
a.degrosnoSpam@tugraz.at
http://www.stdb.tugraz.at/