Growing cities – flourishing urban regions
Cities are nearly everlasting icons of the human era. They are outliving trends and bear a great capacity for resilience. Cities are the ideal substrate for a continously changing social ecosystem, they have been shaped and transformed through centuries – but still stay their recognizable selfs. Nowadays, cities and towns are undergoing new challenges, due to intense human action during the last decades. This has someplace lead to significant problems within urban structures, e.g. when it comes to historic city centres – especially in small and medium sized cities and towns in more rural areas. In some places one started to speak of „dying city centres“. This clearly is a development that has to be dealt with, now. The core of the city is the very center of identification and the guarantor for future development. Outskirt shopping centres and sprawling human settlements threaten the function of these cities and smaller towns, that most of the time are the heart of a so-called urban region.
On a recent Conference about Smart cities, Saskia Sassen, a well-known urban researcher quoted: „When do I know that I am in a city? Pure monofunctional technology parks cannot be a city, even if they consist of a vast agglomeration of highrising buildings.“ So, what we learn from that is, that not every agglomeration is a city and not every vibrant city has to be an agglomeration. Cities arose from the option of multi-interaction evolving in public spaces. These public spaces are the faces of urbanism, they are funcitioning as living-rooms for citizens and melting-pots of their life-styles. Still, one very dominating life-style is the car-orientation, that we all grew up with. Fortunately for denser urban areas, this trend is remarkably sinking – if people see alternatives and their benefits in them, the are willing to change their life-style and adept to their city.
Today, cities are facing two recent challenges, that are on the edge of reshaping the functional organisation of cities:
On the one hand on december 12th the 21th UN-Climate Conference in Paris successfully united (nearly all of) the worlds nations in an agreement for concerted efforts against climate change.
On the other hand, the epic streams of refugees that marched through Europe seeking for shelter, agitated the political landscape of the European Union – sustainably…
Both current events have a massive impact on urban areas. Cities are „hot spots“ in both terms oft he word:
Both events already have and in the near future will intensify their impact on the cities development. And there are still the meanwhile seemingly „old“ trends, cities already had to face like the demographic change and social challenges based on migration, changing lifestyles and the need for affordable housing in combination with a growing social gap; the spatial coordination and the (re-)organisation of growth in combination with conserving resources; energy change, land-consumption and a reform of land-policy. When it comes to smart cities and urban areas, new governance is a still unsolved issue. And last but not least, the planning instruments and financial ressources are often insufficient.
The Urban Future Global Conference in Graz, in March 2016, showed the variety and possibility for a modern urban development for the sustainable cities of tomorrow. For the public, especially modern urban development projects like the Viennese Seestadt Aspern and the Smart City of Reininghaus in Graz represent recognisable Smart City acitivities. These are good examples to show, what the near future in our cities would look like. Furthermore, it is of great importance to provide an urban structure, where people can really act smart.What we don`t know yet is, where technology will become a really helpful asset when it comes to nowadays challenges. Technology is not automatically „smart“ – it can only be used smart and help the city to involve the inhabitants into a sustainable urban development.
Since 2015, the AACT has – togehter with strategic partners - adopted an Agenda for city center revitalisation, an Agenda for urban regions, and is member of a national working group for the re-organisation of public transportation in and around cities, because public transport is the connecting link in the „actual living areas“ of people because of their interdependent relations between living, working, shopping, recovering, etc. The economic, cultural and social life does not respect boarders. The areas with the highest functional relations are so called „Stadtregionen“ – the urban areas and their structural indicators and development have been made visible via the Portal www.stadtregionen.at.
Last but not least, the AACT is strongly involved in Smart City-initiatives and projects. What is the common sense of all these actions? When it comes to urbanisation we all will have to adept our life-styles for good. Cities – and citizens as well - have always proofed to be adeptable. We will see, what the future „Smart Citizen“ will be like. The city will always be there for everybody.
 Urban heat island (UHI) means a significant temperature difference between the urban zone and the surrounding rural areas.