DCUN is as an international and horizontal research platform that aims to facilitate the production of collaborative research and the dissemination of individual and collective research on diffuse urbanization.
Why diffuse urbanization is a major field of investigation?
The territorial diffusion of urbanization, a global phenomenon (Simon, 2008), forms an epistemological break in urban studies. Diffuse urbanization has been studied in many different geographical and historical contexts, and in no other field of urban theory has the production of terminology been more prolific. Among the many terms and concepts developed to describe the continual expansion of “the urban” are urban sprawl (Gottman, 1967), suburbia (Fishman, 1987), desakota (McGee, 1989), città diffusa (Indovina, 1990), exurbia (Nelson, 1992), ville émergente (Dubois-Taine and Chalas, 1997), post-suburbs (Phelps and Wu, 2011), the horizontal metropolis (Viganò, 2013), the edge city (Garreau, 2011), Zwischenstadt (Sieverts, 2004), and planetary urbanization (Brenner, 2014).
As a whole, this well-established, albeit diverse, body of work reveals that the diffusion of urbanization poses major problems for planning and governance and triggers debate on environmental sustainability, whether it concerns the development of new areas or the transformation of existing settlements. In North America and Australia, urbanization has generally taken place on supposedly greenfield and open land, while in Europe, Asia, and Latin America it has developed on pre-existing substrata of human and rural settlements. In these regions, urbanization has been criticized for consuming resources and destroying existing settlements and ecosystems (Allen et al., 1999; Douglas, 2006).
The model of the “compact city” is held up as the best means of conserving resources and the non-urban use of land (Gordon and Richardson, 1997; Jenks and Burgess 2000; Hofstad, 2012). However, Sieverts (2004) recently argued that compact urbanization might be a mere parenthesis in human civilization, and that compact cities may be inapt for humans, whom he sees as social animals best suited to living in small groups in open, borderless spaces. This raises a number of questions. What if effective management could transform diffuse urbanization into a positive asset? What if diffuse urban territories were the urban condition for future societies?
What does DCUN seek to achieve ?
With few exceptions, there is scant research involving grounded, cross-continental comparisons of diffuse urbanization. DCUN aims is to test the validity, scope, and transferability of context-specific urban-analytical lenses on a broader scale by applying them to the phenomenon of diffuse urbanization. This is a complex task as each of these lenses involves specific sets of concepts, disciplinary backgrounds, and methods. However, it should enable us to overcome the North-South compartmentation of urban research and highlight global issues to be addressed in policymaking and planning. DUCN implements research methods involving both historical and future-oriented analysis in order to address the continuous processes of urbanization which, especially in developing and emerging countries, is happening at rapid speed. Moreover, DUCN develops research approaches using case studies and transversal themes involving scholars and professionals from diverse disciplines, including geography, architecture, planning, sociology, environmental sciences, and urban engineering).
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