Friday, March 25, 2011

A comparison of urban shrinkage in Baltimore (Maryland, USA) and Osaka (Japan) : reversed patterns of urban decline ?

by Sophie BUHNIK

Baltimore (Maryland, USA) and Osaka (Kinki, Japan) are two large harbour cities that belong to two of the most developed industrialized countries. Despite the extremely different socio-economic, cultural and political settings that characterize Northern-American and Japanese modern cities, Baltimore and Osaka share a number of interesting similarities, regarding their historical development or their position within the urban hierarchy of their respective nations. Furthermore, both Baltimore’s and Osaka’s metropolitan areas are currently experiencing processes of urban shrinkage, which are the produce of strong economic restructurings combined with population losses.
However, while Baltimore City is continuously shrinking since the end of the Second World War (Cohen, 2001, urban shrinkage is more recent in Osaka (Hatta, 2006). A comparison between Baltimore’s and Osaka’s demographic declines and economic changes will show that the factors leading to urban shrinkage, although analogous, were bound together in clearly distinct ways. Then, a delimitation of the areas with the highest population losses will highlight the deeply divergent impacts of urban shrinkage inside each agglomeration : it is indeed Baltimore’s inner city on the one hand, and Osaka’s distant peripheries on the other hand, that are coping with the biggest demographic decreases. Such contrasts in the localization of urban decline may be the consequence of specific urban sprawl processes that took place in Japan and the USA.
The aim of this paper is to present a characterization of Baltimore’s and Osaka’s most declining areas. It is a prerequisite, if we want to compare the social and spatial issues that shrinkage might raise to the residents who are still living in these areas.

Osaka, Japan, photo by davidpc_

more about Japan:

Four Lessons on Emergency Preparedness in Cities

Car Ownership Rate for Japanese Households Decreases

The New Urbanism: Kichijoji Style

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