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Credit photo: Tudor Constantinescu

Băile Herculane, covered passageway / Digital, 2012 (33x50cm)

Do Demographics influence the Ideal City?

Ilinca Păun Constantinescu


In the last two centuries, urban planning has been almost exclusively dealing with growth processes – an ideal on which all the ideas, theories, and practices of the modern age are based. But with the economic and demographic decline, obvious in many Romanian cities, the idea of ​​colonization loses its legitimacy, so that building is no longer a goal, but becomes a starting point. Philipp Oswalt[1]  talks about the notion of post-architecture and the perception and fate of the existent: in the context of shrinkage of many cities, new means of design must be found, for which architecture alone appears to be a too narrow field.

In 1938 Wirth defines urbanity according to three criteria: size, density and diversity[2] - so according to him, some very small, low-densified or mono-oriented forms of organization should not even be considered urban (characteristics that apply to many current Romanian cities). On the other hand, as history proves, countless visions on the city (be them utopian or not) were born as a response to crisis. The current de-densification is thus a pretext for a renaissance in another form, innovative and adapted to reality. Urban voids, empty built spaces- some loaded with historical meaning- bear an immense potential, and can serve to other purposes than densification. These complex processes of transformation result in new interactions and forms of social organization, and the apparent crisis of the city becomes an opportunity to rethink the relationships within the urban fabric, in which this time space adapts to society and not vice versa.

A healthy vision may start from the idea of ​​non-growth as a realistic and optimistic option, where the transition (hence pivotal and sustainable) rises from within the cities, having as a starting point the improvement of the quality of  life using the existing resources. Even if the city is smaller in the future, it may be to a great extent better.


[1] German architect and publicist, initiator of Urban Catalysts, Shrinking Cities projects

[2] In Urbanism as a Way of Life; his observations have as a starting point the American world after World WarI

Born in Bucharest in 1982, she earned her PhD degree in architecture in 2013. She currently practices architecture at Ideogram Studio, teaches theory of architecture at “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism Bucharest, and leads cultural projects within the IDEILAGRAM Association. Together with her team from IDEILAGRAM, she lead two major researches and exhibition: Shrinking Cities in Romania (MNAC Bucharest, 2016), On Housing (Timco Halls Timișoara, 2018), and edited Shrinking Cities in Romania. Orașe românești în declin (DOM publishers&MNAC Press 2019).

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