Development and Urbanization
While it is clear that spatial economic patterns and processes across diffuse urban regions in Asia prompt a shift in conceptual gaze away from the conventional wisdom of Euro-American capitalisms, we propose that relevant critical perspectives from the European experience provide useful insights for understanding urban transition in Asia. Points of comparison revolve around local context, national and local politics, and the imagined future of urban and rural across territories where these often spatially coincide. An examination of these phenomena across several Asian settings, juxtaposed with relevant comparative perspectives from Europe, also highlights tensions around diffuse urbanization – either demonized because of perceived risks associated with urban sprawl, or celebrated as the positive outcome of policy and planning which imagine well-managed urbanized territories as sustainable ecosystems. The presentations unpack this tension by engaging with landscape architecture and urban design perspectives to explore the local, political and imagined dimensions of policy and planning and how these play out across wider diffuse urban landscapes. The panel brings together a diverse array of international scholars associated with the Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network which promotes comparative research on the global diffusion of urbanization. While urban forms produced by diffuse cities in Asia are rooted in the rural past, diffuse urbanization also triggers processes of adaptation that re-shape original spatial configurations. Presentations in this panel aim to identify the local characteristics of these architectural and urban forms, and the political and planning processes by which they are re-imagined and managed in response to concerns about economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability. We draw attention to the positive aspects of diffuse urbanization processes, drawing on local and regional production of knowledge as it is inspired by historical circumstances and the recognition of heritage as it is deeply rooted in traditional landscapes. The presentations also highlight how (re-)constructed landscapes capture and represent the aspirations of new ideas and practice. By incorporating a comparative perspective from the European experience in our discussion, the panel will address key issues that are central to contemporary epistemologies of the urban, including which planning and regulatory tools are best suited for managing diffuse urbanization, the role of public and private actors and planners who promote new ideologies and imaginaries of sustainability that re-examine the dialectic between compact and diffuse cities, and will reflect on how new diffuse urban forms in Asia challenge the old dualisms of urban and rural.