Our research project, ‘Creative Aging City’ is premised upon the assumption that we need a new imagination towards urban studies and urban design. Cities in the world are now facing the challenges of achieving economic growth and social and environmental sustainability concurrently. On the one hand, cities endeavor to transform their wealth creation structures that would fit changing production systems towards knowledge-oriented economies in order to sustain their populations. On the other hand, cities seek to recover damaged environments and segmented neighborhoods which have been shaped by development and growth-oriented urban planning and design. Furthermore, cities have to solve these two opposing problems in a totally new demographical condition that more than 20% of the city dwellers will be soon above 60 years old.
Current urban imagination and visions, however, have been approaching these issues from a fragmented perspective. The past decade of urban development has been greatly influenced by the vision of a creative city, which champions human capitals for economic innovation and urban growth. By adapting this thesis for endorsing urban growth, urban planning and design have put much stress on relatively young, mobile, well-educated and professional working people and overlooked how aging populations can still work and live in cities. On the other hand, the solutions about aging populations have focused on conceiving artificial habitats of elderly people and creating more consumption demands and services. Cities are imagined as disconnected communities of creative and productive human capitals and habitats of obsolete human capitals.
Our research project shares the main concern of the creative theory that human capital is vital for urban growth. However, it proposes a holistic perspective towards growth, which can critically review assumptions and problems in the current urban design and subsequently theorize a system or a model that enables to link seemingly disconnected problematic issues. Thereby, the research could hint the way that aging city dwellers can actively participate in constructing creative, sustainable and livable cities and contribute to enriching urban design studies at large.
To this end, firstly, the research examines the existing urban guidelines that especially address age-friendliness and inclusiveness and analyses data concerning aging populations and their participation. This will lead us to take a factual account of urban phenomena and to identify a gap between what is perceived and practiced as age-friendly. Secondly, we would like to investigate cases of existing neighbourhoods where aged population is involved in some kinds of activities, which link to the regional creative economy. The planning and design of such neighbourhoods will be analysed through mapping, site analysis and morphological study. At the same time, their inherent socio-economic networks and relationships will be scrutinised through data analysis and extensive interviews and observations. Comparisons will be made between urban designs and institutional, economic, social and cultural contexts, within a case and between cases. Given this empirical research outcome, thirdly, we will theorise the notion of age-empowering. This theoretical construction encompasses a reflexive examination of the existing concepts of work, productivity, the creative economy, and urban design. We think that this process is essential for identifying problems in the way urban problems are identified and tackled and suggesting new urban design directions. We foresee that the result of the research could potentially be developed into design guidelines.