Multi-scalar Design Experiments in Peri-urban Areas: Agile strategies for long-term sustainability - Case studies: Hasan Awa, Kurdistan, Iran and Lara, Victoria, Australia


  • Rashed Azizi Monash University


Transnational planning, comparative studies, peri-urban areas, Research by design, Adaptive planning and urban design




Based on UN projections, another 2.5 billion people will be housed in the world's urban and peri-urban regions by 2050 (UN, 2019). Urban expansion is the principal mechanism by which cities accommodate this population growth. A recent study indicates that between 1990 and 2014, in a global sample of 200 cities, 23% of the population increase was accommodated through the densification of existing footprints, while 77% occurred in newly expanded areas (Angel et al., 2021). Peri-urban areas, as "sites on the urban periphery into which cities expand, "have enormous potential to enhance urban sustainability positively. Still, despite increasing development pressure, few policies address the specific attributes of peri-urban contexts. (Marshall and Dolley, 2019).

Urban expansion in peri-urban areas is often described as a formal/informal conflict regarding actors and an urban/rural confrontation regarding characteristics. However, this transformation is not a simple binary or a linear continuum; they are fluid (Scott et al., 2013). Recognising the inherent fluidity in peri-urban characteristics sets the stage for embracing the concept of agility—a quality that reflects the capacity of a setting with various actors and complex relationships to adapt to long-run changes (Muldoon-Smith and Greenhalgh, 2015). This approach enables the development of flexible, context-specific solutions to harness opportunities and address challenges brought about by transforming peri-urban areas, contributing to more sustainable and adaptive urban development practices. In doing so, this investigation seeks to answer the question: how can the concept of agility be developed to facilitate multi-scalar design thinking and contribute to long-term sustainability in peri-urban areas?

This 'research by design' (Frayling, 1993) investigation leverages comparative mapping of peri-urban conditions to explore the concept of agility and possibilities to 'learn from elsewhere' (Robinson, 2016). It can shed light on hidden spatial and non-spatial knowledge and catalyse collectively redefining our relationship with reality (Gaver et al., 2022). The two cases, Melbourne (Australia) and Sanandaj (Iran), have similarities and extreme differences, struggling with unsustainable urban expansion and a lack of affordable housing. Comparing Melbourne and Sanandaj peri-urban areas will yield lessons for hybrid design strategies to meet contemporary living needs and enhance future development agility. Through an iterative design speculation process, these insights will inform the development of alternative multi-scalar design strategies and tactics challenging current classifications. These design strategies and tactics create an open-ended urban ecosystem between the environment, contemporary lifestyle, and urban design that adapts to dynamic peri-urban transformations. The resulting tactics will be applied in selected peri-urban areas as speculative growth scenarios, fostering adaptability, responding to evolving urban demands and enhancing living quality, sustainability, and equity.


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