Madeleine WAGNER, Heidelberg University, Germany
Anna GROWE, Heidelberg University, Germany
Urban rural discourses and thus the discussion about urban exodus and the resurgence of rural regions and small towns are now assuming new importance, not only because of the pandemic (Nathan/Overmann 2020). Due to contact restrictions and the associated new possibilities of home based jobs, forms of work are changing (Reuschke/Ekinsmyth 2021) and the affinity to large agglomerations is increasingly being questioned in an economic as well as demographic sense. At the same time, however, a polarization of social, and above all, public service structures can also be observed in rural areas (ARL 2019). In this context, small towns are assuming a new role in the polycentric urban system. Empirical studies so far often deal with either demographic or economic data in metropolitan regions (Growe 2016) or focus on supre-regionally important cultural events. From a geographic and spatial planning perspective, however, it is primarily cultural infrastructures that can function as places of encounter that support the goal of establishing "equal living conditions" in Germany (Mager/Wagner 2022). In particular, there are open questions about the role of small towns concerning local and regional developments in the sense of demographic, economic and cultural aspects. Therefore, the aim of this paper is not only to provide a synopsis of analysis of demographic and economic data but to analyse the concrete changing spatial patterns of working and living. Furthermore, the endowment of cultural infrastructures in small tows is also included in the analysis in order to discuss and re-think the function of this city type for local and regional contexts. To this end, we show that decentralized concentration processes can be identified across Germany at different levels of scale. Reasons for this are presented using the example of urban functional diversity and show the importance of small towns concerning equal living conditions and regional development processes.
Keywords: cultural infrastructures|economic/demographic analysis|equal living conditions|Germany|deconcentration