“Ecologistics,” the continuous and sustainable development of Rugao’s port-city interface near Shanghai the world’s busiest cargo and container port cluster, promotes a regional port-city alliance for the area and integrates global logistics with local ecology. In this three part series, we will focus on the history and evolution of ports and the specifics of Rugao.

Historically, ports created cities – big ports creating big cities. This changed after World War II, when ports increasingly needed to compete with non-industrial development for valuable waterfront space. This led to two intriguing new conditions – “non-place” ports and “non-port” places.

The increased demand for housing, office, retail and leisure space in the central city area increased as cities transitioned to economies of consumption from production, accelerating the relocation of urban ports. In the 1970s, ports left behind their urban roots and migrated outside of cities where there was ample land. These ports, with their own clusters of industries, became “non-place” in the public eye since their spatial relationship to urban centers was loosening. As the ports vacated the waterfront land, the successful commoditization of these “non-port” places became a worldwide phenomenon and led to a conviction of port-to-urban-use transformation in the following decades of competing waterfront uses.

But what does the disintegration of ports and cities in developed countries imply to developing regions where both urbanization and global logistics are the driving forces of the local economy? Are these growing port areas ripe for the next wave of urban redevelopment? Or should contemporary urbanization attempt to enhance port-city integration?

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