Headshot of Dr. Maxwell Hartt

Dr. Maxwell Hartt

Assistant Professor

School of Urban and Regional Planning

Department of Geography and Planning


613-533-6000 ext. 75038

Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room E324


I am fascinated with cities and how they change. I am especially interested in the places and processes that are not often celebrated. Places that are shrinking, declining, or aging. In my research and teaching, I explore how population and economic changes shape urban areas and attitudes and how we can improve the places that are important to us.

My education has largely been driven by a desire to make sense of the world – to untangle and understand the complexity swirling all around us. My first foray into research focused quite literally on untangling. My undergraduate thesis (BSc Mathematics, Saint Francis Xavier University) examined the mathematical manipulation and unweaving of knots. My masters research (MSc Systems Science, University of Ottawa) integrated my love of cities and complexity by examining the multidimensional impacts of climate change-induced storm surges. But it was in my doctoral studies (PhD Planning, University of Waterloo) where I finally found a methodological and conceptual balance that matched my interests in cities, complex systems, and social phenomena. My PhD research focused on untangling economic, socioeconomic, demographic, physical, and social processes in shrinking cities and unpacking local planner and practitioner responses to population loss. Since then I have continued to study demographic and economic changes in cities as a Fulbright Scholar at Tufts University, a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, a Lecturer in Spatial Planning at Cardiff University in Wales, and now as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University.

PhD Planning, University of Waterloo
MSc Systems Science, University of Ottawa
Hon. BSc Mathematics, Saint Francis Xavier University

Aging Playfully
Ageing High-Rise Neighbourhoods
Twitter: @mhartt

Research Interests:

My research follows two distinct but related themes that explore the relationship between significant demographic shifts, quality of life, and planning policy.

The first theme focuses on shrinking cities, and challenges the assumption that population loss and economic decline are intrinsically linked. My recent book Quietly Shrinking Cities: Canadian Urban Population Loss in an Age of Growth (UBC Press) explores the phenomenon of shrinking cities in the Canadian context. I am interested in and working on a number of topics related to shrinking cities, including the emergent COVID-induced geography of shrinking cities, the suburbanization of population loss, the relationship between studentification and urban shrinkage, shrinking global cities, and the demographic trajectories of Canadian cities.

The second theme explores the demographic aging of neighbourhoods and cities, and the potential economic, social, cultural, and physical challenges and opportunities associated with aging. I am the lead editor of the book Aging People, Aging Places: Experiences, Opportunities, and Challenges of Growing Older in Canada (Policy Press), which reflects my interest in building supportive, inclusive, age-friendly communities. My main current project Aging Playfully focuses on how play can be integrated into the urban landscape to help improve older adult mental and physical health and decrease social isolation and loneliness. Other aging projects include the examination of care suburbanisms, the collection and analysis of stories of aging, and combatting loneliness through blended/virtual retirement villages in times of crisis.

I am available to supervise students at both the Master’s (Geography or Planning) and Doctoral (Geography) levels. Please contact me if you are interested in pursuing graduate research in any of the following topics:
•    Shrinking cities
•    Economic decline and/or transformation
•    Age-friendly communities
•    Play, ludic, and fun geographies/planning

Curriculum Vitae (pdf, 204kB)