On July 14-15, the Urban Age “Shaping Cities” conference brought over 40 speakers from 25 cities to Venice. During the conference, mayors, planners, architects, academics and commentators grappled with one of the dominant questions of an increasingly urban 21st century: How are cities shaped? A Conference Summary is available, however, particular points of interest included:
– behind the global statistics there are far more nuanced, and at times, contradictory patterns of urbanisation that both give voice to citizens and allow external forces to frustrate democratic processes through new ownership and planning regimes;
– that the rights to the city are both social and spatial, and that urban policy should recognise that the two are intrinsically connected rather than autonomous processes;
– that intensification and densification are fundamental to creating more environmentally and socially sustainable cities but that we need to re-learn what it means to plan well-designed urban expansion that accommodates large and small-scale interventions;
– that the practice of urban design is limited by its understanding of complex social and economic forces, and that urban policy struggles to accommodate complex processes of incremental growth and incompleteness which determine authenticity in the city;
– that the frameworks, language and practice of ‘urbanism’ is woefully inadequate when it comes to capturing the reality of much of the urbanisation of the Global South.
This was the 16th in a series of Urban Age conferences. Since 2005, over 6,000 speakers and participants have participated in conferences in several rapidly growing and mature cities including Istanbul, Delhi, New York City, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, London and Johannesburg. The next Urban Age conference will be the second to take place in Africa.