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Conflicts of an Urban Age exhibition opening

Conflicts of an Urban Age is a Special Project of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition highlights the spatial and social consequences of dramatic urban growth in cities across the world between 1990 and 2015. It opens to the public on 28 May 2016

Every hour more than 50 new residents are added to the populations of cities like Kinshasa and Dhaka. Guangzhou’s urban area increased by 3,284% while its population increased by 925% between 1990 and 2015.

Ricky Burdett, curator of the exhibition with a team from LSE Cities, says: “In the short time span of 25 years, cities have grown larger and more quickly than ever before. Fishing villages have been transformed into megacities and deserts have become urban playgrounds.”

Planning has struggled to cope with this pace of growth. Instant cities of immense fragility and precariousness appear overnight, while others struggle to invest and plan urban futures able to adapt and change in response to unknown needs, pressures and desires.

“Building cities for a billion people over the next decades is an opportunity to plan to get things right by accommodating future growth, or to get them wrong by imposing inflexible solutions. Some cities have grasped the opportunity to plan and grow more equitably, others have suffered sprawl and unplanned growth,” says Burdett.

Research in 186 cities shows that the population has more than doubled, but their footprints have increased almost five-fold in just 25 years. Density has dropped and open space reduced. In Africa and Asia, where 90% of this growth will take place, most urban development remains poorly regulated or unplanned.

“If we don’t plan the next 25 years, which will include one of the most sustained periods of urban growth, we’ll end up with dysfunctional cities. We need to design cities that are more open, democratic and flexible,” says Burdett.

The exhibition will cover the following areas:

—Introduction of global urban trends from 1990-2015, including comparison of how Los Angeles, Johannesburg, London, Manila, Kolkata, Accra, Madrid, Kinshasa, Singapore, Bogotá, Quito, Dhaka, Kabul, and Hong Kong have grown. A projection of future growth highlights the challenges of unplanned growth: accommodating the world’s urban population growth by 2030 at Los Angeles’ density would cover almost half of the European Union; at Hong Kong’s density, the global urban population would take up less than half of Italy.

—Case study cities – Shanghai, Addis Ababa, London, Istanbul, São Paulo, Mexico City, and Mumbai –provide an in-depth understanding of the major changes that have impacted on equality and access to open space since 1990.

—Film-based animations provide analytical texture to the case study cities, while comparable statistics and analysis of spatial, social and environmental data provide insight into the consequences of planning decisions on the social and physical fabric of these cities.

—Solutions from above provides almost 50 examples of new developments in a time of intense urbanisation, highlighting how these architectural solutions result in inflexible building types bounded by lifeless public spaces.

—Solutions from below provide case studies by Urbanxchanger of collaborative intervention in São Paulo, Mexico City, Delhi and Cape Town to understand the possibility of catalysing urban change at a local scale.

—A central display provides a comparison between the growth paths of eight big cities between 1990 and 2015: Bangkok, Cairo, Chicago, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Karachi, Kinshasa, and Lagos. Guangzhou’s urban area increased by 3,284% while its population increased by 925%.

A Special Project of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition realised by La Biennale di Venezia. Curated by LSE Cities, it is part of the Urban Age programme (jointly organised by the London School of Economics and Political Science and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft). The exhibition has been developed in the context of Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that will be held in Quito, Ecuador on 17-20 October 2016.



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