Resilient Cities

Cities face an uncertain future, but inevitably they will be confronted by significant environmental challenges and risks and will wish to emerge from the economic turmoil of the early 21st century more resilient to economic change.

The idea of resilient cities captures the idea that human settlements must be adaptable to changing conditions, not only economic and environmental conditions and of course climate change, but also a new social complexity generated by the coming together of different groups and different values in urban settings. Resilient cities are able to accommodate change in all its forms.

Inclusive Cities

Social justice is central to the idea of the inclusive city and justice in this sense is best served through an acknowledgement that it is people and not ‘physical things’ that make cities.

People and communities are instrumental to the shaping of the urban fabric. This final theme is concerned with urban governance, the role of the citizen in planning, and how communities come together to address their own needs. It is also about civic leadership, about diversity in cities and about accommodating needs and recognising the rights of individuals, of families and of communities. But inclusivity extends to the economic sphere. Building the inclusive city involves political empowerment, fostering sustainable economies and seeing ‘city building’ as a social project as much as an exercise in physical development.

Cities in Transition

Cities are in constant transition, often facing huge changes in their physical fabric, in their economies and amongst their resident populations.

This transition from current state to a future condition, which it is hoped will be more socially inclusive and more environmentally and economically resilient, is underpinned by national and global flows of population, economic restructuring at multiple levels and the extent of political influence. In response to these forces, some cities are experiencing huge growth and face the challenge of expanding and adapting infrastructure provision, not least the provision of homes. Conversely, other cities are faced with a decreasing population and face different challenges of regeneration and revitalisation. The tracks under this theme give broad coverage to the idea of cities in transition.


Track 3: Smart Cities – Better Cities?

The rapid transition to a highly urbanized condition creates many challenges for the planning, development, and management of cities. 

These challenges call for new thinking by actors such as – architects, urban planners and designers, decisions makers, developers, transportation engineers, utilities providers, social scientists, environmental scientists, economists and notably most recently ICT companies.

Currently, some of the world’s leading businesses within the realm of information and communication technology (ICT) (i.e. IBM, Siemens and CISCO) are collaborating with the energy sector and cities (i.e. Stockholm, Singapore, London, Masdar and Songdo) in testing and developing new ways of collecting and processing information from the urban infrastructure, from buildings and from citizens.

ICT is seen as having the potential to play a key role in devising solutions to many of the challenges cities face today. These range from hard technological solutions in the field of urban energy efficiency, renewable energy, transport, safety, etc., to soft solutions for social interaction, citizens’ participation or global management systems for city administrations. New partnerships between ICT companies and cities are focusing on developing more intelligent and efficient use of resources, that can promote energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint – all supporting innovation and a low-carbon economy.

This track will explore concrete experiences concerning the implementation of “smart cities” projects and the development of new forms of collaboration between cities and ICT companies.

Track 2: Regenerating the City

Urban infrastructures require constant renewal and regeneration as city-regions seek to arrest decline and compete for economic advantage.

In the past, the creation of great city regions has been characterised by a rapid expansion of wealth and poverty, splendour and squalor. Is it possible in the twenty first century for cities to combine ambitious programmes of urban regeneration with forms of planning and governance that seek social justice?

East London’s recent history encompasses transitions from industrial to de-industrial and, most recently, to the post-industrial. It has experienced extensive public and private sector investment via a series of major regeneration projects and its culturally diverse population is projected to increase significantly over the next two decades. The regeneration of London’s Docklands, including the creation of a new centre for London’s international finance and business sectors at Canary Wharf, generated a dynamic and culturally diverse sub-region that remained socially polarized. The hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 was designed to achieve a legacy that seeks to address these underlying social, cultural and economic issues. East London richly illustrates different and divergent modes of regeneration catalysed by the market, the state and the mega-event.

This track draws upon insights from a global city whose recent experience provides practical lessons for all engaged in the complex task of constructing socially inclusive urban spaces.

Track 4: Lessons for Climate Resilient Cities

Paradoxically, cities represent both a primary driver of the causes of climate change, and one of the greatest opportunities to mitigate its causes and adapt to its impacts.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are now at their highest for 3 million years and as a result urban areas are vulnerable to increased temperatures and flooding.  Spatial planning and urban design can provide solutions that make our communities less vulnerable to these risks.

There is a direct link between poverty and vulnerability to environmental risk which must be addressed - countries which are both wealthy and at risk are usually ahead in terms of adaptation.  While we need to work nationally and internationally to secure progress on addressing climate change, we also need to galvanise local action. Local communities are at the cutting edge of the climate change challenge because they have responsibility for a wide range of decisions that are vital to our collective future.   Many of the adverse impacts of climate change, such as flooding, will result in costs to businesses and householders, and solutions to the problems they pose need to be developed locally. Adaptation to the risks presented by climate change, such as extreme heat or water scarcity, is key to futureproofing our existing communities and making sure that new developments maintain quality of life and are affordable now and in the future.

This track will focus on the practical steps we can take to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts.   This includes exploring the need to think strategically and long term when planning for growth, including the role of leadership - from the role of city mayors to those spearheading grassroots action at the community level.  The track will also explore the best practice examples of adaptation tools and projects that can be effectively replicated worldwide.


Track 5: Housing and Social Justice

The need for more, better-quality, and greener homes is a global issue, and we need more than just housing units; we need socially just and sustainable places.

A century after the foundation of the IFHP we still face the primary challenges confronted by the early Garden City pioneers: meeting a housing shortage, generating jobs, and creating healthy, beautiful and inclusive places. However, we also face the new challenges of globalised markets and the urgent need to adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of, climate change.

Over the last century the Garden City ideals have proven to be outstandingly durable, in the UK and worldwide. Today they not only allow governance structures that put people at the heart of their community but provide opportunities to plan for sustainable energy, embed smart technologies and create healthy and climate resilient cities. This track will consider how these principles can be embedded in the planning for new communities - from the UK government’s plan for a new wave of Garden Cities in England to plans for large scale new communities in China. It will also explore the challenge of creating socially just and sustainable communities where the luxury of planning for new communities does not exist, where informal communities in squatter settlements pose the question of how to retrospectively embed the tools for socially just communities. It will explore these issues through sessions on land value capture, housing rights and tenure and explore cooperative models of housing development and governance.

This Track explores the founding principles of the Garden City movement and the IFHP - the desire to create socially just and sustainable places - and asks how to embed these into planning for new communities to create more resilient and inclusive cities worldwide. 

Track 1: The Challenges of Urban Growth

By 2030 more than five billion, of the projected world population of eight billion, will be city dwellers

Mega-city/regions have emerged in the East and South through migration from the country to the city; whilst in the West, migration between urban areas is, simultaneously, creating expanding and shrinking cities. To some extent the future of our cities will be determined by emerging divergent trends. This track, coordinated by the URBEGO and UN HABITAT will consider the social and economic causes and consequences of currently emerging patterns of urbanization and population distributions in different contexts.

Using international examples, this track will explore how urban planning can respond to the challenges associated with rapid uncontrolled urban growth, including issues around leadership, transportation, compact cities and land management.