World Urban Development Council @ INTA 34 World Congress, San Sebastian
The Council is a unique vehicle for exploring urban futures, facilitated by INTA. This year’s Council in San Sebastian brought together practitioners, academics, government officials, corporations and investors from around the world – Western Europe, Iran, Peru, Columbia, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere.
– Together we face the challenge of accelerating change and instantaneous communication, although the impact may be manifested differently in societies and places throughout the world.
– Past concepts of an idealised ‘utopia’ and old rule books are no longer relevant as management tools today.
– Rather than be shaped and driven by change we should seek to be proactive and positively shape change and thus deliver transformation.
– The new ‘guidebook’ won’t be a universal solution, a detailed master plan or a rigid ‘sat nav’ with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It will anticipate trends, present fresh perspectives and foster innovation in technology,design, governance, planning tools and financial systems that will help us to continuously adjust, manage and adapt. We will apply and tailor these perspectives to our own circumstances, resources and cultures.
– People must be central to all we do. ‘Nothing about us, without us, is for us.’ The greatest legacy we can leave future generations is that of genuine engagement, equity, inclusion and promotion of diversity.
– Using and developing technology is essential but as a means to make better more efficient places and better societies rather than an end it itself
– New models of sustainability should reflect a range of territorial perspectives including the city in the metropolis, the city in the region, and in particular urban – rural relationships that respect the dignity of urban and rural poor.
INTA provides the vehicle to take forward this exploration of urban futures through its Objective 2030: what future for sustainable urban development?
INTA will engage its members in rethinking the urban development process, in introducing a fresh perspective on the major drivers of change that will shape future sustainable policies, in setting up ‘clusters of competence’ that will explore specific policy aspects and in validating the solutions they propose through a series of international roundtable discussions. INTA panels will seek to apply the principles that emerge to specific places and problems.
Henry Chabert began by reflecting on the past desire for ‘Utopia’, the ideal city. Whilst never delivered, the search did help address specific issues at certain times. We now face a challenge of a greater scale – that of the Metropolis.
Michel Sudarskis intorduced a perspective on the emerging Metropolis:
– a new generation of problems including security, eco-efficiency, disappearance of agriculture, cultural mutation and an aging population
– a new technological wave with a new economy is emerging driven by IT and a new urbanism of production, raising questions about our identity and roots
– more intelligent development processes involving public private partnerships, management and governance tools yet requiring trust and solidarity
– sustainability that must integrate social, physical and economic aspects
– the Metropolis of Citizens requires dialogue, democracy in cities ‘for all’
– the integration of the urban area into its region
– the search for high quality living with promotion of public spaces
– the Metropolis in the region and in the world
– the Metropolis of its time with accelerating change and instantaneous response
Maurice Charrier reflected on the search for Utopia which began in the Middle Ages as a return to ‘God’s City’ that mankind had perverted. In the 19th century the model focused on social relations and in the last century ideals were driven by technology and science. Today we should return to a focus on people with Utopia based on social relations but drawing on science and technology as a means not an end.
Joseph Tossavi from Benin reminded us of the ‘utopia of despair’ and called for ‘we the rich people to respect the people who use the city’. Experience from Columbia also highlighted the human aspect – ‘when we see human beings at the centre the discussion is different.’ The challenge of social exclusion was emphasised – in UK some 50% of budgets are spent on social and health issues and these budgets are now subject to severe cuts.
Others emphasised the importance of the citizen, of building trust between elected representatives and the people they represent. In Benin where cities were less than 100 years old they were seeking to create a new identity as they moved from a colonial past.
Didier Drummond challenged us to shape a collective vision and to be innovative. We should take inspiration from the ‘utopia written every day in the slums of the world where people without infrastructure or professionals develop models and offer solutions’ he reflected on the accelerating pace of change and the ‘inertia of the instantaneous’. With the acceleration on access to information we were losing our memory and our vision. We must envision shared cities that are inclusive and welcoming. We must write the vision down quickly before we lose our memory and our vision.
Pedro Ortiz called for a positive response with INTA positioned to write the ‘new manual. It was recognised however that there was no miracle solution, no single solution – each place would find its own response and should mobilise all stakeholders in doing so. So a handbook of universal solutions was not appropriate – rather we should seek to develop our knowledge of tools that could be applied and implemented locally.
The debate returned to the mobilisation of people and ideas and of building trust between people and the elected members. Pedro Ortiz reminded us of the 230 countries with 70% of the world’s population that are not part of G20. Who is speaking for them? What project is there for that level? Can INTA contribute to filling this gap with a vision and benchmarking to guide development?
The major role of technology was considered. Technology changes quickly, cultures slowly. Whilst the Copenhagen conference couldn’t agree global roles, cities were now moving forward. Existing technologies could achieve significant energy savings and be cost effective, Green solutions were advocated that would lead to economic growth. More balanced cities would promote better infrastructure investment, renewable energy and recycling.
From a private sector perspective Martijn Kanters highlighted the increasing mismatch between supply and demand. From his experience across Western Europe loose planning systems could lead to loss of control and urban sprawl but too strong planning led to mismatches between demand and supply. Cities are accommodators of demand and as this demand becomes more sophisticated so the supply side must respond through more flexible and adaptable governance systems. Suggested tools to be used could include better uses of public spaces, more flexible governance, using taxes to redistribute assets and surpluses and creating leverage. We need to consider the relationship between cities and regions.
Lawrence Barth described how architecture was a way of thinking not just of creating a style. We needed to find instruments to move forward in a fresh way and with fresh understanding. We needed to explore new workspaces and consider the synthesis between inclusivity, job creation and the integration of technologies into neighbourhoods. INTA should draw on the lessons of current large integrated projects in Singapore and elsewhere that are being defined around a future based on integrated solutions and where new ways of planning are emerging. Cities had a role to play in communicating fresh actions and thinking.
We were reminded again of the disparities between poverty and modernity found in many large developing cities between beautiful old towns and modern concrete commercial areas, the problems arising from pollution, waste, bad health, traffic chaos and insecurity. Lima’s population has risen from one million to nine million in sixty years. Power and riches are found side by side with poverty and ill health.
This provoked further consideration of the plight of rural areas and the linkage between urban and rural issues. Joe Montgomery questioned whether the urban model was suited to secure the dignity of people of the urban poor. Should INTA widen its agenda to consider how we can develop sustainable rural areas?
It was agreed that we need both universal and local solutions. In relation to technology there was a paradigm shift – in future energy supplies would be dependent on both central sources and a smarter decentralised grid into which locally produced energy would feed.
Michel Sudarskis drew the discussion to a close by emphasising the need for:
– People to be central and at the core of the debate
– New territorial frameworks including rural/urban and city/region relationships.
– Conceptual change with fresh perspectives
– Redefinition of partnerships between public and private sectors
– Identification of relevant governance and management tools
Report done by Kyle Alexander (Strategic Investment Board, Belfast, UK)
Board Member of INTA