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In the first episode, we take stock of urbanisation. Our speakers break down the challenges that need to be tackled for cities to be relevant, enticing and habitable in the twenty-first century. They explore models which have infiltrated our everyday language, debunk preconceived notions, and provide practical and philosophical advice towards regeneration.
Governance, affordability and congestion are universal urban concerns. Going back to basics, Patrick Lawson Hall defines cities as a “set of socioeconomic relationships between individuals that are mediated by a built environment”. The role of urban planners is to use public spaces to connect - but not intervene in - private ones so as to enable such interactions. The mayor, to cite urbanist Alain Bertaud, should be a “glorified janitor”; regulators should focus on health and wellbeing.
Patrick and Dr Tia Kansara advocate for urban evolution through continuous individual and business decisions and agency. While Patrick wants designers to understand their limitations, Tia believes that as cities are built and maintained, it is important to collect feedback “on the product we design”, to help improve future iterations. Tomas Diez Ladera believes in respecting local cultures, and not allowing market-driven principles of extraction, standardisation and private ownership to impose their models. We should learn from places that have been living sustainably for centuries, and make knowledge open and accessible.
However, as our speakers explain, we cannot assume societies will revert to vernacular architecture, just as they will not - or should not - jump to a ‘smart’ or ‘15 minute’ city model. Nor do we have the luxury of a tabula rasa. Over three quarters of urban growth is through expansion, and the rest through densification. The share of urbanisation from new cities is “a rounding error”.
In Tomas’ view, we are moving from an 8 x 8 x 8 cycle to Zygmunt Bauman's concept of liquid modernity. The Global North is re-inventing industrial areas. Lessons, such as a more collective way of living, can come from the Global South. Covid-19 and the Internet, like earlier plagues and communications infrastructure, have not emptied metropolitan areas. They have reinforced that, for all our scientific and technological advances, we still need more widespread access to basic public services.
Tomaz compares cities with octopuses whose tentacles suck resources. Yet, as Patrick points out, urban inhabitants are less resource-hungry than their rural counterparts and our per capita resource usage decreases as cities grow. Urbanisation is addressing the Malthusian trap. We just need to ensure a model aligned with regenerative principles, such as Doughnut Economics, is central to it.
All of this will produce interesting, diverse cities - or, as Tia considers it, cities with a soul.
Do We Really Want Our Mayors to Have a Vision? Alain Bertaud, 27 February 2020
Our Common Future, report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, 20 March 1987
Centrinno - a four-year European Union-funded research project focused on the potential of industrial historical sites becoming part of a new, sustainable industrial revolution with citizens at the core
Director, Fab Lab Barcelona
Tomas Diez Ladera is a Venezuela-born urbanist who specializes in digital fabrication and its implications in the future of cities and society. He is a co-director and member of the board at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia where he also is a senior researcher and tutor. He collaborates in projects, events, and programs with the Fab Foundation, such as Fab City, Fab Conferences, and Fab Academy worldwide.
He is now the strategic director of Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC, co-director of the Master in Design for Emergent Futures, as well as the founding partner and executive director of the Fab City Foundation, and the Meaningful Design Group Bali.
PATRICK LAMSON HALL
Research Scholar, Principal and FounderNYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, Fitted Projects
Patrick Lamson-Hall is a co-founder and the Principal Urban Planner at Fitted Projects, a leading firm in the planning of new cities and urban special zones. He is a researcher at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, an author of the Atlas of Urban Expansion: 2016 Edition and the manager of the India Urban Expansion Observatory. He is a globally recognized expert on urban expansion, and he manages the Cities Alliance Cities and Migration Urban Expansion Programme in Uganda, Ethiopia and Somaliland. He holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service and is currently a PhD candidate in Public Administration.
DR TIA KANSARA
CEO, Replenish Earth
Tia is a multi award-winning entrepreneur and economist. The youngest to ever receive the Royal Institute British Architects honorary fellowship, she is the co-founder of Kansara Hackney Ltd, the first ISO-certified sustainable lifestyle consultancy, and CEO of Replenish Earth Ltd, a cause and a collective action to protect the global commons. Hailed amongst the Top 100 most influential leaders in Tech by the Financial Times and Inclusive Boards, her clients include Coca Cola, Bloomberg, the European Commission, Forbes, Formula One, MIT, and Siemens. She has been invited to advise on sustainable cities for the government and private sector as well as at conferences around the world.
For this episode we will be supporting Nula by donating £100 for Every 100 Listeners which will allow :
80 mangrove trees to be planted from 4 species
4 community members to be trained to give mangrove awareness