London Conference, 6-7 December 2012


Electric City


This year’s Urban Age conference followed the recent pattern of being issue-centered, rather than being primarily about a particular city or region.  The topic was the Electric City—an exploration of how the new technological revolution will affect cities, and how cities will utilize what it makes possible.  Nevertheless, the specifics of London and the Shoreditch region of the Borough of Hackney in East London, where the conference took place in the 1896 Shoreditch Electric Light Station on Coronet Street (the entrance to which is in the photo on the right, and the room within in which the conference was held is below, to the left; these and all the other photos are by P. Clarke; more photos are available on the Electric Age Photo Album)—just near the Old Street Roundabout area, which has become the informal center of London’s new high-tech industry, and known by many as “Silicon Roundabout”—provided a very special context in which to examine this topic:  this area was involved in the way electricity started to shape the cities of the late 19th century and it appears as if it will be central to the way new technologies—electric, electronic, computer, internet, and others— will be shaping the cities of the 21st century


For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Urban Age is a series of world-wide conferences, dedicated to studying the problems and issues facing cities in the 21st century and creating dialogues designed to find solutions. (See the UA’s own very informative website: www.urban-age.net). 100 years ago, 10% of the world’s population lived in cities, while 90% lived in rural areas. The Urban Age program began at the moment in history when the world crossed the point that more than 50% of its population lived in cities—and the United Nations predicts that by 2050 approximately 75% of the world will live in cities. This fact means that the nature of cities will have an incredibly important impact on the nature of life on this planet. The Urban Age program is centered at the London School of Economics, and funded by the Alfred Herrhausen Society (the international forum of Deutsche Bank). These conferences are designed to form the framework for the development of an ongoing dialogue between government leaders, academic experts, and urban practitioners—it brings together a diverse assortment of architects, city planners, civil engineers, government officials, transportation experts, real estate developers, academics, and various others who study these areas (some as unlikely as a psychoanalyst like me).


The Endless City, a book representing the integration of the findings of the first series of conferences (which began in New York [q.v., my write up] in February 2005 and which culminated in Berlin in November 2006 [with Shanghai, London, Johannesburg, and Mexico City in between], was released by Phaidon Press in 2008. It was co-authored by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (member of the Urban Age team and author of The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful--and Their Architects--Shape the World, and many other books). 


The second series of conferences began in November 2007.  The first of this series was Mumbai (q.v., my write up), followed by São Paulo, and, in 2009, Istanbul (q.v., my write up), which was the final of the three meetings of this second series.  Living in the Endless City, also co-authored by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic and published by Phaidon Press (2011), presents an in-depth overview of the findings from this series of conferences.


The third series of conferences began in December 2010 with the Global Metro Summit in Chicago, organized by LSE Cities in conjunction with the Brookings Institution Metro Policy Program.  This conference explored approaches and perspectives to overcome the current global economic crisis as it affected cities.  The Hong Kong conference on Health and Well-Being (q.v., my write up) was the second in this series of issue-centered conferences.


Introducing the idea behind the Electric City, Ricky Burdett, Director of the LSE Cities Program and of the Urban Age, and Wolfgang Nowak, Managing Director of Deutsche's Bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society, wrote in their introduction to the Conference Newspaper,


In 1879 Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and built the first power station on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, while the German inventor Werner von Siemens installed the first electric elevator in Manhattan in 1880,  Since then, electricity has powered—directly and indirectly—the shape and dynamics of urban life.


It is hard to remember just how basic electricity is to the very essence of our modern urban life, except when disruptions to its supply or delivery make us acutely and painfully aware of it, and it is easy to miss how much electricity has shaped the form and structure of urban life, unless we remind ourselves that what created the ability to build skyscrapers at the end of the 19th century was the introduction of the elevator.


The Electric City conference used the fact that, as Ricky Burdett and Philipp Rode (Executive Director of LSE Cities and the Urban Age) put it,


electricity is re-emerging as the common denominator of a new technological revolution; and the subject of the Electric City was really the whole range of electric and electronic technology that is reshaping our world and presenting multiple, fast-emerging possible futures for it.


What follows is my rough summary of the proceedings of the conference.  The summaries are quite impressionistic, but I hope they provide at least some sense of what was said by each participant.  (Eventually, many of the actual presentations will be available on the Urban Age website. The program for the conference is currently available online by clicking here.  Some of the talks are already available on YouTube videos; and, where they are, I shall include embedded links to their “video online” URLs.  As others become available, they can be located online by clicking here.


 {My own personal remarks in the sections below are set off in curved brackets}



DAY 1 : 6 December Thursday


Morning Session


Opening Conference Video (available online)




The conference was opened by Anshu Jain (photo at left), the new Co-Chairman of the Management Board and Group Executive Committee of Deutsche Bank. He welcomed the 350 delegates and speakers to the Urban Age conference.  He noted that there will be 600 million people in China and India who will be moving from rural to urban settings; that cities create 80% of the world's GDP; that by 2040, there will be 3 billion new consumers, mostly in Asia, and mostly crowded into just 5% of the world's land mass; and that cities also produce 75% of the world's CO2 emissions.  Financing the cities of the future will require a level of $ 20 trillion by 2025, between long term infrastructure investment and short term projects; and it will require that we finance power sources today for 20 years from now. He promised that Deutsche Bank was committed to figuring out the financing and intellectual answers to this situation.  He emphasized the need to rethink together the ways to bring the public and private sectors together to create the long term financing necessary and to support the innovations that will be required.


Then Craig Calhoun (photo on right, below, with Ricky Birdett), an old urbanist friend (formerly from NYU) but now the newly appointed Director of the London School of Economics, noted that there were speakers from 30 cities, 15 countries, and 4 continents at this eleventh Urban Age conference, and that over the history of these conferences they have been attended by 4,500 people—presidents, mayors, and ministers of government, as well as the planners, architects, real estate developers, engineers, academics, etc.—who have contributed to changing the questions researchers are asking and contributing to the a new body of collaboratively created intellectual knowledge across many disciplines.  He introduced the theme and intellectual framework of the conference, defining Electric City as the nexus of social, economic, cultural, and political dynamics involved in and affected by the burgeoning technology of the 21st century.  Our infrastructure is crucially intermingled with our culture and our intellectual and social life.  The electric grid is an example of situations of infrastructure where new technologies merge into our way of life.  It involves not just old and existing sets of infrastructure, but also the set of decisions and social history that shapes our public life—how immigrants are integrated into the social grid, how class is bridged or integrated into society.  It provides the context and conditions for what we understand as action.  It reflects Schumpeter's famous account of the destructive side of capitalism, in which finance destroys society.  {Schumpeter was an interesting person to reference at the start of this conference which was to speak so much to the crucially important role of entrepreneurship.}  But while there is a destructive side, there also is an exciting side.  In considering what will truly transform society, we need to deal with the problem of long term versus short term investment, and the difference of return on investment (ROI) over specific time frames.  The long term returns are much harder to calculate and control in a calculable way, and therefore are usually undertaken only by governments  and speculative investors: and therefore transformative investments are at times driven by speculative bubbles, or at times by investment directed for other purposes (e.g., military)—and therefore their dynamics are quite difficult to understand.


Ricky Burdett (photo at right, with Craig Calhoun) said the name Electric City was also a conscious avoidance of the term "smart city."  Electrification drove urbanization in the 19th century.  In the 20th, the automobile changed things; but electricity was still there, powering things.  We are going to focus on: 1) How to generate electricity in different ways (e.g., Guy's Hospital, in the heart of London, is now generating clean electricity to power its operation); 2) transportation (moving as efficiently as possible); and, 3) the space and place of the cities of the future.   And, of course, we shall look at the personal dimension of how all this affects how we communicate and engage.  He quoted the famous British architect Cedric Price, who decades ago said, "Technology is the answer, but what is the question?"  That is what we shall be exploring.  And he said that we shall explore it in the world the Urban Age has been examining:  where the people are—India, the Pacific Rim, the US, and parts of South America—where growth is concentrated.  He then introduced two special guests to the conference:


David Cameron (Photo at left, below), Prime Minister of the UK, gave a talk in which he began by saying that something amazing is happening in London: a vibrant technology cluster is growing in East London.  Nevertheless there are challenges: 1) maintaining a global profile to attract innovation from around the world; 2) dealing with the rate of rapid change (e.g., keeping up with Intellectual Property law); and, 3) lack of space.  In this regard, he spoke about the Tech Cities Initiative, which promotes growth and supports entrepreneurship.  The UK is now simply the best place in the world to start, run, and grow a high-tech company.  This initiative has been drawing tech sector business to London:  Microsoft is opening a center in East London, and several other firms are moving to Tech City.  The UK is providing some of the most generous tax breaks and creating programs for entrepreneur visas.  The Old Street Roundabout, currently known to some as "Silicon Roundabout," very near where the conference is being held, is already the center for high-tech in London, and he was today announcing the commitment of the government to build a £ 50 million civic space in the roundabout to provide a home to startups, existing businesses, and entrepreneurs who could not afford the space otherwise.  The center will include a state-of-the-art 3D printing lab.  Programs like the Tech Cities Initiative and the Old Street center will enable Britain to complete successfully in this global race. (Sections of Prime Minister Cameron’s talk are available in a video online)

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, then swept onto the podium in his inimitable fashion and began by saying that 213 years ago London created the institutions that drove the industrial revolution, and that now it has created the biggest, most thriving high-tech cluster in Europe.  There are now 24,000 tech businesses in London; BT has just taken 100,000 ft2 of space in the Broadcast center which was built for the 2012 London Olympics, and several other major world players have recently announced that they are choosing London.  He did a mock quiz, "asking" for where many crucial technological breakthroughs of the past had taken place—the answers all being various neighborhoods in London. He spoke of the importance of the “vibe.”  He said that we cannot directly create the street vibe that makes London such a desirable site, but that government can put in place the infrastructure and investment that encourages its development.  London is planning to build two new underground stops on the Northern Line (which serves this area of London), and to construct new river crossings.  London is doing all the things necessary to bring people together to produce the “blinding flashes of innovation” that drive these new industries.  People ask why it is that London has not created a billion pound company—and the answer is that there is no reason.  It will.  (Sections of Mayor Boris Johnson’s talk are available in a video online)


Ricky showed graphics of the enormous numbers of people per hour moving into cities, raising the issue of whether cities will continue to grow in the forms they have—whether they grow without limits and boundaries (like Mexico City) or like the denser, more bounded version (like Hong Kong).  São Paulo has its 14 million people so spread out and so car dependent that people commute on average 4 hours each day; Bogotá, on the other hand, has provided effective Bus Rapid Transit and extensive bicycle lanes to move people cheaply and efficiently.  Density is the issue.  Cities like London, New York, and Hong Kong are quite different in where their inhabitants live, but they all have high concentrations of people living near where they work, with good systems of public transportation connecting people to their work places.  Despite its growth, London's CO2 emissions have been decreasing.  Nevertheless, it is resilience—social as well as physical—that matters most for the future if cities.


The dynamo of cities: density, technology, and ideas


Craig Calhoun chaired the panel.


Dayan Sudjic (at left), Director of the Design Museum, spoke on "The 21st Century Legacy of the Electric Age."  Cities are shaped by ideas as well as by things, and often the result of unintended consequences.  He noted that technology basically works to make useful things, and things also can then shape cities:  the standardized shipping container (a thing) was meant to speed up loading and reduce handling costs; but it put every upstream dock, wharf, and warehouse out of business, and eventually resulted in Canary Wharf becoming London's second financial center.  {It might also be noted that the efficiencies of loading and offloading provided by containerized shipping made Seattle into the thriving port city it now is, by making it more economical to ship goods from Europe to Asia via rail across the US rather than the much longer journey through the Panama Canal.}  Cities are also shaped by ideas: some obvious (like zoning laws), and some less so (like legal codes that make certain kinds of leases possible or impossible, or fuel subsidies that encourage one form of transportation over another).  Electricity is both a thing (think elevators, streetlights) and an idea (think the Soviet Union's notion of it as the road to the future).  It was not until the end of the 19th century that its practical applications began to have a major effect, and when it was instrumental in creating cities with no soot and no slums.  Harry Beck, the creator of the 1931 map of London's Underground, gave the city an idea of its structure that was more schematic (and, according to some, based on electric circuit diagrams) than geographic; and it even had a capitalist element, in that it gave the impression that the housing being developed along the Northern Line was much closer than it was in reality.  What is changing the world: the world of electricity, which moved from the vacuum tube to the transistor, then into the semiconductor, and thence triggered the digital revolution; analog has moved into digital.  The city has to be a place where you can choose what you need—and be able to pay for it. {You may wish to read Dayan’s article in the Conference Newspaper}


Ed Glaeser (at right), Professor of Economics at Harvard University, spoke on "The Economic Dynamics of the 21st Century Electric City."  He described the dance between technology and the human quality of what makes cities work.  In America at the start of the 21st century, population is starting to cluster into cities (reversing the late 20th century outflow); the rates of urbanization are even much higher in places like India and China.  Self-reported life satisfaction is higher in urban than rural areas around the world (with the exception of the US).  The success of cities is something of a paradox: in the 70s, it looked bad for cities; but it is not how it went.  Despite the fact the globalization and new technology make dealing remotely with each other more possible, being in the same room is still centrally valuable—and it becomes even more important as ideas become more complex.  Statistically, having skilled neighbors improves your earning level.  And, as opposed to the Pittsburgh big steel model of large scale industry, small scale entrepreneurship is the mode of today—people seeking opportunity and personal interaction with others.  We need to make cities attractive to smart people.  Life expectancy is higher in cities, and there is a natural opportunity for creative and smart people to interact.  But cities also need to be affordable; density helps with this.  Jane Jacobs got this part wrong: we need to encourage the building of new housing.  And density is the key, both to affordability and to creating lower carbon patterns of living.  {You may wish to read Ed’s article in the Conference Newspaper}

Saskia Sassen (at left), Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, spoke on "Urbanizing Technology."  She emphasized the need for cities to "talk back," for technology to consider and listen to the "speech" of cities.  There is the problem that technology needs to be urbanized—it needs to be made to conform to the differing spatial formats within cities, forming intelligent systems for the city, as opposed to imposing them onto cities.  We need to take care to preserve what has enabled cities to be so successful.  We must avoid smart cities becoming closed systems; but rather encourage an open source technology for cities to maintain innovation, flexibility, and change.  Urbanizing open source technology provides a direction that can overcome some of the risks and rigidities of what is to come.  Perhaps a vision of "city as hacker"?  {You may wish to read Saskia’s article in the Conference Newspaper}


A new climate for the urban economy


The panel was chaired by Ed Glaeser.


Bruce Katz (at right), Vice President of the Brookings Institution and Founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, gave a presentation on "The Green Economy of US Metro Regions."  The US needs to grow 1.1 million jobs.  The poor or near-poor in the US have grown from 81 to 107 million, with the loss of 6,000 manufacturing jobs.  The green economy (defined as any activity that produces goods or services with a positive environmental effect—renewable energy, energy efficiency, Greenhouse Gas [GHG] reduction, compliance, etc.) is and will be a significant driver of the US economy, already with 2.7 million jobs.  Clean energy is a broad, diverse, and productive area—and it is export intensive (2 times that of the US economy in general).  It is innovative: 10%  of the jobs are in science and engineering (as opposed to 5% nationally).  It is opportunity rich: easy to enter at all skill levels (45% of its work force has a high school education or less), and its wages are better (averaging $43,000, rather than the $38,000 national average).  And it is highly concentrated in metropolitan areas, because cities have what is necessary to drive innovation (the power of networks, clusters, scale, markets): NY, LA, Chicago, and Washington are the big centers (the NY metropolitan area alone with more than 152,000 clean economy jobs, the others with more than 70,00 each); but second level cities like Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco are also major players (each with more than 38,000 jobs in 2010); and many medium-sized metro areas have a large percentage of their jobs in the clean economy (e.g., Albany having 6.3% of its jobs in that sector, while Knoxville, Harrisburg, and Toledo all have more than 3.3%).  The Obama administration directed $150 billion toward developing the clean economy; but it is hard to imagine that the Federal government will continue to be able to do what is necessary, given the economic and political situation; so the task will increasingly fall to the states.  Cities and metro areas are also standing up to the challenge, developing metro business planning. {You may wish to read Bruce's article in the Conference Newspaper}


Roland Busch, CEO for Infrastructure & Cities Sector and Member of the Management Board of Siemens AG, spoke on "The New Urban Infrastructure Business."  In 2011, the internet connectivity market for infrastructure and cities was € 236 billion.  Urbanization is the most efficient way to provide infrastructure.  This market is extremely interesting to Siemens: transportation (how efficiently to move people and goods; intelligent traffic flow), energy and energy efficiency (energy efficient buildings), environment (reducing CO2 emissions), waste and water systems, crime prevention.  Siemens has a City Account Management group, high-competence people with a high level of integration, and with expertise on various urban issues.  They have developed a Green Cities Index that they have used to benchmark and evaluate 120 cities (Berlin's great energy efficient buildings; London's plans to upgrade public transit—congestion pricing, GPS system for buses).  The future holds grids that talk to buildings, urban and inter-urban mobility systems, power from renewables, intelligent buildings with no emissions.  We need a more integrated look at cities, rather than separate silo-thinking.  Holistic approaches are what will make cities work, with good civic engagement, with the right technology and technology partnerships.  Sustainability will create jobs and innovative competitiveness.


Dimitri Zenghelis (at left), Senior Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE, spoke on “The Green Economy: A Global Perspective.”  The use of resources is increasing exponentially, and cities are a big part of the problem, as they account for ¾ of the consumption and emissions; but cities are also part of the solution:  cities developed to take advantage of efficiencies.  This is true in both static (distribution is easier in cities) and dynamic (the vibrancy of the urban environment leads to increased productivity) ways.  Cities need to consume more to grow, but they are more efficient.  What is called for is a change in the mode of production.  In the US, people produce 20-30 tons of carbon emissions per year (while in some cities in Europe the per capita production is 5 tons/yr or less).  Cities lock in the structure of their carbon emission patterns for decades in the form of their infrastructure, which makes it very important to get it right, since it is so hard to change once you’ve got it.  Poor cities can’t afford the planning and infrastructure that would provide later efficiency—and this results in their being more expensive for many years.  Mindset is important:  e.g., why do people cycle in Copenhagen? They cycle because of the infrastructure there that is conducive to it; but the conducive infrastructure is there because people cycle.  Smart cities can have a system of input, output, and throughput (of food, resources, energy, etc.) that adapts and optimizes, connecting people to people and to other parts of the system as well.  Important to lock in the right infrastructure and to keep the “signals” right:  make sure the correct incentives are there to encourage entrepreneurs, politicians, businessmen in the right direction.


Judith Mayhew Jones, Chair of London & Partners, commented that the green economy in London has bucked the financial downturn, growing 5%/yr.   The survey that was done by Boris Johnson showed that London had enormous resources—and that things could and should be driven by the boroughs.

Andy Altman (at right), Chief Executive for London Legacy Development Corporation 2009-2012, warned that one can build a “smart city” and still produce a dumb one if one forgets about the specific fabric of the city (its urban form, with particular attention to what works within it).  In the planning for the London 2012 Olympics, they looked carefully to what had made London great in the past, and they used that as the foundation onto which to overlay the technology.  A technological framework must be consistent with the overall city form if it is to work.


Ed Glaeser commented that while the “Electric City” is a city of technology, it is also about the “electricity” of people.  The guiding principle is that the parts have to “speak to each other.”


Jeremy Oppenheim, Director for Sustainability and Resource Productive Practice, McKinsey & Co., noted that we need to focus on resource efficiency—and that if we are to address the problem, cities must play the biggest role.  We must address building efficiency, waste management, building design; and, in this, institutions can either support or get in the way of the process.  Resilience is also a major issue, given that 2/3 of major cities are exposed to major shocks—even without taking climate change into account.  65 million people are moving into cities each year, the vast majority of which are in coastal regions.  This vulnerability could be an enormous circuit breaker on the global economy.  We need to create “voice” (communication, engagement) to enable people to take ownership of the process.


Ed said that cities are centers of vulnerability, and that much has to do with the strength of institutions—which is what could be most crucial in Asia, where the biggest growth will be.


Jeremy raised the question of how to affect the level of interaction with people.


Judith said we must look at infrastructure—smart, appropriate infrastructure; and the defensive resiliency of infrastructure—and the redundancy in infrastructure (e.g., multiple sub-stations and telephone exchanges.


Dimitri raised the question of what to do with places that do not have the institutions.  He noted how much depends on the emergence of strong political leadership on the mayoral level, and gave the example of Bogotá in South America.  He praised the vision involved in creating congestion pricing.  He noted that the initial condition matters, and that the first steps involve huge risk.


Roland said how great it would be if adequate planning could take place in China and India.


Bruce said it is important how we talk about cities.  They can be the centers of innovation going forward, although this is not always the model.


Innovating urban futures


Chair:  Craig Calhoun.


David Willets MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, UK, gave a keynote which began by noting that cities are drivers of innovation and creativity.  Britain was the first country to urbanize (reaching a peak of 50% in the 1850s), when its population was only 20 million.  Technology is currently making possible new forms of city life: urban agriculture was long delayed by the problem of the heat generated by incandescent lighting (requiring enormous heights in buildings designed for the purpose), but that this has been changed by the introduction of cool LED light sources, which can provide the necessary light at a height of only 1 meter above the plants, creating the reality of practical factory agriculture in an urban setting.  Sophistication in programming has resulted in a decreased amount of energy consumption by IT.  There are programs to fund other centers in the UK.  The UK’s Technical Strategy Board (TSB) has been an effective stimulator of technology business in the country; and its Catapult centers have been successful in creating a critical mass for business and research innovation by focusing on a specific technology where there is a potentially large global market and a significant UK capability to address it.  (The first Catapult opened for business in 2011, less than a year after Prime Minister David Cameron announced the £ 200 million technology and innovation center program; and the six other Catapults are in development and are expected to be operational in 2013)  £ 1 billion are being spent to develop the Northern Line of the London Underground to better serve its high-tech business neighborhoods.  There are a number of things that are stuck, however:  there are many planning delays, there is a desire to expand the education role of London in the world, the EU’s Galileo Satellite program (which eventually will provide much higher accuracy GPS for cities than anything currently available).  Oxford should be a growth center, but the local council has imposed limits on providing accommodation that has severely hampered the institution’s growth.  It appears that standards in London’s schools are rising, partly due to an increase of the number of mature students in London.  The UK is learning from American competition, where the pace of demographic growth and change has been attracting students.



DAY 1 : 6 December Thursday


Afternoon Session


Continuity or disruption: the impact of new urban technology


Chair:  Philipp Rode.

John Urry (at right), Professor of Sociology, Lancaster University, gave the session keynote, “Sociotechnical Scenarios for the Future of the City.”  Although the first car to go over 60 mph was an electric car, the predominant technology has not been electric, but rather based on fossil fuels.  The “car system” has been central to an individualistic, consumer culture—with the car being a symbol of freedom.  95% of all transportation energy is oil-based; and there is a declining ratio of use to production of oil in the US.  1950 was the great turning point for emissions; the 60s marked the peak of the discovery period for sources of oil (a straight rise from 1910; a straight decline since the 1960s).  There is an indication of the decline of the car in the West; and the explosion of the world’s population makes it impossible for the oil-based car system to be available around the world, especially across Asia.  {It should be acknowledged, however, that the promulgation of this car culture—and the consumer-based economic growth with which it is associated—is precisely what the Chinese are quite consciously attempting to emulate, copying all too accurately what the economic growth was based on in the US in the 20th century.} Technology alone won’t change things: these patterns are heavily embedded in social, economic, and political life.  Innovation has multiple lines that require synchronization; he quoted Buckminster Fuller’s famous saying, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  He also quoted W. Brian Arthur (The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves), “A revolution does not fully arise until we organize our activities—our business and commercial procedures—around its technologies, and until these technologies adapt themselves to us”; and he said the time frame is likely to be decades.  He advanced the concept of socio-technological systems in understanding what is at issue.  He foresees four very different possible future outcomes: one in which diminished possibilities caused by climate change and dwindling oil supplies lead to diminished but locally sustainable life styles (in which travel is greatly reduced, and activities become far more local; GDP would decrease, but wellbeing might be higher for the shrinking global population); a second, bleaker version, in which there would be a breakdown of mobility, energy, and communications in the face of extreme weather events and energy shortages (in which regional warlords would control the access to remaining resources in endless battles with their neighboring regions; governments would weaken and collapse, infrastructure would collapse, there would be a plummeting standard of living); a third alternative of hypermobility, based on new modes of transportation and communication (and at least the rich, northern inhabitants of the world would prosper); and, finally, a post-car, electric future (in which technology would come up with the most efficient means of doing tasks, travel would be extremely energy efficient and modest, and the consumption of energy would be appropriately and sustainably priced). {You may wish to read John’s article in the Conference Newspaper}


Rainer Becker, Chief Operating Officer of car2go GmbH, Daimler, AG, spoke about the company’s extensive business in providing cars to people in cities for hourly use rather than to own—and how appealing the program is to people in the younger generations, for whom car ownership is not seen as a plus.  He noted the amazing fact that currently 15 times more space is devoted to parking than is to education.  The company is now expanding the availability of electric-powered cars, which even further enhances its environmental benefits.


Frauke Behrendt (in center in photo at left, below), Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Brighton, described the universe of electric bicycles—from the electrically-assisted (that require constant pedaling [and therefore most closely replicate traditional cycling], but provide power assistance for hills [thereby making cycling open to a broader audience]), through throttle-controlled (that one can pedal, but also can use in a power-only mode), to electric scooters (that require no pedaling).  The range makes cycling attractive to a wider audience, and provides an energy-efficient mode of transportation, while still inviting people to engage in exercise.  The plan is to provide programs for widely available city rentals, which will provide electric bikes, much as the current “Boris Bikes” program in London provides easily available access to regular bikes.


Kent Larson, Director, Cities Science Initiative MIT Media Lab, described the notion of transformable houses (which are designed to utilize a small available space for multiple purposes, using movable walls, multi-purpose furniture, complex wall units, etc.).  He described other integrated projects, in which resources could be shared rather than just being for housing.  He also gave some descriptions of technology that will potentially revolutionize our modes of residential living (e.g., new forms of lighting, sensing, computer controls, and local need analysis within the living environment that adjust household functions to maximize comfort and minimize energy use).


Greg Lindsay (on right in photo at left, above), Journalist, Fast Company and Visiting Scholar, NYU, maintained that innovation comes from chance encounters between individuals.  The fact that so many work places are confined to traditional office buildings, with mono-cultural offices discourages this process.  He raised the question of how to foster chance encounters and cross-fertilization of ideas in an office environment. One way is co-working, in which employees share space with people not part of the same company.  Liquid Space is a similar idea, where different people are issued passports and visas that allow them to participate across traditional borders.  He also spoke of using social networks and applying it onto GPS data to find potential matches—a kind of “sonar” for “engineering serendipity.”


Philipp noted that there are those who recommend against going vertical in order to promote innovation.


Kent said that there are co-working centers cropping up in many cities.  Ideally, neighborhoods conducive to innovation need to be within two blocks of public transportation, and they need to have a network of cafes, restaurants, and gathering places.


Patrick Cerwall, Head of Strategic Marketing and Intelligence, Ericsson, spoke about smart phones.  Ericsson is predicting 50 billion connected devices by 2020; there are already 1.1 billion smart phones in use as of the end of 2012—40% of the world’s phones being smartphones.  They predict 85% of the world’s population will have high speed internet by 2018.


Tom Hulme, Design Director (on left in photo at left, above), IDEO, London, said that citizen-centered thinking was going to be the key in the participation economy; have to look at the “desire paths”—even the gathering of information may involve the passive participation of communities (e.g., passive data collection from motion sensitive smart phones can be used to map the location of potholes in the roads).  But there is a collective activity paradox:  there would have been no personal risk to Rosa Parks if everyone had chosen to act that day in Montgomery, Alabama; on the other hand, if she had waited for everyone to act, nothing would have happened.  There is a process that relies on inspiration, moves through group formation, then to evaluation, and ultimately to winning concepts


Kent said there was an issue of agility—the ability to move to where the jobs are, life accommodation.


Infrastructure for social progress: a global outlook


Chair: Edgar Pieterse (at right), Director, African Center for Cities and Advisor, LSE Cities, opened the session by saying there is reason to be optimistic about the possibilities, but there is also reason to be pessimistic about the problems: all is taking place in a world of increasing inequality.  In sub-Saharan Africa, there is a rapid urbanizing of the population, and a huge percentage of what is happening is in the informal sector: only 28% of the labor force is in formal, stable jobs.  There are huge questions about quality of life, security, and systemic access.


Wim Elfrink (at left), Chief Globalization Officer and Executive Vice President for the Industry Solutions Group, Cisco, in discussing high-tech solutions, emphasized that technology is just a tool, an enabler, not the solution.  There are many challenges: 700 million people  will be urbanized; only 50% in India and Africa have access to healthcare and education—more with internet connection than with healthcare; a shortage of 4 million teachers in India alone.  The problems are more severe in the emerging world, but there are common themes:  Safety and security, access to healthcare and education, talent mismatched (supply to demand), and energy management.  Everything will become connected—30 billion devices; and this will enable new technologies (e.g., Integrated Operations Center, Citizen Service Menu).  The issue is how to turn data into wisdom: data to information to knowledge to wisdom.  The problem is the monetization model.  What is required is visionary leadership. Global open standards (to reduce cost), smart regulation.  Public/private partnerships need to be created; we need to team up to create new ecosystems.


Julio Dávila, Director, Development Planning Unit, UCL, spoke about low-tech experience in the world of poverty.  Mobility usually works for the wealthy; the poor suffer from being anchored to one spot.  In Medellin, Colombia, relatively low-cost ski lift technology was employed to create the Metrocable lines to provide accessibility to some of the poorest, more conflict-riddled neighborhoods of the city. Line K rises 400m over its 2 km length, built at a cost of $11.6 million/km.  (A considerable amount of money was also spent on a major upgrading of the informal settlements along its route.)  This publically-owned operation gave enormous visibility to the poverty of the city, while creating a collective sense of self-esteem in the community.


Ken Banks, Founder of Kiwanja and Co-Chair, Mobile Web for Social Development Group, spoke about connecting disadvantaged communities through the mobile phone. Technology is energizing rural communities.  Where there used to be at best a single phone box for a community, there are now mobile phones.  People are figuring out how to use mobile phones to deal with the problems of life: 50% of Kenya’s GDP will go through its mobile banking system.  The question remains how we can deliver healthcare through this route and get information back out of the system.  It is not such a difficult question with smart phone technology, but much trickier with simple mobile phones—and the vast majority of mobile phones in poor areas of the world {some estimate as high as 90%} are not “smart” (i.e., internet enabled).  But every mobile phone on the planet will do SMS as well as voice, and this provides a way to connect to poor communities.  FrontlineSMS has developed a technology to use non-internet enabled phones in a way to enable instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale, in order to collect and disseminate information; it lowers the barriers to positive social change and enables NGOs and grassroots organizations to create a meaningful means of exchange.  He noted the need to buffer communities against future shock, but he also recognized the power assets that can be accessed from communities.  He said that game developers create games to figure things out that don’t exist; he suggested that networks of citizens might be able similarly to create things that do not yet exist—and solutions to problems that actually do exist.


Mark Swilling, Professor and Coordinator, Sustainable Development Programme, University of Stellenbosch, discussed the role of technology in the green transition of cities, and said that digitalization would play a key part in achieving sustainability.  There needs to be a shift from linear to circular flows in cities; urban infrastructure needs to be reconfigured in a way that makes it work the way we want to see—to do more with less.  The question is whether we can reconcile what is required to shape cities and our desire for democracy, or do we have to go to less democratic means.  Things work best when we can use knowledge gained from outside combined with internal control.  One-size-fits-all will not work; it has to be particularized to specific places and situations.  He is going to be testing out some approaches in South Africa.


Edgar noted that there is a tension between democratic dysfunction and the need to create change.  In China the issue is scaling change; in India it is how to spread it.


Wim said that it is crucial we come to informed decisions, whether democratic or not.


Mark noted that local officials are being offered flashy solutions—and financing—by private companies.  The question is what actually happens.


Ken pointed out that technology can exacerbate a problem rather than dealing with it.  He raised the question about whether we should even think about populating places where people cannot live without air conditioning.


Julio said that the next wave of growth will be in medium-sized cities, and raised the question whether these cities will be able to resist the Siren call of ready fixes.  Part of the success of Medellin is based on the fact that it has a strong institutional tradition.


Wang Shi, Chairman of China Vanke Co. and Executive Manager of the China Real Estate Association, said that there is a need for smart regulations.


Nicky Gavron, Deputy Mayor of London from 2000-2008 and London Assembly Member and Chair of the Planning Committee, said that London had been locked into the wrong infrastructure, and that their task had been how to transition it to low-carbon emissions.  They needed a strong policy context, which was provided by the London Plan and its Integrated Spatial Plan.  They need to accommodate a growing urban population, predicted to be 1 million over the next decade.  They decided that London would be a compact city with good public transport and a high level of mixed use development.  They need mixed income neighborhoods, and they wanted people to have choices.  London instituted a successful program of congestion pricing, and it is moving to hydrogen powered buses.  They invested £ 200 million (and an ancillary £ 100 million), all of which was paid back in a few years.


Abha Joshi-Ghani, Director of Thematic Knowledge and Learning, World Bank Institution, Small, mid-sized cities have the least developed systems and the weakest institutions—and will see the  bulk of urbanization.  How can we use technology to help?  Only 20% of this population has access to the internet, but a vast majority has mobile phones.  People in developing countries already use their mobile phones for many practical purposes (e.g., where the best fishing is to be found, who is doing something that is illegal)—things that can make cities more workable.  On the other hand, every Indian and Pakistani {and, I should add, Chinese} wants a car for himself—and we have to find some way to change this culture, because the world cannot survive that becoming a reality.  We need to find ways to use technology to make cities more sustainable and livable—and creating cyber-communities to deal with problems offers a powerfully important approach to this.


Simon Giles, Lead, Intelligent City Strategy, Accenture, said that the lack of trust people have in the technology they are presented with is smart.  From his experience in Mexico, he knows that there is a lack of communication, business models, financing, and master plans.  There needs to be more community input from the beginning of planning processes; a more integrated approach is needed, one that is multi-disciplinary from the outset, and which recognizes the human capital that is necessary to make things work.  This involves a different approach to government, and a different approach to real estate development, where traditionally the main profits are reaped by the developer.  He suggested that communities need to set up foundations which own the land to be developed, and business models that reframe how the developing is financed and takes place.  Such foundation trust development models could provide more social justice and protect projects from the vagaries of electoral processes.


Edgar said that the notion Simon was suggesting of bypassing local government was interesting; but that we also need local government.  Perhaps we need to consider the idea of abandoning planning itself?


Mark said that we should not be against planning.  {There implicitly are two very different notions of planning involved here:  the top-down, large-scale, imposed version of planning that actually attempts to design entire cities, and the planning that is about creating the conditions for growth within cities—usually by focusing on designing the public realm (streets, parks, grids)—rather than the city as a whole; the former has historically shown itself to be a colossal failure and waste of time, whereas the latter is both necessary and, if done well, successful.}  We need to give up the idea that everyone is going to agree.  There is tremendous capacity available, but it has to be connected within the planning process.


Wim said that collaboration was necessary to produce solutions.  There are different models around the world.  How do we get constituents together?  The clock is ticking:  huge numbers of people need solutions, and they will need them soon.


Edgar reminded everyone that there is a cost-point factor; but is it something about which you reach consensus? There is also a question of scale.  How does one aggregate the voice of the unrepresented?  How does power aggregate in cities?  Institutions must be considered social-technological systems, as John Urry was describing.



DAY 2 : 7 December Friday


Morning Session


Culture and innovation in the electric city


Chair:  Jeff Mulligan, Chief Executive, NESTA


Richard Sennett (at right), Professor of Sociology at the LSE and University Professor of the Humanities at NYU, and one of the founders of the Urban Age, gave the keynote entitled, “Stupefying the Smart City.”  The first results of using the technological tools we now have, as with past technologies, will not be good.  The question is how urbanists can learn to use these tools well, rather than in a way that is harmful.  The temptation is to use them in a way that is stupefying to people.  We could think of the issue of what technology can take away from people’s capacity to reason, feel, and make sense of complexity by posing the question: “Do you need the streets to have street smarts?”  And the answer is yes: to be a competent urbanite, you need the streets.  Social psychology studies show that acquiring the ability to think and feel about complexity marks the transition from adolescence to adulthood—the toleration of ambiguity, the ability to pursue incomplete action (moving things forward even when the goal is only partially achievable), dialogics (the ability to hear what someone means behind the words he uses).  Cities promote these abilities: we are stimulated to learn things from interactions with strangers in a way that interacting with the familiar does not provide.  Technology can be used in a way that disables these forms of learning complexity.  When we consider Masdar City, a totally planned city (overseen by Norman Foster) in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, we find that it has a carefully engineered place and form for each function within it (a tight fit between form and function)—one never has to give any thought to the relationship between where and what, because it is so explicitly laid out for one in advance, without any ambiguity.  As Richard wrote in the Conference Newspaper,


…each activity has an appropriate place and time.  Urbanites become consumers of choices laid out for them by prior calculations.


Foster’s idea is that there is a one-way flow from the central command center (CCC) to the…urbanite [who] can report information, but the CCC makes the interpretation of what it means and how the [urbanite] should act on it.  …no knowledge of the city has to be fought for.  So there’s no cognitive stimulation through trial and error, no personal encounter with resistance. User friendly in Foster’s pan…means choosing menu options, rather than creating the menu.


…creating a new menu entails…being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  In nineteenth-century European cities, for instance, new markets for semi-legal goods developed at the supposedly dead zones near the city’s walls; so in twentieth-century American cities like Boston, new ‘brain industries’ developed at the edges, in places where zoning never imagined their growth.


Songdo in South Korea is similarly ‘stupefying’ in its deadeningly inflexible over-planning and lack of diversity: there is nothing to be learned from walking the streets, no horizontal value in the space—and it is in the horizontal plane that we extend outward our contact with other people.  Contrast this to NYC (he showed a slide of Third Avenue), where, even with its regular grid (and terrible vertical plane), the diversity, individuality, and irregularity of the horizontal—and the individual units into which the space is sub-divided—creates ambiguity, an incompleteness in the horizontal, that requires active interpretation—and which results in a stimulation and a sense of neighborhood.  {Those of us who believe that the correct role of planning is to create a framework for and the conditions for growth and development, leaving the specific infill to be created by the vitality, creativity, and individual choices of the inhabitants themselves, know that this has always been the case:  all of the truly successful city planning (including marvelous and still-successful examples like Sawai Jai Singh’s early 18th century planned city of Jaipur) focuses on designing the public realm, allowing for the private, organic, diverse—and at times chaotic—development of what emerges within and around that planning.}  The uniformity and explicit over-specification of form and function takes away the genius of the city and diminishes its traditional sources of economic innovation and the richness of its social and cultural life.  Richard used the example of the Central Operations Center in Rio (created jointly by IBM and Cisco) as a good version of technology being used for information gathering and co-ordination in a way not he claimed was not guilty of the kind of stupefying pre-planning he was describing—dealing with complexity on the ground, rather than trying to preclude it.  {I was not able to agree with him at all on this.  I also had problems with his conception that urban space needed to be “not understandable” directly:  while I agree that good spaces require and invite an active interaction with themselves, there are extraordinary spaces that have always created amazing levels of active engagement by virtue of how directly graspable they are by those within them (the Quattrocento spaces of Brunelleschi may provide the most powerful examples of this—particularly creations like his 1419 Sagrestia Vecchia or his Cappella Pazzi from the 1430s).  Other than these two quibbles, however I found Richard’s talk powerfully on target.}  (Richard’s talk is available in a video online)


Adam Greenfield, Managing Director of Urbanscale, NYC, raised the question, what is a “smart city.”  If we look at the marketing analysis in the literature of businesses that offer smart city technology (e.g., IBM, Cisco), we see definitions like “the integration of public and private demand across networks of infrastructure,” “the interface between real estate and technology,” or, worse, “occupant support and convenience systems”  We need to be careful of the whole Le Corbusier watchfulness from above; and we have to be cautious about for whom this is being designed—because the answer is that it is being deployed for the benefit of a managerial elite and administrators, not for the inhabitants of the cities.  In fact, the “smart city” has nothing to do with cities:  it is a way of using turn-key solutions which businesses already have, and applying them to cities without regard to the specific realities on the ground.  It ignores the whole Jane Jacobs idea of spontaneous order from below.  In thinking about cities, we must remember that it is always “this” city—and that it must always be for all of us.


Jeff said that we must remember that cities always historically have some “plumbing”; what is the role of infrastructure?


Richard said that the end point should be as flexible as possible, creating systems that can grow.


Adam agreed: “the smarter the network, the dumber the people connected to it.”


Richard pointed out that some of the direction of all of this is driven by the fact that there is money to be made in “closing” the system, whereas it is the openness of systems that it crucially important for cities.


Wolfgang Pietsch, Munich Center for Technology in Society, drew attention to the impact of “big data” on the social sphere.  Everything is becoming connected; and, in the future, there will be an integration of the physical and social worlds that will permit the collection of ever larger sets of data concerning all aspects of human existence—and this is already happening.  This allows the establishment of meaningful data for prediction and control in the social spheres.  The fact is that in the area of weather prediction, more data, increasing computational power, and better models have clearly led to vastly better ability to make accurate predictions (today, five-day predictions are as good as three-day predictions were 10 years ago).  In the realm of social forecasting, we have huge amounts of data (much collected by inadvertent providers, and done by large, private companies) and great computer capacity.  These data sets improve ability to make accurate predictions about social phenomena.  He reminded us about Francis Bacon’s quote from 1620, “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced.”  One needs to recognize that predictability leads to control (e.g., the Obama 2008 re-election campaign successfully used a sophisticated, custom-built, constantly-evolving algorithm with hundreds of variables to predict any given voter’s allegiance and level of enthusiasm).  A new instrument of power has arisen—the massive amount of data controlled by a small number of companies.  The problem with what the analysis of these huge data sets makes possible goes far beyond one of privacy: the issue is how this power should be used and who should be able to use it.  (Wolfgang’s talk is available in a video online)


Jeff referenced the “Fourth Paradigm” (Microsoft’s proposed addition [available free online] to the first three paradigms [experimental, theoretical, and computational science]): the paradigm of the analysis of massive data sets).


Carlo Ratti, Director, MIT Sustainable City Lab, agreed that Songdo and Masdar are not good examples. He raised the question of how technology is changing design.  He used as an example Formula One racing: 10-15 years ago, it was about having a good car and a good driver; now, thousands of sensors collect data that is analyzed during the race to provide real time control that is essential to the outcome.  Cities are going in this direction:  sensors are collecting data that can be analyzed and acted on—allowing cities to speak to us, a technology→design→people model.  An example MIT created for the Zaragoza World Expo in Spain, thinking about how can we use water differently: created a building in which the walls were made entirely of sheets of water, programmed to take varying shapes, to display patterns, images and text—and all responding to input from sensors as visitors approached from different directions (a technology→people→design paradigm).  He described one evening, however, where the computer control of the water walls broke down, when the patterns failed to respond to sensor data about where people were in relation to them, and how interesting the result was—and how actively engaged visitors became in trying to deal with the randomness of it.  MIT now provides Wi-Fi all over its campus, and this has changed the work patterns of people using the campus; but we can also get information from where and how people are using Wi-Fi.  When technology is everywhere, one tends to forget about it, allowing us to go back to focusing on what we’re passionate about—people and spaces. {You may wish to read the article co-authored by Carlo and Anthony Townsend in the Conference Newspaper}


Jeff asked whether this technology will transform the social sciences.


Judy Wajcman, Professor of Sociology, LSE, answered, certainly not: there are issues about “big data,” the same things we’ve been hearing about—not always so efficient (e.g., the financial crisis).  We have been talking about the electric city, but we haven’t said much about the electric home—domestic applications in single-family households,  The engineering sense of what a house is is not about what houses are really like.


Ayesha Kahanna, Managing Partner, Urban Intel, said that treating people as objects causes problems.  We have been giving away a lot of personal data; people need to be included in the debate about what happens to these data.  Carlo said that once invisible, technology becomes dangerous; we need to take control of the responsibility which we too easily give away.  We can improve the quality of life in the home.


Mark Major, Founding Partner, Speirs & Major, spoke about light and lighting and the social aspects of them: the nighttime economy of the UK now exceeds £ 66 billion.  Light plays a major economic role.


Jeff reminded us that we also need to consider the role of darkness.


Mark said there was a conference on darkness in Chile.  We have to be aware of light pollution—cities that never sleep.  There will be a need for darkness in the city of the future, much as there was a need for green areas in the 19th century.


Michael Kimmelman (at right), Architecture Critic for the New York Times, was struck by the fact that what was most interesting was when the technology of the water house broke down and people began developing their own form of interacting with the randomness of what was happening.  We cannot just rely on design from above.  Brasília is an interesting case:  Oscar Niemeyer (who had died at 104 the day before the conference) once said, “You might not want to live in Brasília, but it’s a real city.”; but it remains true that the top-down design of that city has never really worked in terms of urban life.  There is also the relationship between commerce and information that must be considered.  He said that resilience is the creative answer. It is often said that the events of Tahrir Square were about technology and virtual reality; but really it was all about people coming together in actual space.  We are constantly overestimating the effects and power of technology, although we will find ways to use it.  After hurricane Sandy, there was the urgent question of the need to redesign the actual city.  We have to avoid the overestimation of technology rather than the real environment.


Adam said that at times like Sandy, people discover capacities they did not know they had, using the Occupy Sandy movement as an example.


Richard called attention to the problem of the fact that the government was building a “center for innovation” in the area of the conference; think about it:  in this area innovation has been occurring despite what was here.  Build dedicated space to creativity, and this area is over!  The great center for people meeting in this area had been the Pret-á-Manger…because it had great, free Wi-Fi.


Jeff raised the question, how do we smarten the city?


Michael said that it was by democratizing resources.   Libraries become critical elements in working class and poorer neighborhoods.  We need community centers for the poor, the older population.  We need a technology that has changed the nature of the space, which changes the institutions.


Carlo said that it is all about people.


Mark said that it was not just new technology, but also older ones that we are getting smarter about.


Ayesha claimed that bottom-up / top-down dichotomy was a false debate: we need both.  We need the physical and the technological together; and this requires huge investment.


Michael said that we need to have organizational expertise and institutional decision making that is not entirely democratic.


A woman from the audience noted that young people are actually not expanding their networks; it has been found that electronically they are really interacting only with people they already know.  There is a need for physical space in order really to expand connection.


Wolfgang noted that the economic crisis was not about collecting data sets, but about different sorts of manipulation altogether. You do have to be worried about the kinds of control that are made possible by these data sets; it is a question of how to provide for the freedom to act and choose.


Richard asserted that the issue of technology created a different configuration for the study of the city that requires the development of a psychology of understanding it.  The more technologically focused we get, the more we need to think about the psychological issues.


Jeff ended the session on an optimistic note: it has been observed that IQ scores are rising 1.4 points/yr, and that this increase correlates with urbanization.  Enhanced conceptual reasoning seems to be the issue—something that urban life encourages, but that that technologies may not normally encourage.


Designing place for the digital age



Chairs: Michael Kimmelman and Ricky Burdett (in photo above, with Alejandro to the right, and Bjarke’s back in foreground).


Alejandro Zaera-Polo (at right), Founder, Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture, Dean of the School of Architecture, Princeton University, spoke on “The Impact of Digital Technology on the Spaces of Cities.”  He has been part of an experiment at Princeton, Culture Now, aimed at assessing how architecture could contribute to American Culture.  The concept and reality of internet space is challenging the very foundations of architecture:  what happens when instead of physical form and place, things have an IP address—when urban space is replaced by other space that enables the sharing of content and knowledge?  He said that that that paradigm for architecture of the past few decades is changing: the old paradigm was of large buildings constructed out from custom-made components; the new paradigm is becoming one of individualized products—a kind of assemblage of discreet and accreted assembled parts. The shift away from patron-based architecture occasioned by the internet allows customization and crowd-sourced production, in which the people become the creators.  He pointed to a parallel between the informal cities of Latin America which are assembled organically by their inhabitants and the growing utilizing of shipping containers as buildings or building blocks for buildings.  Sharing is a pivotal issue—in information, apartments, or even finance (as in micro-finance).  Internet applications like Foursquare and Google are beginning to focus on physical location—which is a sudden departure from the “worldwide” quality of the web, instead moving toward localized networks.  A regeneration of certain neighborhoods of Detroit has been occurring built around the use of Indaba (a music sharing site).  But these approaches are less effective in effectuating physical output; more typically the projects are temporary, or scaffolding-based.  To survive in this new paradigm, architects will need to become more entrepreneurial.


Michael commented that we began looking for a style.  There is a question of capital.  We have discovered, as the economy has come apart, the question of who is going to pay; and this has led to much smaller things.  But these often are not very architectural.  What will architecture be doing?


Alejandro answered, “Same as always.”  It will formalize these processes into streets.  We have to put things out there and see what takes.  We are moving toward an architecture that is more entrepreneurial.


Michael said that there was a problem with the incompleteness, temporariness.


Alejandro said some things will be permanent.  We need to establish a new canon for architecture—an accretion of selves.


Ricky said there needs to be a modesty about what architecture is about; accretion brings a sense of time.  One needs to pay attention to 5, 10, 20 years—to look ahead in a way we often do not.


Alejandro said that architects can learn to produce incompleteness.


Erick Spiekermann, CEO, EdenSpiekermann (at leftt), spoke on “Mapping and Designing Urban Systems.  He described himself as an information designer.  The idea that architecture can redesign the world is arrogant.  How do we read our cities?  We are creatures of the horizontal (except for Spiderman). He opined that the High Line in NYC violated this rule. A trample path is a form of spontaneous design (often more logical than what is designed by professionals), but then other people follow it.  The cities we like are messy.  In London, too many people use the Tube; perhaps we need to encourage people not to.  In Berlin, among 18-24 year olds, it is an embarrassment to own a car.  He raised the concept of user-centered design.  And he espoused the principle, “Whatever new transport service you provide, make it ubiquitous, easy and fun.”


Michael disagreed about the High Line and defended it as a successful part of a people-workable structure.  He agreed though that, as with architecture, it is necessary to listen to people.


Alejandro added that architects can detect and formalize certain latent things in a way that make these processes explicit.


Erik said the question is what we do by design.


Michael questioned what the moral role of “design-ness” was; how do we understand morally the issue of regular bicycles as contrasted with £ 3,500 Mercedes electric bikes.


Erik said we must be translators.


Bjarke Ingles (at right), Architect and Principal, BIG, spoke on “Meaning and Symbolism of Green Architecture and Urbanism.”  As for sustainability, the question usually is how

 much of our life we are willing to sacrifice for it.  What if   we could increase the quality of our lives through sustainability? He used as an example what he and his firm had done for Denmark’s Pavilion at the Shanghai Olympics: they created a Danish “blue bicycle path” through the pavilion, on which visitors could ride using Danish City-Bikes; they brought harbor water from Copenhagen to fill a swimming pool, to demonstrate that the city had succeeded in raising its quality of life by cleaning up the water in the harbor to the degree that swimming in it was now the reality; and, because the Chinese used three Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales in their public school curriculum, he convinced the government to allow him to bring the city’s statue of The Little Mermaid to be part of the exhibit.  Sustainability can have aesthetic advantages, as well (e.g., the energy efficient building BIG did for the energy company in Shenzhen—energy efficiency achieved using low-tech methods with good aesthetic results).  Working with public participation is important: in response to the riots in Copenhagen following the Prophet Mohammed carton uproar, they mobilized participation and ownership in a public space project they did in a challenged, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Copenhagen by having residents nominate elements from their home countries for inclusion and weaving them into a park with color-coded ethnic diversity of form and object—and even sound.  He spoke about social infrastructure and “re-appropriating the industry of the past.”  In BIG’s Vancouver project, they took an urban wasteland shredded into pieces by the intersecting highways and utilized the constrictions of the setback regulations to inform the shape of the building they created, which expands out from the tiny, restricted triangular footprint of its base in a beautiful curvilinear way as it moves upward—and they exploited the undersides of the bridges at its base to create a public space with the ceilings functioning as projected photography gallery.  He also described the Loop City master plan project BIG designed for Copenhagen—including the fantastical, huge (it will be the biggest and tallest building in Denmark) power plant building they designed for the waterfront that will use trash for fuel, will have a ski slope (Denmark has snow but no mountains) on top of it, and that will purposely make visible its carbon emissions (even though it will be the cleanest waste-burning power plant in the world) by releasing them in the form of measured smoke rings (when it has accumulated 200 kilos of CO2, so that five will equal a ton) from its enormous smoke stack.  He said that knowledge was power, and that he always strove to make abstract elements very concrete.  The more information people have, the more informed their decisions can be.  (Bjarke’s talk is available in a video online.)


Michael asked how one is to differentiate the multi-cultural park he did in Copenhagen from Epcot Center or Disney World.  What actual social change will it produce?

Bjarke replied that the park was created out of everyday objects chosen by citizens, and thus it was a more truthful portrait of the people who actually live there.  It is without irony, but full of humor and surprise.  It turned out to be more tasteful than we had imagined—and it is very highly used.


Michael asked whether he saw it as a place that would be politicized.


Bjarke said that it was an extreme exercise in inclusion.  A lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds co-habiting a limited amount of space—it works because it was a collaborative effort and it created a sense of space for everyone.  Interesting to see what it looks like when we have people fulfill part of their desires.


Ricky asked how he gets these projects accepted.  How did you convince them to put out the amount of money necessary to do that power plant? {a very interesting—and complicated—question, especially given the fanciful nature of the elements, and the project’s enormous scale}


Bjarke said that over the past decade they have been very active.  It is the proverbial debate about architecture: we have to listen to the needs of the people; but then we have twisted the realm of the possible.


Ricky said that Bjarke has helped shift the paradigm.   He concluded the session by asking the three speakers what the one word would be that they would use to sum up the interesting perspectives they had presented.  He asked Alejandro, who hesitated, and Ricky suggested “assemblage”?; and Alejandro shrugged and nodded.


Erik answered, “legibility.”


Bjarke said “concreteness.”


Implications for the public realm


Chair: Deborah Saunt, Director, DSDHA Architecture and Urban Design, introduced the two illustrious men of great stature—both of whom have been central participants in the Urban Age Program—who were to discuss together the issue of the public realm.


Richard Rogers, Architect and Chair, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, said it always has to be more about space than about technology.  When he did the Pompidou center, it was not just to make a building, it was to create a place.  There is immense optimism about designing society with technology, but, at the other end of the spectrum, for creating design-driven social change apart from technology—both are true.  The printing press is probably the biggest example of all time of how a technological innovation developed a profound set of social changes.


Richard Sennett said that it was difficult to picture what was going to happen with current technology; he wished he could live another 50 years to see it—and how the creation of complexity will play out over that span of time.  He predicts that the scale of things will shrink:  that what is called “public realm” will be more like 30m2, since we are so much more able to locate other people, we don’t need that much room.


Richard Rogers (at left) said that people just want actually to be together, and that will always be true.


Richard Sennett said we don’t need technology for that. Technology allows us to experience with different scale, however.


Deborah asked what about getting lost in the city.


RR it depends on your sense of direction.  We are moving in a different direction, but that doesn’t change.


RS said that he loves getting lost.  He never uses GPS…except when he wants to get somewhere.  What he treasures is the surprise—the essential experience of complexity.


RR said that movements and aspirations have not changed that much.


RS said we need to talk about the “demon” of the relation between technology and social class.  There is a huge issue about technology for poorer people.


Deborah asked whether there was a guiding principle for dealing with this.


RR answered that is would be a question of dealing with and shaping financial pressures.



An urban response to climate change


Chair: Tony Travers, Director, British Government at LSE, and Director, LSE London.


Anthony Giddens (at right), Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge, and Emeritus Professor (and former Director), LSE, gave a wonderful keynote on “Re-Industrialization in a New Electric Age.”  We are in a new age, but it is not an electric age—the “electric city” is not a novelty at all:  the modern city (which dates from the late 19th century) is already everywhere an electric city (he referred importantly to Phillip Schewe’s 2006 book, The Grid).  The places the real change comes from—and the two great convergent themes of living in cities today—are: 1) “the grid” (which, of course, is virtually synonymous with the computerized communications system, once we think of the grid as everywhere and recognize all the things that are dependent on it), which has become the very condition for industrial civilization, calls for endless consumption of energy—it unfortunately takes power for granted, and, since we still rely more than 90% on fossil fuels for power, it leads to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that eventually will undermine the very civilization we have built (the underlying science for which he finds fundamentally irrefutable); and, 2) the whole arena of environmental sustainability.  The reality of the world living beyond its means will give rise to three major consequences.  The first is the massive rise of energy politics (although energy had been politicized for a long time, formerly it was only in relation to Middle Eastern politics)—which has become more open, involves more people, is more contested, and is more consequential.  To arrive at the needed balance of security, sustainability, and job creation, we will require a smart grid—particularly since the demands of new technology are intermittent.   The second is the need to view the city as a center of production, not only of consumption, which involves a truly transformational shift:  computers are beginning to exist not only in the virtual world (in which we design things, or write things), but they also are entering the world of physical reality (e.g., 3-D printers, which can actually be used to manufacture an amazing diversity of objects in an urban setting)—but this is just the early edge of a world in which computers will increasing make the world.  Digital fabrication could reverse the whole previous movement of manufacturing from high labor cost countries to low labor cost ones.  The motto could become: think globally, manufacture locally.   The third consequence of our civilization’s massive dependence on energy is city as dystopia:   when he first wrote his 2008 Politics of Climate Change” (available online), there had been hope that something could be done to control GHG emissions and climate change; unfortunately, we have lost control of the climate change process—and we have lost hope.  Even at best, we will not be able to avoid many of its consequences.  Even a small change in global temperature will lead to much more extreme weather (more violent storms and more severe droughts)—leading to a necessity to deal with some of the dystopian possibilities for cities.  We have to start building in resilience to deal with these now unavoidable consequences.  Poorer countries cannot afford to do this; and, even in wealthy, westernized, industrial countries, it will require vast resources and effective long-term planning—and politicians in democratic countries are not so good at long-term thinking.  We have moved into a new phase of history, and one that faces risks different from any that have gone before, and which could destroy civilization on a global scale: it is a high opportunity/high risk future.  What is important about dystopian visions is how to avoid them, and that requires recognizing the reality of the risks. (Tony’s talk is available in a video online)  {You might wish to read Tony’s excellent article in the Conference Newspaper.}


Tony asked whether the decreasing trust people have in politicians make this more difficult.


Tessa Jowell, Member of Parliament, UK, asserted that “trust” is too high a bar.  We are, however, a trusting society, and we can do things to increase confidence—which is preferable to trust as a measure.


Craig Calhoun said that if we are a society that runs on trust, we are in trouble, as we have serious problems in public trust.   There are massive risks that are real and unsettle us; but risks are not good at guiding meaningful change.  He raised the question of what is effective in shaping response in existing political organization.  Cities are sites of considerable social self-organization; but they are also structures of inequality which externalize the negative byproducts of what we do.  We need to ask the resilience question in relation to the poorer, low-technology cities.  Repurposing may end up being more important than imagining new things.  We need to imagine things leading to socially collaborative action to enable us to create a politics that would allow us to take advantage of what technology has to offer.


Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá 1998-2001, said that cities will grow hugely, especially in the developing world.  Sustainability is strongly related to inequity.  Mexico City has doubled in population, but grown seven-fold in land area—and this is not a pattern that is consistent with sustainability or equality.  We need to make the decision to make cities for everybody.


Maarten Hajer, Director, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, said that there is an order of magnitude issue that has not been in the room, and it is the real problem of energy.  The last half of the 20th century was all based on fossil fuels, and we need something new.  We need a coalition of the willing: some big corporations, some NGOs, some cities.  The fossil fuel era will not end because of a lack of coal, just as the Stone Age did not end because people ran out of stones.  There will have to be a reorientation of values; societal energy will have to be channeled in the right directions.  Arguments framed in solely technological terms tend not to be effective in changing people’s attitudes and behaviors; people have to be engaged as individual human beings, with consideration being paid to their fears and desires.  There needs to be a collaboration between citizens and governments. Citizens must have the opportunity to get organized, and then, together with government administrators, search for solutions.  We have to tax carbon; we have to get the incentives right—and all this needs to be seen as doing good.  {You may wish to read the article co-authored by Maarten and Hiddo Huitzing in the Conference Newspaper}


Tessa said there is a theme: the big challenges (shaping cities, climate change) require new politics and new politicians.


Anthony said we have to recognize the reality of risk, which is a different thing.  The science on this is extremely solid.  Trust in politicians’ programs first requires trust in science.  Cities need to be sites of production, and they need to be equitable—we need to have there be something in all this for poor people.


Craig said that we need solutions that don’t depend on a master plan; and then we have to imagine the scaling up.  It may mean we end up seeing a partial disintegration of institutions as we know them today.


Enrique said that more quality of infrastructure leads to more equality—and the same is needed for sustainability.


Maarten said that the risk is that politics gets caught up in unproductive ways.  We need to make sure we make work for people and make the quality of life better for them.



Governing urban transformation


Chair: Greg Clark, City and Regional Development Advisor.

Philipp Rode (at right), Executive Director of LSE Cities, presented “Facilitating Transformation: A Global Survey of City Governments,” in which he presented the data that LSE had gathered providing a global overview of energy consumption and pollution patterns (with comparisons of density, transport, and governance) between established Urban Age Cities (London, NY, Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, and São Paulo) and a selection of ‘green pioneer’ cities (Hong Kong, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Portland, Singapore, and Bogotá) {The data can be found clearly presented in the Conference Newspaper.}  Progress to date has been mixed: cities have been good on recycling, green space, transportation; but they have to do a lot better about energy consumption.  The reality, however, is that cities are leading green innovation in the world.  Half of them are very innovative, but they are constrained by budget restrictions.  (Philipp’s talk is available in a video online)


Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica, spoke on the “Local Impact of Virtual Actions.”  What citizens are doing is important.  He personally has been involved in many failures (e.g., The Cloud for the Olympics, which he worked on with Carlo Ratti, a kind of “giant smart meter” which was to show what London was doing in real time, which came in second to Anish Kapoor’s entry, so not a total failure; Baranagroo, which he worked on with Arup and Richard Rogers, that not a complete failure, but in which it was incredibly hard to get things done; and the Sydney Metro, a spectacular failure, which was cancelled by politicians after spending AUS$ 700 million).  The reason it has been so hard to get things done is that, although we have ideas and technology, there is a crisis of decision making.  We see an institutional collapse.  The question remains what the sustainable long-term decision making structure should be.  As Maurice Steinberg put it, “We have 18th century institutions facing 21st century problems.”  Technology means that complaints come in more quickly; this changes how governments need to deal with them—how many complaints are enough to justify acting?  (The metric clearly has changed.  He used the example of a skateboard mini-park in a neighborhood in in Helsinki which was physically altered to shut it down shortly after it opened due to complaints from residents, but that was then physically restored to useable condition after a second round of complaints came in protesting the closing of it.  He showed a slide of a construction crew using large machinery to do the costly repairs necessary to remove the barriers they had just spent money constructing in order to prevent the use of this facility—a facility which itself had just recently been created at great public expense!)  There is no idea how to govern in these new conditions.  An active citizenry is essential—very bottom-up and emergent.  We need crowd funding for projects (e.g., Brick Starter, modeled on Kickstarter: a crowd funding platform that would enable people to suggest ideas for things they want to get done in their neighborhood, and then to fund and share the process of getting these things done).  How does one share the details of getting things done? Perhaps there can be some form of brokerage for active citizenry.  Crowd funding is not a democratic process. The internet can be a mechanism for citizens to get things done; and the process presents the possibility for citizens to engage with the fabric of their city.  We need to have activism that leads to activity—and that activity can result in active government.  Active government needs to be the goal, because we need an institutional response to change,  What we are really talking about is a new 21st century social contract: we have to deal with what the city is, who the city is for, and how we decide that. {Dan’s talk is available in a video online)


Rohan Silva, Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, UK, spoke on “A National Strategy for the Urban Tech Revolution.”  In creating an approach to the technological city, we need to understand the area and go with the grain of it, rather than try to superimpose a vision from above.  He showed a slide of Royal Avenue in Chelsea, and said that this little piece of the neighborhood was particularly interesting, as it is what London might have looked like had Christopher Wren’s grand master plan for rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666 been adopted.  But, instead, the merchants and residents who inhabited the area around Kings Road (just behind Royal Avenue) decided on their own to rebuild along the lines of what had existed there before the fire.  This is an example of the kind of bottom-up approach we try to use in dealing with Tech City.  He also showed a slide of a square in Soho with its single water pump, which was the site that John Snow deduced was the epicenter of the Broad Street cholera outbreak of 1854.  By collecting and analyzing data {without any knowledge of microbial theories of disease}, Snow determined the source of that epidemic.  This is an example of the use of spatial mapping to inform policy—and it is why we in London place such emphasis on creating such institutions (e.g., the Open Data Institute in Shoreditch, and the Intel Collaborative Data Institute) in our Tech City program.  {Snow’s use of epidemiological mapping as the basis for his deductions also marked the beginning of the modern awareness of the relationship between the built environment and public health, and heralded the modern age of public health intervention via water supply and sewage handling. (q.v., my comments on Ricky Burdett’s talk at the Hong Kong conference on Health and Well-Being)}  The creation of Tech City and ideas like entrepreneur visas are successful approaches; but we must always embrace the specific sense of community of the places involved.  When thinking about the formation of clusters, we must look to the past to understand the what the place involved is about—we must think about history to inform our policies for the present.    {Rohan’s talk is available in a video online}



Cities panel: the legacy of urban leadership


An extremely lively panel discussion was chaired by Greg Clark and Andy Altman, Chief Executive for London Legacy Development Corporation 2009-2012.


Andy began by noting that mayors are at the intersection of vision and practical need.  We want to look at how someone can use that platform for systemic and long-term change.


Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and former Mayor of Barcelona, said that the lack of common view makes things extremely difficult.  We were able to achieve a needed reform of the DNA of Barcelona because there was a crisis (the price of oil, the obsolescence of our economic industry).  We decided that culture was one sector to encourage.  In the 60s and 70s, visitors to Barcelona had been industrial; we redirected efforts toward attracting tourists.  The move was heavily criticized, but now it is the city’s only booming industry.  For the Olympic games, we took five pieces of public land for hotels—which was only possible due to the consensus born out of the existing crisis.  He advised: Never overlook the opportunity of a crisis!


Tony Williams, CEO and Executive Director, Federal City Council of Washington, DC, and former Mayor of Washington, DC, said that people come to cities for better lives for their families.  He spoke about his successful Anacostia River development, and the need to build bridges to the community to engender support.  He said you know that you are successful when you have altered the content of the complaints.  (Once you begin to hear specific complaints about a program that no one had before even recognized the reality or existence of, you know the project has largely succeeded.)


Andy said there is always a tension between top-down and bottom-up planning; but what is the balance between vision and how you can govern in terms of democratic action?


Joan noted that when you are out in front, you are always very alone.


Tony said that one cannot be risk-averse and be a leader.


Carl Cederschiöld, Mayor of Stockholm 1998-2002, said that leadership has to do with having a vision and being ready to make the decisions necessary to make it a reality.  It is a process that has gone on for a long time.


Greg said one needs to be able to take that space to affect the plan.


Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor of London, said that there is a risk for large institutions: in London we are making changes for what are going to be 8 million constituents.  How do we engage? How do we connect with the people who are interacting on Twitter, etc.? This challenge can become a way to get change—dealing with actual people rather than with institutionalized lobbying groups.


Greg said, “So we’re talking about dealing with digitalized citizenry, not a digitalized government?”


Isabel said that we need to find ways to take advantage of it.


Antonio Vives, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, said that he was hearing about management, but that he’s a politician.  He put forward a couple of ideas:  we need to talk more about politics (ideas, vision); we’re in the last stage of a capitalist cycle; we have many capable citizens, but we cannot just respond to people looking at their own belly buttons—we have to have vision.  We need industry in the center of town,  We need participatory democracy now.


Andy spoke about a problem about politicians bringing about visionary leadership: they are elected for a term, and much of the vision required is much longer-term.  Where are the ideas going to come from?  Do we really understand the 21st century city? How do we sift through the massive amount of data?


Antonio emphatically warned, “NO! We have to be careful that we are not caught by the technology industry!”  They want to sell what they already do—and it may have little relationship to what our city actually needs.  We need to develop “best practices”; the problem is that we have to become educated clients, we have to know what we have to ask for.


Greg said that cities have the same metabolism, even if they have different DNA.


Tony said that cities can do a better job sharing basic information, they do not have to pay to develop what other cities already know.  There is no dichotomy between running cities well and having vision.  We need there to be a connection between vision and practicality, execution.


Carl said we need to define real goals.  We need to have a process for exchanging information.  Government leaders need to do the best they can, and they also need to employ intelligent staffs—but, from the position of leadership, hopefully one can make intelligent decisions.


Joan said that we cannot come out with an optimism that all is going well.  That it just wrong:  things are not going well.  What is happening especially in emerging cities is just wrong:  it is neither equitable not sustainable.  Gated communities make money; but they represent the horrible end of the paradise that we’re selling.  Nobody can truly get by on their non-legal money.

Andy asked Joan: in your current UN role, in which you see so many cities, how do you see that we can affect change out there in these cities?


Joan answered that we are not well-equipped to help them now.  They certainly do not need Le Corbusier; they do not need towers in the park.  What they need is political help in order to create city institutions to deal with the realities.  People fight for land; there is social conflict when we are talking about incomes of $1,000 per capita.


Isabel said we spend a lot of time fending off what is not appropriate for us.  There is an enormous north-south issue; but there is also an individual issue, if management is the tool for delivering vision.


Antonio related the story of the blind cow—eating grass and not knowing why.  Why is the current prevailing model so wrong?  Because we haven’t built an alternative that is viable, business-oriented, and socially-oriented.


Greg summed this up by saying, “We dream of Barcelona, but we end up building Los Angeles.”  Most of the urbanism in the world is just wrong.  The questions involve how to get people to change their behaviors, how to approach density, how to deal with the challenge of most cities being in coastal regions, economic crises.


Carl said there were two questions: 1) can cities do it by themselves?—we know they shouldn’t be opposed by national governments, but, to do truly large-scale things, cities usually need the support of national governments, with the government serving as a sort of midwife to get change done; and, 2) the economy is totally dependent on using internet connected technology, and we supplied the basic infrastructure for corporations (e.g., IBM, NOKIA) to establish themselves—leading in Stockholm to over 30,000 people working in that sector, leading to the revitalizing of the economy.


Isabel said we need design solutions.  Bureaucracy doesn’t produce innovation.  Design can sell, it can transform the debate.  There is also a business model problem: it is easier to deliver a big project than 100 small ones.


Antonio said we need a new economy, new opportunity; energy self-sufficiency; 3-D printing-based production.


Joan said the model fails because while everyone knows how to build a building (we know the business model), we do not know how to build a city.  We understand good architecture, good technology—but we do not understand the city at all.  We do not have a business model.  It is a question of how to build public space.  The third world will show us the way; but we need to understand the idea of the common good.  In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of the people live in slums.  We speak about youth unemployment, but we forget that the median age of the population is 18—and they are unemployed.


Tony raised the question of what gives us the right.  We are a republican government, not democracy; we have to tell people what to do.  That’s what they elected us for, and if they don’t like what we do, they don’t re-elect us.


Greg asked Andy to sum up what he has heard.


Andy said that he is worried, and particularly about what Joan said: that, on the ground, cities are developing out there without the necessary institutions—and that it is not working.  The big positive is the role of leadership—especially of the mayors out there.   Mayors represent the place where the opportunity to effect change exists, but that they need the help of the federal government; nevertheless, mayors can foment change, can create change.  Leaders learn by respecting the DNA of their cities, but by also recognizing that there are vast new possibilities out there.  How leaders understand it and how they put the new platforms in place to allow development will be what matters most.



Closing remarks


Wolfgang Nowak, who, after this conference, is stepping down as Managing Director of Deutsche's Bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society, began his remarks by showing a photograph of Boris Johnson on a bicycle, leaving the conference, and saying, “This is a mayor!”  (The photo at the right is of the Mayor Johnson preparing to get on his bicycle leaving the conference, whereas the one Wolfgang showed was of Boris actually riding on his bicycle.)  Mayors, he said, are managers of contradiction—and that they are the future leaders of the 21st century.  Wolfgang said that he has spent the last 9 years and 8 months as head of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, and that he was proud to have played a central role in building the Urban Age program.  The key to it all is for us to learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others.  The Urban Age has worked to make the invisible in cities visible.  Personally, he will in the future be concentrating on his work with the Brookings Institution, particularly on Asia.  To conclude he chose quoted words of Max Weber that have been especially important to him:


I have never let myself be trumped in an argument by someone simply because he has claimed the privilege of greater age.  By the same token, the mere fact that someone is twenty and I am over fifty does not in itself convince me that his achievement should make me faint with admiration.  Age is not the decisive factor here.  What matters is the trained ability to scrutinize the realities of life ruthlessly, to withstand them and to measure up to them inwardly.


Wolfgang exhorted us all “ruthlessly” to “train our abilities” “to scrutinize the realities of life.”  He then thanked Frau Herrhausen and her daughter Anna, both of whom were present throughout the conference.  He thanked Richard Sennett, who invited him to coffee all those years ago and suggested the idea for the Urban Age; he thanked Philipp Rode; but in particular he thanked Ricky Burdett, who he said was “the soul of the Urban Age,” and Ute Weiland, who he said was its “guardian angel.”


{Wolfgang left to an extended and enthusiastic standing ovation.  He was a major force in all of the history of the Urban Age, a good friend, and he shall be sorely missed.  Wolfgang’s farewell message (and Ute Weiland’s concluding remarks) are in a video online}


Ute Weiland, Deputy Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, gave an emotional thanks to Wolfgang, whom she said has been an inspiration for all of us.  She thanked Ricky and Philipp, and 120 others who had made the conference possible.  She said she hoped to see us all at next year’s Urban Age Conference in Rio,  and she then closed the proceedings.

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