About Urban Research Unit

Urban Research Unit (URU) is an initiative from Grimshaw Architects and Futurecity aimed at developing a fresh approach for intelligent and creative urban placemaking within the context of New York and London.

Andrew Whalley, Deputy Chairman, Grimshaw
Jolyon Brewis, Chief Executive, Grimshaw
Mark Davy, Founder, Futurecity
Colin Ledwith, Director of Strategy, Futurecity

Founding Academic Advisor:
Professor Lance Jay Brown, The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, The City College of New York

The URU lectures series is being developed in collaboration with the RSA.





About Urban Research Unit



As cities continue to compete for the exclusive title of ‘world cultural city’, the idea of urban centres as places of creative energy has re-emerged. Technology, the ideas economy, globalisation, flexible working, health concerns, an ageing population and the economic forces accompanying all of these social trends mean we must plan for urban places that layer the physical with the experiential.

The purpose of this year-long research project is to develop a fresh approach for intelligent and creative urban placemaking, exploring and developing our thinking and understanding within the context of the cities of New York and London.

This process will create a toolkit enabling us to consider multiple key issues as 'strands' that can be drawn upon to shape our urban environment. We will develop our toolkit throughout 2013, guided by a series of events. Each event will explore a particular strand, where a number of influential thinkers will explore that strand with an audience. Ideas generated by the discussions will join content from speakers and audience feedback on a dedicated website where future events will also be listed. The events will be held in New York and London alternately, with some focus on lessons that can be learned from those cities.


About Grimshaw

Grimshaw Architects was founded by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw in 1980. The practice became a Partnership in 2007 and operates worldwide, with offices in New York, London, Doha, Melbourne and Sydney employing 300 staff. Grimshaw Architects’ international portfolio covers all major sectors, and has been honoured with over 150 international design awards including the prestigious Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding building chosen from the RIBA International Awards in 2007 for Southern Cross Station. The practice is dedicated to the deepest level of involvement in the design of their buildings in order to deliver projects that meet the highest possible standards of excellence. The firm’s work is characterized by strong conceptual legibility, innovation and a rigorous approach to detailing, all underpinned by the principles of humane, enduring and sustainable design.


About Futurecity

Futurecity was founded by Mark Davy in 2002. Based in London and Cambridge, Futurecity is a collaborative practice working with artists, creative industries and cultural organisations. We develop culture and placemaking strategies for urban sites across the UK, embedding the visual arts into architecture, infrastructure and landscape. We believe in culture and placemaking as a distinct discipline with a unique skill-set, providing the ‘software’ for new places. Recent projects have included placemaking strategies for London’s largest redevelopment sites and urban centres including Earls Court, Nine Elms, Southbank and the City of London. Futurecity has delivered over 200 visual arts projects including Mark Wallingers White Horse for Ebbsfleet Valley, Richard Wilson’s Slipstream for Heathrow airport and a visual arts programme for 8 new ‘Crossrail’ train stations in Central London. Futurecity works with the private sector to provide space and funding for cultural institutions.




About RSA


The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world. The RSA Fellowship is a network of over 27,000 Fellows in over 80 countries, including North America. Mobilizing the talent and experience of our Fellows we turn ideas into action. Grimshaw is a lead sponsor of the RSA-US Student Design Awards for Sustainable Design. http://sda.rsa-us.org/