Overview: Defining the Future City

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Urban Research Unit’s first panel discussion was held on 8 February at Grimshaw’s New York office.  The panel, moderated by Jonathan Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies, featured Mark Davy, founder of Futurecity, Jolyon Brewis, chief executive of Grimshaw, Mark Beasley, curator of Performa and William Morrish, professor of Urban Ecologies in the School of Constructed Environments at The New School.  

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Panelists covered a wide variety of topics centred on how we design and plan in the urban environment, what effects are derived from the design and planning process and ultimately how they end up serving the general public.  Choices that have great influence on the relative success of a development are often made years in advance of actual completion, complicating the process and challenging designers to anticipate future needs.  These needs range from quality of life issues like the provision of clean air and natural light to infrastructure issues that bring appropriate transit and services.  The careful connection of all of these complex threads is at the heart of city planning and design, and the panel discussed a number of ways these connections can be created or influence.

Art played a recurring role in the discussion, acknowledging the place of artists and the arts industry in successful development and examining ways in which the incorporation of arts facilities, public art and other arts amenities can serve as attractors for foot traffic that will create a sought after sense of vitality and liveliness.  The incorporation of the arts and ideas economies into new developments has increasingly come to the forefront of recent conversation, allowing the arts a particular place in many contemporary placemaking efforts.

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The kickoff event for Urban Research Unit provided a broad canvas for discussion as diverse as the cities in which we live, and fertile ground for future, more targeted conversations that will focus on more individualized issues including housing, recreation and sustainability.  The next Urban Research Unit event, titled Working in the Future City, will be held on Tuesday, March 19 in London.  The next Urban Research Unit event in New York, titled Housing the Future City will be held on April 24.