The Good City Conference

The Urban Transformations Consortium’s Conference on the theme of the ‘Good City’ was held in Oxford last week from April 18thto 20th. A variety of approaches to cities were presented with panel sessions devoted to healthy cities, shelter and ownership, labour markets and migration, environment and technology and social movements. These were contested with a series of more methodological and philosophic statements focussing around cities: the orderly city, the spontaneous city, the intelligent city, the self-sufficient city, the sustainable city and the imaginative city. Five keynote presentations were the highlights between the working sessions with contributions from different cities around the world: Detroit, Durban, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and London. You can see the program by clicking here.

My own contribution was the last one where I drew from our work in CASA in London with my themes that the city can be read through the generic theme of information – not smart cities, or even intelligent cities or virtual cities but information cities. Thus is an old idea but it is increasingly necessary to think of cities as being the hubs of information flow as we transform headlong from a world dominated by energy to one of information. I had a go at starting my talk by walking through a little fragment of the city and explaining how information technology characterises what we see on the walk, in the past as well as the present, but as a prelude to the future. You can get my talk if you click here and on the image above.

 

Renewing infrastructure

Infrastructure has become another hot word in post-industrial economies that are busy figuring out how they can renew all the physical plant that was constructed during their industrial past. The UK has established a National Infrastructure Commission amidst a flurry of proposed new initiatives involving high speed rail, and other new rail lines, a focus on new housing, as well as a continuing concern for ever faster broadband, specifically based on G5 technologies.  American too, notwithstanding the President’s pronouncements, is also initiating new approach’s to established and renewing infrastructure from roads to bridges to airports.

Infrastructure, however, no longer relates to simply physical things, information infrastructure is hot on the agenda while social infrastructure pertains to all our organisational and indeed socially responsible administration that emerged during the 20th century and badly needs renewing. In the current editorial in Environment and Planning B, I summarise some of the key points about renewing our infrastructure. Many new kinds of models are being fashioned to deal with such problems which are now spatially extensive in a way their precursors were not, and integrating different sectors is now one of the key issues so that the wider impacts of new infrastructure can be assessed, as for example in the MISTRAL models being developed by a consortium of research groups in the UK.

You can get my editorial here.