Save our cities

Battle of Ideas festival 2023 satellite event, Thursday 28 September, BDP, London


In future, a city’s greatness won’t be measured in how many high-rises it has, but how appealing, efficient and vibrant the surroundings are.

In this special event, the renowned urbanist and demographer Professor Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, California presents some of his thoughts and concerns on the future of our urban centres post-Covid, post-recession. Focusing on the American experience, but also using examples from Europe and the Far East, he explores whether cities can survive. As their business model is killed off, as city councils face bankruptcy, as online becomes the go-to commercial experience, as rents become extortionate, as growth, manufacturing, commerce and consumerism become problematic concepts, are we witnessing the end of the Metropolitan Age? If cities survive this onslaught, what will be their purpose?

Kotkin, the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures and R. Hobbs Professor in Urban Studies, has written widely on economic, political and social trends. His books include The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, which explores how the US might evolve in the next four decades. Here he will present his ideas on the need to rethink what cities are for. Predominantly focusing on the problems in US city as forerunners of our own, he examines the causes and consequences. A panel of respondents comment on and question the premise.

Kathryn Firth
director, Integrated City Planning, Arup; London Mayor Design Advocate; Design Critic in Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Joel Kotkin
R.C. Hobbs Professor of Urban Studies, Chapman University, California; executive director, Center for Opportunity Urbanism

Vicky Richardson
architectural writer; curator, Light Lines: the architectural photographs of Hélène Binet; former director of architecture, design and fashion, British Council

David Rudlin
urban design director, BDP; former chair, Academy of Urbanism; former director, URBED

Austin Williams
director, Future Cities Project; honorary research fellow, XJTLU, Suzhou, China; author, China’s Urban Revolution; convenor, Critical Subjects Architecture School