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Cork Independent


Cities on the rise – delivering positive city-region growth

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018 4:27pm

The success of cities has become central to national economies and culture. They are the drivers of investment, tourism and migration – the young, the educated, the creative and the rich are once again being drawn to live and work in urban areas across the globe.

This is not just true of capital cities like London, Dublin or Paris, but the next tier all across Europe including Aarhus, Bilbao, Marseille, Rotterdam and Cork.

It is in these places where the biggest and most exciting recent transformations are taking place, giving space for new ideas, new enterprise and new investment.

The emergent success of Cork is reflected in the progressive regeneration of its city centre, the vibrancy of its streets and the growth of population and employment. All of this is both putting pressure and creating opportunity for the surrounding towns. Success can bring its own problems in terms of affordability, the preservation of local character, congestion and social inequality.

So the question is: does positive growth come at the expense of what made these cities attractive in the first place: their identity, community and the very distinctiveness that set them apart, or can cities grow and retain a distinctive physical place identity?

This is the conundrum behind The Academy of Urbanism’s forthcoming International Congress taking place in Cork from 27-30 June.

The Academy is a network of built environment experts and specialists that seek to learn from and promote great places. Immersing themselves in the city and its hinterland will be a host of international experts who will blend global and local solutions to housing, transport, economic, inclusion and design problems within growing cities, among other things, demonstrating that it is possible both to grow and to take care of your citizens.

International cast of speakers

The congress cast is international and includes: Susana Ruiz Fernandez, who will speak about neighbourhood regeneration in Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain; Immy Kaur, the lynchpin of Birmingham’s entrepreneurial talent with a conscience; and Riccardo Marini, formerly of Danish architects firm and Jan Gehl, who is tasked with demonstrating that streets should be designed first with people in mind, not cars – a lively topic relevant to Cork and many other cities right now.

They will also make you think again about some of the trends that are set to sweep through our cities.

Jeffrey Tumlin, a city planning expert from San Francisco, will take issue with the inevitable roll out of autonomous vehicles which, he argues, is at odds with our right to privacy and freedom. There will be a representative from HafenCity in Hamburg, talking about the world-class transformation of its inner city port and the steps it took to create a sustainable, accessible and attractive mixed-use neighbourhood on the waterfront.

Cork has in the past been one of the most successful Irish entrants for the Academy’s Urbanism Awards. Recipients of its awards have been Oliver Plunkett Street, St Patrick’s Street and the city itself. Most recently Clonakilty, which won AoU Great Town award in 2017, will be visited by the Academy after the congress.

The congress events will be held in a number the city’s most unique and interesting spaces. These include St Angela’s College, integrated into an urban hillside site, the nationally significant School of Music and Crawford Gallery, and the refurbished Nano Nagle Place. In addition to learning from other cities, they will take in key areas of Cork city centre on foot and by bicycle.

Delegates will hear about the struggles with preparing historic cities for growth, including the port redevelopment and regeneration of neighbourhoods. The great achievement of academy congresses is that they encourage a blending of local and international knowledge on a range of topics. This will be particularly the case in the lectures and workshops on housing and residential community. These will explore local and international ideas and solutions to housing – a pressing issue for almost all of Europe – so that ideas, concepts and policies are pooled and shared.

Richard Florida

The keynote speaker of the congress is Richard Florida who, in his book ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, was one of the first commentators to chronicle the back-to-the-city movement of the young, educated and affluent, reversing decades of suburban flight.

His recently published book ‘The New Urban Crisis’ offers an insightful analysis of the crisis which has emerged in today’s urbanised knowledge economy as a result of this movement and a prescription for more inclusive cities capable of ensuring growth and prosperity for all. His talk on Friday 29 June is likely to attract a very large and diverse audience.

Ireland 2040

Following the Government’s publication of its Ireland 2040 Plan which anticipates significant growth for a number of Irish cities including Cork, the city now needs to think about many of these potential problems.

Architects, planners, engineers, administrators and all citizens interested in the sustainability of our towns and cities should come to the Academy’s annual international congress in Cork, continuing until 30 June, to find out.

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