Introduction to Next-Gen Cities feature series / by Tom Oliver Payne


We live in a new urban era. Not only do more people now live in cities than rural areas, but urban populations in the developing world are expected to more than double from 2.5 billion in 2009 to nearly 5.2 billion in 2050.

Urban populations in the developing world are expected to more than double from 2.5 billion in 2009 to nearly 5.2 billion in 2050

With this tremendous growth, cities are taking on new meaning; they are the centres of cultural diffusion, financial boom and bust, opportunity, prosperity and, as we have recently seen, solidarity.

Arguably, cities have surpassed the nation-state as key economic units and global organising nodes. With this, we have entered a new age of city competition as each fight for world city status, the largest events or the most important businesses. The current urban era is like nothing this planet has ever seen before.

The governance mechanisms and processes that manage our cities have been unable to cope with such change. Traditional ways of thinking about formality, traffic engineering, property development and architecture are quickly being overturned by a new urbanist movement; a movement that places the importance back on the human scale.

We are seeing a movement away from traditional zoning methods, egotistic architecture and car domination. Slowly but surely, we are also seeing the demise of the greedy downtown property developer. Perhaps if anything, the GFC has helped to spur this progress.

With this new wave of thinking, we are seeing a new wave of professionals including planners, architects, engineers, politicians, scholars and activists, who are quickly transforming the cities in which we live. Around the world, progressive thinkers are achieving amazing things. Whether its bridging the rich and poor housing gap, getting cycling on the infrastructure agenda, designing creating youth spaces or chair-bombing a local park, we are seeing rapid urban changes around the world.

This series for the Urban Times will hone in on cities across the globe to speak with the next generation of urban professionals who are particularly innovative in they way that they think. City-by-city, this series will take you on a journey across the globe to find give you an insight into the future of the urban.

I'll keep you up to date on the article numero uno.