How cities adapt to change has been the focus of a major research project by Newcastle University.
Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape has led the Newcastle City Futures project.
Using a range of new methods supported by academic evidence, the aim is to shape conversations between city leaders and communities to create a comprehensive view of the medium-to long-term trends likely to impact upon urban development.
Among the subjects under discussion are identifying new economic sectors, dealing with the health needs of an elderly population, managing investment in public transport (including switching to electric vehicles and more cycling), delivering education opportunities, and considering threats from extreme weather events.
Newcastle City Futures began as a ‘pop-up urban room exhibition’, illustrating how Newcastle had changed in the last 60 years.
It was a resounding success in engaging politicians, service providers, businesses and residents alike. After receiving political support, and as part of Newcastle’s commitment to its role as a ‘civic university’ responsive to the needs of civil society, the University has now established joint city/university committees to facilitate discussions on policy and broader societal needs.
There are plans to create a free public-facing urban studies research database where academics will collate their knowledge on the local area to act as a resource for both residents and policymakers. And cities including San Francisco, Sydney and Shanghai are now collaborating with Newcastle to help manage future change.
Professor Tewdwr-Jones, who is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “It is essential that we build up a picture of what our urbanised areas will need in the future.
"Universities are in a unique position to develop ‘social entrepreneurs’ – academics who can facilitate discussions both across the university and with a whole range of organisations and generate exciting ideas and solutions to meet the needs of our future cities.
“Our work is being used as a case study around the world to inspire other cities to identify their own assets and solutions, and we are also being called upon regularly by the Government to share our experience and ideas.”
published on: 4 December 2014