The triumph of the city?

Wednesday 14 November, 6.00pm until 8.00pm, Q 110 – Die Deutsche Bank der Zukunft in Berlin, Friedrichstraße 181, 10117 Berlin

The debate will be in English.

Tickets: FREE but registration required in advance.

For more information, and to register, please call Novo Argumente +49 699 7206 701 or email

Cities are the greatest creations of humanity Daniel Libeskind, Architect

Megacities are exposed to all the classic risks, but their exposure and vulnerability are disproportionate. They create risks of new dimensions - megarisks Stefan Heyd, former Chair of the Board of Management, Münchener Rück

Will the 21st century go down in history as the century when the city triumphed? For the first time in human history, more than half of the world`s population now lives in cities, and it is estimated that by 2030 the proportion will rise to 60% or five billion people. Much of this urban growth is taking place at breathtaking speed in Asia where the likes of Chongqing in China has grown rapidly over the past two decades to become a city of some 30 million people. Indeed the Far Eastern Economic Review predicts that by the middle of the century Asia alone will have at least 10 ‘hypercities’ of 20 million people or more.

The United Nations has heralded cities as ‘dynamic centres of creativity and culture’ while Harvard academic Edward Glaeser claims they will make us ‘richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier’. Nevertheless, in the west we often seem unconvinced by such claims. At a time when many believe that ‘small is beautiful’ and call for ‘sustainable’ and ‘appropriate’ growth, megacities and other emerging centres of the east and south are often viewed with apprehension. Within German cities too, changes related to urban development and regeneration are frequently viewed suspiciously. Not only have large infrastructural projects such as the expansion of Berlin and Frankfurt airports and the reconstruction of Stuttgart railway station provoked vociferous protests, but seemingly innocuous schemes such as a new concert hall in Hamburg, have become mired in controversy. In Berlin the closure of the iconic Tacheles arts centre is said to symbolise the replacement of traditional neighbourhoods and long standing communities by a new glassy, more corporate cityscape.

So do cities and urban development strengthen or weaken our societies? Is it the case, as sceptics suggest, that as cities develop, social exclusion, and urban blight are likely to grow with them? On the other hand, if as claimed cities are dynamic centres of innovation that foster humans’ ability to learn from one another, then why are we not building big new cities in Germany?  What role might modern architecture and technology play in the development of the city of the future?

Alastair Donald
associate director, Future Cities Project; architecture programme manager, British Council

Jim Hudson
writer on architectural and urban issues; blogger,

Aljoscha Hofmann
assistant professor, TU Berlin

Anli Serfontein
journalist; author, Basteln, Wandern and Putzen: from South Africa to Trier

Professor Hermann Voesgen
subject leader project management; University of Applied Sciences Potsdam

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36

Produced by
Sabine Beppler-Spahl chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36
Recommended readings
Triumph of the City

In Triumph of the City, Glaeser takes us around the world and into the mind of the modern city – from Mumbai to Paris to Rio to Detroit to Shanghai, and to any number of points in between – to reveal how cities think, why they behave in the manners that they do, and what wisdom they share with the people who inhabit them.

Edward Glaeser, Pan, 16 February 2012

The Lure of the City: from slums to suburbs

Cities, by their very nature, are a mass of contradictions. They can be at once visually stunning, culturally rich, exploitative and unforgiving.

Austin Williams and Alastair Donald (editors), Pluto Press, 20 September 2011

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