A truly engaging panel discussion organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK on the occasion of the inauguration of their renovated London offices.
By Daniel Gava,
Brand Strategy Advisor to the Architecture and Design Industry
and ICCIUK Benefactor Member
The topic was “The Future of Cities” and I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion between three leading experts of the urban planning, architecture and design sectors such as Lisa Fairmaner, Head of London Plan and Growth Strategies at the Greater London Authority, Vicky Richardson, Head of Architecture at the Royal Academy and Bruno Moser, Head of Urban Design at Foster and Partners.
In light of recent events that have reshaped many of the dynamics of our life, we have tried to understand what will happen in the city of the future when it comes to its propulsive energy, quality of life, urban design, cultural values.
The approach of the three speakers proved to be very proactive and optimistic regarding the future and everyone agreed that it is quite reassuring to think this is not unprecedented and that the city is resilient and oriented towards moving forward. In London, the sense of community and the energy of its people mean that if there is an opportunity, someone will come up with something.
Cities are places of opportunity on a professional, creative and romantic level. Cities can thrive if we create a high quality public environment: we need spaces to bring people together and celebrate the diversity that, for example, makes London so special. The transition of town centres from shopping areas into community hubs as places for intergenerational mixes and expression is one good example as well as connecting architecture with a sense of meaning in different areas of the city.
Great emphasis was placed on the need for more green infrastructures – from large interiors to large exteriors – and opportunities to rediscover and enhance the spaces close to where we live. Rethinking public spaces, making them inviting and accessible to all as well as the balance between old buildings and renovated ones in terms of sustainability and emissions is a great portion of the plans revisited due to the pandemic and also a response to other current issues such as mental health and climate change.
Some areas for improvement discussed during the talk and that the city could facilitate, were the need for more initiatives to reconnect younger and older generations, to make it more affordable for young people to live in the city of the future and to prompt public debate as it seems that we have lost that sense of public voice.
Public debate involving people is vital to improve the culture of the city, to foster new ideas and creative freedom combined with planning and regulation. There is a need for debate and leadership from communities to have a holistic view of our urban fabric.
The invitation to dialogue with the city is a great sign of openness to improvement but there can never be true progress in the city of the future without the active contribution and critical impulse of its citizens.