City Conversations: must cities grow to compete?


This conversation will examine the relationship between infrastructure and economic and spatial growth. How can we maintain a sustainable and resilient city in terms of competitiveness, employment, transport, housing and quality of life?

The modern city is driven by growth. The skyline of its financial centre becomes a symbol of national and international competitiveness. While in many countries manufacturing continues to be a geographically devolved (and diminishing) activity, growth is now driven by financial services and 'digital creatives'. In cities such as London these dominate the landscape both physically and economically. On an international level, economically resilient cities continue to be a magnet for migration - another driver for growth. 

But the unequal growth of modern cities might lead to their demise: is there an optimum size beyond which infrastructure, including housing supply, starts to fail, and the very people who generate the wealth of a city start to migrate to places with a better quality of life? Can we control this anyway? Or, can we simply learn to live with a sub-optimal or over-burdened infrastructure platform? In some ways the modern city is defined not by formal boundaries but by its transport and ICT links. Does the rapidly changing market economy therefore contradict traditional notions of city planning? Are we taking the right approach to our suburban hinterland and Green Belt? 

Speakers include:

- Dr Jim Coleman, head of economics at BuroHappold Engineering (chair)

- Nick Turner, managing partner at Stratforma Consulting Ltd

- Yolande Barnes, head of world research at Savills

- Peter Bishop, professor of urban design at The Bartlett, UCL

- Andrew Carter, director of policy and research at Centre for Cities

City Conversations is a series of informative thought-leadership discussions around the big issues that are changing our cities - growth, technology, resource efficiency and climate change. The conversations will address not only the new and changing infrastructure of cities but also how these are brought about and their impact on the lifestyle and wellbeing of citizens. "Must cities grow to compete?" is the third in the series. Other topics include: 'The invisible city', 'The material city', 'How are infrastructure decisions made?' and 'Housing'.

The Conversations are produced by Buro Happold with ngenuity Ltd and supported by The Building Centre and Rehau.