Global Challenges of Accelerating Urbanization

Urbanization is not a new phenomena and has its roots in the developmental transition of our species from migrant hunter-gathers to societies with permanent settlements of farmers and traders. Cities have since become the hub of economic activity, cultural exchange and technological innovation. From the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, through the city states of Greece, pre-Columbian America, Asia and the European renaissance to the industrial revolution and the digital age onwards.

Based on census statistics and UN projections I will explore the challenges that we need to anticipate as a global society as a result of ongoing population growth and increased urban concentrations. The UN for example projects that 85% of the world’s population will live in cities of over 750,000 people by the year 2050.   In Australia there are currently only 5 cities of that scale and the pattern of urban concentration of population is already established. I will show the impact of UN projected population growth (c50%) on Melbourne as a case study. I will also show how other cities will combine as they expand notably around the Pearl River Delta (Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzen, Foshan and Guangzhou) where the urban population is projected to reach 120 Million by 2050 but also similar conurbations of greater New York, Tokyo and Mumbai.

The implications of the rapid acceleration in urban living are multivalent and demand a reassessment of our approach to understanding cities, from practical considerations of infrastructure, transport, water, housing and public places to the broader socio-political and economic contexts in which the framework of physical infrastructure is set. Michael Hegarty Principal & Manager – Architecture and Urban Design, GHD Woodhead, will discuss how we may begin to navigate this complex urban future in a manner that is specific to the local conditions, culture and climate of each place.

Michael will be at the forefront of discussion at the  7th International Urban Design Conference will be held at the InterContinental, Adelaide from Monday the 1st to Wednesday 3rd of September 2014.

* Source: United Nations, Department of Economic & Social Affairs, Population Division: World Urbanization Prospects (2012 Rev.) 2013

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