Megacities: lands of opportunities or cities of disappointments?

Date: 23 November 2015

Venue: UAntwerp, Stadscampus, R.014 - Building R, Rodestraat 14 - 2000 Antwerp

Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: USOS and IOB

Short description: Lecture by Alastair Donald (Future Cities Project; British Council), Vanesa Castán Broto (University College London) and moderator: Tom Coppens (University of Antwerp)

About the lecture
Today, an estimated 7% of the world’s total population live in 29 megacities, which are usually defined as metropolitan areas with more than 10 million people – the largest being Tokyo with a population of 37 million. This number is expected to rise further over the next 35 years with an urban population growing at phenomenal rates in developing countries. Many celebrate the mushrooming of megacities all around the world as they tend to produce more wealth and offer more to the unremitting rural poverty. They see megacities, including their slums, as centres for social changes and creativity and that create new opportunities for economic development and better standard of living for society as a whole because there are gateways to global markets.

On the other hand, those opposed to this super-urbanisation argue that even with solid economic growth, megacities are not necessarily becoming better places to live. They contend that large infrastructure projects destroy people’s lives and are more beneficial to large corporate firms than to ordinary people to live their lives. Moreover, they suggest that megacities are poverty traps for many citizens who wanted to escape hopeless poverty in their village but who are faced with economically uncertain existence, diseases, urban violence, and natural disasters. Are megacities desirable or even necessary? Do megacities represent an opportunity or a dystopia? Can megacities offer pleasant life for all ? Alastair Donald from the Future Cities Project and Vanesa Castan Broto from University College London will discuss these important topics during this 5th debate of our series on  Urban Dynamics in the Age of Cities.

About the speakers

Alastair Donald is associate director of the Future Cities Project which critically explores issues around the city and society, and convenor of the Future Cities Salon. For the British Council he is project director for the British Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale. As an expert on urban planning and mobility and space, he has advised on urban policy at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and on masterplanning and urban design at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).He is co-founder of Mantownhuman who published “Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture” and co-convenor of the architecture and design international summer school Critical Subjects. He is co-editor of “The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs” (2011) and “The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated”.



Vanessa Castan Broto is a Senior Lecturer in Environment and Sustainable Development and Researcher at the Development and Planning Unit (DPU) in University College since 2011. Her work focuses on understanding the role of urban planning in delivering sustainable urban futures through studying topics such as: the political consequences of urban innovation for climate change; and participatory methodologies for the implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies in cities in developing countries. Vanesa is also part of the Future Proofing Cities comparative research project which investigated the risks and opportunities for inclusive urban growth across 129 cities in the world. This project identified measures that cities can take to manage climate hazards, resource scarcities, and damage to ecosystems. Vanessa has published widely in leading academic journals in planning and the environmental sciences and she is a co-editor of the volume Cities and Low Carbon Transitions. Before joining the DPU in 2011, Vanessa worked at the University of Durham investigating processes of social and technological innovation within the city in response to climate change. This project has influenced international initiatives in cities for climate change at the World Bank, UN- Habitat and UNEP. She has research experience in locations as diverse as Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK, Spain, Bolivia, Argentina, India and Mozambique. Vanessa holds an Engineering Doctorate from the University of Surrey and two Masters on Environmental Policy from Wageningen University (the Netherlands) and on Environment and Engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain).

Tom Coppens is professor urban planning and development at the university of Antwerp. He is head of the department planning and urban development, and head of research group for urban Development. Coppens is an expert in spatial governance, planning instruments, process management and stakeholder involvement in large spatial projects. A part of his research focusses on spatial governance in the Caribbean region and (un)sustainable urban development.

Entrance fee: Free


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