12th Urban Age Conference in Rio de Janeiro, 24-25 October 2013
Organised by LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Deutsche Bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society, the 2013 conference investigated the impact of large-scale urban development on the social, economic, political and physical make-up of cities.
This year's conference was held in Rio de Janeiro. Like no other city in the world right now, the six million citizens of this pulsing metropolis are feeling the transformational effect of two mega sporting events on their everyday city life - the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. For the Olympics alone, Brazil's second-largest city has submitted an investment plan of roughly €11 billion with the majority earmarked for improvements to the public infrastructure and for heightened security precautions.
Maria Silvia Bastos Marques, president of the Municipal Olympic Company, Rio de Janeiro© Marco Teixeira
The organisers of the annual Urban Age series invited more than 160 policy-makers, academics, urban designers, architects, and representatives of NGOs and local community groups to reflect together in this place of frenzied urban development. Speakers from all over the world and local representatives from Rio de Janeiro exchanged their experiences on the design, management and delivery of a number of projects that have had a positive impact on the transformation of the cities they live in. The conference brought together official representatives from Rio, Barcelona, London, Bogotá, Medellín, New York and other cities to discuss how large-scale projects can be designed to best effect and with citizen involvement.
The conference took place in the Itamaraty Palace, the former headquarters of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil © Marco Teixeira
Cable car over the favelas of Rio de Janeiro© Tuca Viera
Podium discussion (left-right): Amanda Burden, Anthony Williams and Peter Eigen© Marco Teixeira
New York City Planning Commissioner, Amanda Burden, argued that when developing space, it is essential not to lose sight of detail in the overall plan, and Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, held a passionate speech in favour of introducing a public bus-based rapid transit system not only as a formidable symbol for democracy and equality in the city, but also as a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to the underground network and private vehicles. The award-winning author and Professor of Journalism, Suketu Mehta, said that while a city does not have to involve everyone, it should never exclude anyone. And Transparency International founder, Peter Eigen underlined the role that corruption and wasted public funds play in large-scale projects.
In addition to investigating ongoing projects in Rio surrounding the Olympics site, the Bus Rapid Transit System and the favelas improvement programme, the conference also featured international projects. These included the Olympic Games and Legacy Project in London; the HafenCity and IBA initiatives in Hamburg; the waterfront redevelopments and urban improvements in New York City, Buenos Aires and Hong Kong; the regeneration of Dharavi and other projects in Mumbai; and the public transport initiatives in Bogotá, Medellín and Copenhagen.
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