Roundtable discussion: Future of our cities

1184786_10151922155993623_1255806991_nOn 30 July, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), hosted a Roundtable discussion on the future of our cities featuring Prof Adrian Saville (Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer of Cannon Asset Managers), Dr Tanja Winkler (Urban Planner and Senior Lecturer School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town), Mr Andile Skosana (Town Planner and Associate Director at KPMG), and Prof Jean-Pierre de la Porte (Research Director at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Infrastructure).

Speaking about the ‘global city’, Prof Saville explained that the way the world and its cities are becoming ever more connected has made it possible to think of a ‘global community’. A large part of this urban community is, however, housed in ever growing informal settlements, Dr. Winkler said. This growth is caused by continual rural-to-urban and urban-to-urban migration, leaving us with the question how to house this growing urban population. Mr Skosana argued that change and improvement of communities can only be brought about at a local level and that we need to develop initiatives at a local level, but that since power resides at a higher level, these initiatives are often stifled, or not considered. In summarizing the main points of discussion, Prof de la Porte emphasized that it is the permanence of cities – and citizens’ ability to exploit this permanence – that allow cities to flourish (by accumulating resources and capital), and to drive development (by creating the space for enterprise). It is the permanence of cities that allows innovation, automation, and great diversity. Click here to view the full discussion.

For an interesting article contributing to Mr Skosana’s argument, click here to read Ashleigh Fraser’s case that the future of cities is rooted in historical relationships of power and framed by continual change in identity and ownership. In Cape Town a diverse and vibrant mix of people live in the city and the surrounding areas; while the city has no precise identity but is filled with a historical mix of eastern, western, northern and southern individuals who have influenced the Cape Town character. The future of Cape Town is therefore, in part, dependent on the identity of the dominant groups of individuals who will influence infrastructure, language, policy, rights and demographics, as has been done in the past. Consequently, in her article Some Reflections on Identity and Cities, Fraser briefly reviews the influence of different identities over the last several centuries. Another worthwhile article is on the World Heritage Committee’s definition for cultural landscapes by Gwen Theron. She points out that it might contradict its own statement of what defines a cultural landscape of outstanding universal value. Click here to read Gwen Theron’s article Assessing the South African city as a cultural landscape.