EPIIC Archives

2009 Cities: Forging an Urban Future

Cities have variously been understood as the cultivators of civilization and the generators of prosperity, as well as the source of corruption and immorality. In fiction and films, they capture our imagination, running the gamut from cultural wastelands to future utopias.

EPIIC, this year, will be an international and interdisciplinary investigation into the future of cities, utilizing a global network of policy makers, academic experts, architects, engineers and urban practitioners; as well as working with city mayors and internationally renowned specialists with practical and theoretical expertise in fields ranging from governance and urban crime to housing, city design, and transport.

The rise and fall of great cities has been part of civilization's history, from Athens to Ur, from Alexandria to Nineveh, from Rome to Tenochtitlan. What can be learned from their legacies? Cities of the future are being created in the United Arab Emirates and Brazil, what can be learned from their promise?

The 21st century is the urban century. In 1800 only three percent of the world's population lived in cities. The year 2007 marked the first time in human history that the majority of the global population lived in cities. This rural to urban migration, along with its implications and consequences, from the future of agriculture to the sustainability of water and energy supplies, will be a focus of this course. In conjunction with this migration is the overall explosion of the world's population. In 1950, there were 83 cities with populations exceeding one million. In 2008, there are 468. China's urban explosion, the largest in history, has given rise to 102 cities with more than a million residents.

How will cities and countries contend with this acceleration? What insights can be developed into spatial and social developments in cities confronting economic and demographic growth? What will be the global socio-economic, political and security challenges of such rapid urbanization? What are the tensions brought about by the globalization of modern cities with both its global connectedness and local disconnectedness?

In 1995 there were 14 megacities; in 2015 there will be 21. In 2000, there were already 18 hyper cities, such as New York City, Mexico City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Karachi. The Greater Tokyo Area has a population of 35 million, which is greater than the entire population of Canada, but condensed into 5200 square miles, as compared to Canada's 3.8 million square miles. What specific challenges do these intensely populated areas pose for governance, infrastructure, economic prosperity, and sustainability?

We will consider cities as centers of great culture and great architecture; as command centers for the global economy; as energized flow centers of commodities, information and people; and also as lures for internal and external migration, with the attendant dilemmas of congestion, environmental degradation, poverty, disease, homelessness, and crime.

How has globalization shaped today's cities and what impact will it have in the future? In all of this growth, who is being left behind? From the promise of Las Vegas and Dubai to the slums of Mumbai and Santiago, the course will explore and seek to understand cities as dramatic centers for both extreme affluence and chronic poverty. The urban agenda is a critical global issue. What strategies might lead to the development of prosperous, innovative multi-cultural sustainable cities that would enhance the quality of life for all citizens?