Humanity’s Urban Future
What makes a good city of the future?
The future of being human is integrally tied to cities: by 2050, more than 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in an urban area. So how does one successfully plan for an urban future, knowing the city will develop beyond any current plan — and quickly?
Members of CIFAR’s new Humanity’s Urban Future program are considering what we can learn from the urban past, and what we can imagine for its future. The program will consider many important factors, including infrastructure (both material and institutional), political divisions, questions of scale, climate change, and other potential crises. In seeking answers to these pressing general questions, the program will take six cities as test-cases: Calcutta; Toronto; Shanghai; Naples; Mexico City; and Kinshasa.
By studying what makes a good city of the future, the researchers aim to make a transformative impact on urban policy and planning, regulation and infrastructure, inspiring collective deliberation and learning around how one should work towards a better urban future.
Applications Now Open: CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program
The Humanity’s Urban Future program aims to change the way that a good urban life is conceptualized and mobilized. It starts from the assumption that the future of humanity – its physical conditions, its well-being, its potential for fairness, even its very survival – will depend on how we build and inhabit urban environments. Several interrelated questions guide this endeavor. The first is: what is a good city? How does one plan for better urban futures when it is clear that cities are palimpsests of failed plans and unfulfilled aspirations, and that cities will continue to make themselves in new ways even after they are planned? The second is: how do cities inhabit time? Although humans may be distinctive as temporally self-aware creatures, they are also overly confident in their belief in the possibility of moving in a linear and controlled fashion from past to future through their own god-like interventions. To ask what produces a good urban life – to construct a vision of it – is also to ask how we understand the past of urban planning and inhabitation, how changes can be made that learn from and reconfigure these pasts in the context of a new imaginary, and who will be guiding these transformations. We seek to change conventional thinking on the inter-relationships between agency, time, and urban processes by pursuing cross-disciplinary, research-led investigation built on conceptual rigor and richness to address our collective urban futures in the face of looming challenges like climate change, inequality, conflict, AI, pandemics and other threats to human existence.
Path to Societal Impact
Areas of focus:
- Examining six major metropolitan centres, studying how they have changed over time and in space, and the degree to which conflicts over these various conceptions of “the good city” have impacted planning outcomes
- Establishing published research that will lead to changing the discourse of planning and the understanding of cities
- Engagement with policy makers, political advisors, and civic actors
Fellows & Advisors
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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.