On February 24, the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, UN-Habitat’s World Urban Campaign, and Next City presented an interactive discussion with a panel of leading thinkers in urban development. The event concentrated on the challenges of urban planning and sustainability, and on how research informs practical innovations in urban resilience and equity.
The event took place in preparation for the U.S. delegation to the World Urban Forum 7, which will take place this April 5-11 in Medellín, Colombia.
Attendees heard introductory remarks from each of the twelve panelists, followed by a group discussion moderated by Susan Wachter, Co-Director for the Penn Institute for Urban Research and Professor of Real Estate and Finance at Wharton. The two-hour dialogue culminated in an audience question-and-answer session.
Event panelists included Eugenie Birch, Co-Director for the Penn Institute for Urban Research and Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education/City and Regional Planning at PennDesign; Ana Marie Argilagos, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Shahana Chattaraj, former postdoctoral fellow, Penn’s Lauder Institute; Yamina Djacta, Officer in Charge, New York Office, UN-Habitat; Maureen George, Assistant Professor, Family and Community Health, PennNursing; David Gouverneur, Associate Professor of Practice, Landscape Architecture, PennDesign; Albert Han, Doctoral Candidate, City and Regional Planning, PennDesign; Mark Alan Hughes, Professor of Practice, City and Regional Planning, PennDesign; Devesh Kapur, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Penn’s Center for the Advanced Study of India; Neelanjan Sircar, Visiting Dissertation Research Fellow, Penn’s Center for the Advanced Study of India; Harris Steinberg, Executive Director, Penn Praxis; and Richard Voith, President and Principal, Econsult Solutions.
The panel represented a wide variety of research and practice areas, and each participant offered insight into the evolving field of urban development—and provided their own observations with regard to how researchers and practitioners can collaborate and apply research to practice in useful ways.
Mark Alan Hughes, Professor of Practice at Penn Design, noted that researchers can most productively contribute to practice by working with practitioners “to form a collective intelligence.” Yamina Djacta, Officer in Charge of the New York Office for U.N. Habitat, focused on the importance of addressing inequality: “The consequences of inequality hamper all aspects of human development.
David Gouverneur, Associate Professor of Practice in Landscape Architecture at PennDesign, warned that if researchers don’t move fast enough in their work, they risk missing out on important elements of urban development and change. “[Researchers] must move with vigor in order to gain credibility,” he said. “We have to meet the speed of urban dynamics.”
This is an especially important notion given today’s rapid urbanization rate—a point emphasized by Devesh Kapur, Director of Penn’s Center for the Advanced Study of India, who noted that India is urbanizing at a rate of a one million new city dwellers per month. That rate is projected to continue for the next 40 years.
The panel discussed issues at home and abroad, also touching on the recent slew of school closings in Philadelphia, each of which has added to Philadelphia’s 101 acres of vacant land.
Overall, the event generated constructive input for a continuing dialogue on urban development, much of which will be addressed by the U.S. Delegation at the World Urban Forum 7 this April. For more information about WUF 7, visit http://wuf7.unhabitat.org.