Quito Questions: What role will urban design play in the New Urban Agenda?

The issue is likely to receive significant consideration, particularly around public space — more so than at previous Habitat conferences.

This is Citiscope’s platform for answers to reader questions about Habitat III, the New Urban Agenda and beyond, a series we’re calling Quito Questions. Want to take part? Contact information is below.

What role will urban design play in the New Urban Agenda?

— Jose Manuel Guzman, urban planner from Caracas, Venezuela

While we won’t know for sure how much prominence any topic will receive in the New Urban Agenda until the first draft of the new strategy is released in early May, it’s a good bet that urban design will receive important consideration — more so than at previous Habitat conferences.

In the run-up to Habitat III, we’ve noticed a shift from talking more broadly about “human settlements” to a focus on urbanization and cities, for which urban design necessarily plays a role. The conference preparations’ outsize focus on public space — including this week’s formal meetings on the topic in Barcelona — is a good indication of this trend.

For further insight, Citiscope turned to Morana Stipisic, who teaches in the urban-design programme at Columbia University. Last fall, her students tackled Habitat III in an urban-design studio on infrastructure, resilience and public space.

“I am confident that the New Urban Agenda will take a strong standing on ensuring the provision of public space — in particular in impoverished and underprivileged low-lying settlements that often suffer the most consequences of extreme weather events they had little to do with causing,” she said.

“However … the mere provision of public space is not sufficient in these times of rapid urbanization and changing climate,” she continued. “We need our public space to work for us. Urban resilience is key, and the role of highly performative public space is irreplaceable. It is imperative to incorporate green infrastructure and high-performance ecology into the urban fabric, as it can sustain healthier communities, improve quality of life and increase land value.”

Have a question about Habitat III, the New Urban Agenda or the global discussion on sustainable urbanization? Email our team at H3Questions@citiscope.org, tweet @Citiscope or leave a question on our Facebook page. Please let us know if you don’t want your name included in any published response. All responses will be published in the Citiscope news feed and will also appear here.

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