Welcome to "Future of the City Centre"
international conversations and research
The city centre plays a fundamental and dynamic role in making the city a vibrant and liveable place but globally it is under immense and sustained pressures. Positively, it is the site of exchange not only of goods and services but also information and ideas, a place where work interacts with leisure and play, and where people’s lives intersect. It is literally the beating heart of the city. But changing patterns of commerce, retailing and residential living, and the need to contribute to responses to climate change is challenging its future character.
This international initiative started with an AHRC funded project examining these pressures on city centres across different cities of the world - from the UK, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Learning from the varying responses and experiences of how these city centres are changing , the research has been exploring the future of city centres, asking: Who is it for? What is it for? Where does the future lie? How can its future be guided?
Our conversation and research is continuing and expanding... to other cities, with other researchers and practitioners, with citizens. We are looking to bring together people who share our interest and passion in helping shape the future city centre as part of an international Future of City Centres Network (FCCN).
On this website you can learn about the FCCN and our mission and aims. You can read more about the four case study cities in the AHRC research, including the workshops and symposia held in each of them which brought together civic leaders, practitioners and academics.
You will also find the research papers, thought pieces and other output from the project AND importantly you can join in the continuing discussion and analysis which continues to be undertaken as the city centre adjusts to the impact of Covid-19, new patterns of consumption online, and different ways of working.
Our starting point : the AHRC "Future of the City Centre" research project
keeping the city centre relevant
Across the world the future shape and role of the city centre is changing. New patterns of shopping and leisure, changing working practices, and fluctuating residential desires are altering the value placed on office and commercial space, on retailing and on housing in the city centre.
Yet city centres continue to be sites of innovation, of investment and dynamism, the pumping heart of wider urban regions.
The "Future of the City Centre" was a 2 year research project funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council and started in 2018. It brought together academics, civic and commercial leaders, and citizens into conversation about the future shape and role of the city centre.
Symposia were held in four cities across four continents to share experiences on how the challenges and opportunities faced by city centres are being addressed in practice and importantly to outline a vision of the future of the city centre.
The project aimed to help set the future research agenda exploring the role of the city centre in the middle of the 21st century - and formed the basis for the ongoing Future of City Centres Network (FCCN).
How to get involved
contribute to shaping the future of city centres
Join the Future City Centre Network
This exciting new initiative is an opportunity to engage commercial, civic leaders, practitioners and academic in advancing thinking and planning city centres of the future. More details will be published here shortly, but if you would like to learn more about the FCCN or wish to be a partner, contact us by email (email@example.com).
Submit your thoughts
Help shape the debates
We are keen to publish thought pieces and short articles on the future of the city centre and welcome submissions. If you would like to contribute, get in touch with Robert Rogerson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment on research output
Continue the discussions
Give us your thoughts on the project and comment on the thought pieces, papers and other output from the research. We would welcome your comments and thoughts on the future of the city centre and need you to help us continue the conversation on what is working and not working in shaping the future of city centre.
Add links to your research
Help us build an evidence base
Let us know what other research into the future of city centre is taking place. Send us links to your research and we can help bring that into the discussions. Just send an email using the contact button below. We'd love to help promote your research.
Looking to the future
The current global pandemic has created unprecedented conditions for everyone, challenging established ways of working, living and socialising. It has also created incredibly rapid change in cities – from deserted streets as lockdowns are enforced to new ways of socialising and working remotely as social distancing is implemented. And it has given renewed attention to the role of key sectors, especially around health care, and to the fragility of the economic basis of sectors frequently labelled as low skilled.
Even if the impact is only temporary, our current responses to the pandemic are asking fundamental questions of the future of the city centre. Our notions of the future will be re-shaped by the current experience. Our visions are likely to be have been altered.
In response to this and informed by the experience of the last 2 years of research, we believe there is a need for more global cooperation, more shared understanding of how to make city centres more sustainable and resilient, and how to ensure that they remain the beating heart of the city as whole.
We are thus inviting anyone sharing our desire to help create future city centres to join us as part of an international network of civic leaders, practitioners, commercial partners, academics and citizens. The intention is not to create a blueprint for every city, but to generate a manifesto to ensure city centres as they continue to change and adapt are effective in improving the quality of life and wellbeing of citizens.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN US AND HELP DEVELOP A NEW
INTERNATIONAL FUTURE OF CITY CENTRE NETWORK
GET IN TOUCH
City Centre case studies
At the heart of this research programme lie four case study cities which formed the basis of the original AHRC project. In each city the host team member set up a 2 day symposium bringing together key city leaders and planners, place making practitioners, academics and community representatives in conversation.
The following section provide a copy of the presentations at the workshops and a summary of the debates and discussions which ensued. You will also find the plans and visions of the city centre laid out by the local municipality which form the backdrop of most of the continuing conversations.
In engaging critically with these visions, and helping to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by the city centre in future, we have brought together some of the most relevant academic and practitioner research for each city.
The conversations continue, and as part of the Future of the City Centre Network, the team continue to engage with partners in each of the case study cities.
We are keen to extend the range of city centre case studies, and thus welcome opportunities to link up with civic leaders, academics, practitioners and citizens to help explore the future of other urban cores. If you would like to add another case study, get in touch with us.
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
This compact city centre with its strong historical and regional links offers a vision of a future which seeks to retain employment, retail functions and services desired by residents, whilst welcoming more 'temporary' visitors as students and tourists.
Details of the symposium programme can be found here:
Further information about the plans for the city centre, the symposium papers and related articles on Newcastle Upon Tyne can be found using the following links:
Newcastle NSW, Australia
Setting out a vision and action plan to create a more sustainable and denser city centre, Newcastle offers insights how a municipality can use its regulatory functions and civic investments to re-define the city centre, spatially and economically.
Details of the programme can be found here:
Further information about the plans for the city centre, the symposium papers and related articles on Newcastle, NSW can be found using the following links:
Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
In seeking to reposition itself as a sustainable 'global capital city' with a vibrant city centre, the Tshwane/Pretoria case study raises intriguing issues about how to ensure that a CBD can be retained as an economic heart whilst being inclusive.
Further information about the plans for the city centre, the symposium papers and related articles on Tshwane/Pretoria can be found using the following links:
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Future of the City Centre, Joao Pessoa, Brazil
The fourth and final symposium was held in the easternmost city in the Americas, in the Paraiba region of Brazil in March 2020. Hosted by the University of Paraiba it explored how the location and identity of the city's centre was changing, and how the historic centre was struggling to be regenerated..
News and Debates
Some of the contemporary issues and
future opportunities connected with the city centre
Overtourism, place alienation and the right to the city: insights from the historic centre of Seville, Spain
Innovation districts are often seen by city authorities as a means to regenerate city centres. But do they engage with communities. This paper explores the evidence from Australia
Academic papers from the project
Compacting the city centre: densification in two Newcastles -
Giddings & Rogerson (2021) in Buildings & Cities
The compact city and the associated process of densification have attained almost hegemonic status as a sustainable urban form. Seeking to counteract the negative impacts of sprawl, urban densification has usually focused on areas beyond the city centre. However, a renewed attraction of the urban core is altering patterns at a time when other trends, including the decline of retailing and commercial activity, are also changing demands for space in the city centre. This paper investigates different approaches to the use of urban densification as part of strategies for the regeneration of the city centre.
The future of the city centre: urbanisation, transformation and resilience - a tale of two Newcastle cities
Rogerson & Giddings (2020) - Urban Studies
Recent debates over the content and theoretical orientation of urban studies act as a strong reminder that the nature and existence of the city as a form of spatial urban agglomeration is changing. They have acted positively as a heuristic to inspire critical analysis of urbanisation and helped to illuminate the considerable empirical variation over time and space in urban agglomeration forms. However, in shifting the focus onto the planetary reach of urbanisation, such debates risk deflecting attention away from the city core at a time when it too is being subjected to transformation. The city centre has been taken for granted ....
Read the paper here
The research team: who we are
This initiative is being led by international academic researchers from the UK, Australia, South Africa and Brazil.
UK project coordinators
Professor Bob Giddings, School of the Built Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Dr Robert Rogerson, Director, Institute for Future Cities, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Dr Marcus Jefferies, School of Architecture & Built Environment University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW
Professor PD Rwelamila, Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, Pretoria
Professor Geovany Silva, Architecture & Urbanism, Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil
Dr Carlos Nome, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil
Future of City Centre Network Organisational Partners
Professor Bob Giddings
As Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Bob has pioneered the development of three innovative degree courses - the Building Management Programme (now Construction Management) Architectural Design and Management (now Architecture) and Interior Design (now Interior Architecture) and was one of the founders of Northumbria University's Sustainable Cities Research Institute. He is Visiting Professor at Belgrade University Faculty of Architecture, and at the American University School of Architecture in Skopje.
Dr Robert Rogerson
As academic Director of the Institute for Future Cities at the University of Strathclyde, Robert has responsibility for the development of collaborative and multidisciplinary projects spanning research areas relating to sustainable development and inclusive growth and has led projects funded by the AHRC, ESRC, and NERC as well as Newton Funds and British Council. He is currently engaged with partners in India, Uganda, the Philippines, and Mexico. He has represented UK academic researchers as part of FCO delegations to Brazil, Latin America and China.
Dr Marcus Jefferies
Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW
Professor PD Rwelamila
Professor of Project Management, Graduate School of Business Leadership,
University of South Africa, Pretoria
Professor Geovany Silva
Professor in Architecture and Urbanism. Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil
Dr Carlos Nome
Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil
"A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time"
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
"The city in short shows the good and evil of human nature in excess"
Robert E Park
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