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 are being 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 (contact@futurecitycentre.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 contact@futurecitycentre.com 

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 on 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.



Project symposia 

Four case study cities formed the basis of the AHRC project and 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 summary of the workshops and also some context about the ways in which the city centre in each of the four cities is being reshaped and re-imagined.

Future of the City Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Future of City Centre - UK

Our first symposium was held in Newcastle upon Tyne in September 2018. Details of the programme can be found here:

The meeting explored how this compact city centre is being managed to retain employment, retail functions and services desired by residents, whilst welcoming more 'temporary' visitors as students and tourists.

Future of the City Centre, Newcastle NSW, Australia

This event was held on 5 and 6 March 2019 in Newcastle, Australia organised by the University of Newcastle. Details of the programme can be found here:


Through field visits and workshop discussion, the symposium discussed with key stakeholders how the city is using its regulatory functions and civic investments to re-define the city centre, spatially and economically

Future of the City Centre, Pretoria, South Africa

The third symposium was hosted by the University of South of Africa in September 2019. It explored the ways in which Pretoria is repositioning itself as a sustainable 'global capital city' with a vibrant city centre.

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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.. 


August 16 2018

February 2020

This article examines the patterns of retail diffusion that followed and the resultant adoption of the shopping centre form.

January 2020



Project output


This month's theme:

Improving air quality in the city centre

Thought pieces
A series of short papers discussing issues raised by this research project

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, University of Northumbria, Newcastle

Dr Robert Rogerson, Director, Institute for Future Cities, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

International partners

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

Professor Carlos Nome, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil

Professor Bob Giddings

His interest in the integration of design and management led to a Postgraduate Diploma in Management and membership of the Chartered Institute of Building. A Master of Arts in Urban Studies was followed by a Doctorate in Architecture and Urban Design from the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at the University of York. Before university, Bob was employed as a Building Technologist in London but has since worked with a number of award-winning architectural practices. He enjoyed five years as a part-time tutor at Newcastle School of Architecture before joining the School of the Built Environment.

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 our priority areas relating to sustainable development inclusive growth – resilient cities, sustainable communities, mobility & the built environment, and urban wellbeing associated with smart cities.  He is currently engaged with partners in India, Uganda, the Philippines, Mexico and Australia, and has represented the UK as part of FCO delegations to Brazil, Latin America and China.


Dr Marcus Jefferies

University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW


Professor PD Rwelamila

University of South Africa, Pretoria

Professor Geovany Silva

Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil

Professor Carlos Nome

Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil

"A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time"

                                                     Patrick Geddes

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

                                                    Jane Jacobs

"The city in short shows the good and evil of human nature in excess"

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Contact Us

email:    contact@futurecitycentre.com

phone:  +44(0)141 444 8628 *currently unavailable as working from home

+44 (0)141 444 8628

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