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Exploring Challenge of Urban Development in an “After-Oil” World:
Rockefeller Foundation Supports Groundbreaking Penn Institute for Urban Research Symposium
November 4, 2008, Volume 55, No. 11

The Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design (PennDesign) will co-host a groundbreaking symposium on the critical ways urban designers and leaders in both public and private sectors are re-envisioning cities in the face of costly energy and global warming. The symposium, Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil, will be held from November 6-8, at Penn. More than 300 international urban leaders, scholars, and practitioners will explore methods of achieving a truly sustainable urban world. “Today’s urban designers are poised to meet the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil prices. Re-Imagining Cities will show the way,” said Dean of PennDesign Marilyn Jordan Taylor.

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the symposium addresses the profound need around the world for urban innovation at every level—from the way people commute to work to the way they plan the future development of entire regions. These new approaches are crucial to ensuring that American cities continue to thrive in a future without the abundant oil that has historically given rise to the most prosperous urban economies.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support this seminal gathering,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, the Foundation’s president. “A half century ago, a similar University of Pennsylvania/Rockefeller Foundation conference sparked the 20th century’s most innovative thinking about urban criticism, design, and planning. Today, at the start of the 21st century, urban areas around the world face new challenges and demand a new generation of sustainable solutions. This symposium will help devise them.”

Participants of Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil will delve into discussions on a wide array of topics, including:

• Scientific, historical, and global perspectives on reducing carbon emissions and energy prices

• Current urban adaptation to environmental and energy problems

• Groundbreaking design solutions from around the world

• The future of design, from mega-regions to pioneering products

• Opportunities for urban design of all scales in new development

• The potential role of traditional and new media in changing public perception of urban design possibilities

• Recent innovative responses by city managers to climate change and energy strategies

Today’s leading thinkers about the impacts of energy shortages and climate change—Robert Socolow, Elizabeth Kolbert, David Orr, Adil Najam, and William Rees, to name a few—will exchange ideas and perspectives with leading practitioners of urban design—Peter Head, Jonathan Barnett, and Gary Hack among them. Urban design educators from around the world will consider how to organize educational systems to produce the next generation of designers capable of responding to current and future challenges.

“Integrating the new call for urban design into practice will be the job of today’s professors and professionals as they instruct current and future students,” Dr. Eugenie Birch, co-director of Penn IUR, noted. “This conference will reshape their work.” By the closing of the conference, participants will have drafted a crucial manifesto for urban design education in the next era. An accompanying interactive exhibition will feature trailblazing ideas from an international array of designers, architects, and planners, showcasing projects, initiatives, and policies that seek to reduce emissions by changing the way we design and inhabit cities.

Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil marks the 50th Anniversary of the 1958 University of Pennsylvania/Rockefeller Foundation Conference on Urban Design Criticism, which included such participants as Jane Jacobs, Louis Kahn, Kevin Lynch, Ian McHarg, Lewis Mumford, and I.M. Pei. “Just as that historic conference helped shape the new field of urban design for the 20th century, this symposium promises to forge vital new paths for urban design in the 21st century and beyond,” added Dr. Rodin.

Registration is closed; however, the conference sponsors encourage attendance at the Friday, November 7 lecture and panel discussion which will be held in B1 Meyerson Hall, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Speakers include Neal Peirce, chairman, Citistates Group; Inga Saffron, architecture critic, Philadelphia Inquirer; Elizabeth Kubany, principal, Elizabeth H. Kubany Public Relations; Andrew Revkin, reporter, dot Earth, The New York Times; Witold Rybczynski, Martin & Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism, School of Design and architecture critic, Slate.com; and Norbert W. Young Jr., president, McGraw Hill Construction.

The lecture is followed by the opening reception of an exhibition which reflects on the influence of the 1958 conference participants and features innovative ideas and projects from an international array of designers that challenge how cities are designed, built and inhabited. The exhibition, in Meyerson Hall’s Lower Gallery, November 6-8—is free and open to the public, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information is available at www.upenn.edu/penniur/afteroil.





Almanac - November 4, 2008, Volume 55, No. 11