Is the City Working?

Cities succeed and flourish because of their ability to attract diverse groups of people with a wide range of skills and perspectives. Today, urban areas contribute more than 80 percent of global GDP. That’s set to increase as the world’s urban population will more than double by mid-century. The changes taking place in urban areas are accelerating dramatic changes in cities. In response to these changes, design will need to put people back at the centre: the human experience will be the driving force behind resilient, liveable cities.

View some highlights from the event in the video below:

On 4 December, we continued our discussion ‘Cities Now. Cities Next.’  deliberating how, through the complexity of design, planning, development and delivery, the fundamental needs and desires of people are often lost; a reality all too common to the world of work.


Today's workers are the most important asset for any business and this has created a highly-competitive war for talent. Attracting, retaining, educating, nurturing, inspiring and engaging people and creating an optimum work environment for them to operate at their very best is what drives businesses forward in today’s markets.


The event unearthed a number of different concerns, which highlight that, regardless of whether you’re a designer, a developer, a retailer or working in city governance, we really need to reconsider how we enhance the dynamism of cities making them healthier, more profitable and more interesting places to live.



How do we give physical form to ever-changing user needs? How do we design in a world of constant flexibility? How are architects overcoming the tensions and creating fixed, adaptive, culture defining environments?


In an era when anything is possible, and change is certain – if not ubiquitous – we’re seeing the office buildings sector position itself on the leading edge of responding to shifts in consumer behaviour, technology, and the power of urbanity. Developments that are successfully navigating and planning for these shifts are and will continue to come out on top. Spaces and places are having to work harder than ever before, layering experiences to appeal to increasingly diverse workplace cultures.

By crafting a tenant strategy that mixes uses, developers are able to create walkable, 24/7 neighbourhoods and increase land value, no matter the location. Day-to-night programming can draw in the community, which in turn, ups the ‘au courant’ factor—and value—of the building.


Good planning provides great places to live, work and play. Bad planning results in poor mental and physical health, environmental degradation, loss of cultural heritage and economic harm. So, planning matters.


When the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 was introduced, this country's circumstances were far different to what they are now. Even though there has been successive legislation since, they all have the same purpose; a centralised planning system. This is the biggest barrier preventing architects, planners and developers from building in line with the needs of today.


Planning needs to be transformed from a position where conflict prevails to one where vision and ambition are delivered through high-quality plans that are developed with full community engagement and energy. In order to respond to the rapidly changing needs of the individual, the system needs an overhaul to provide more flexibility.’



Who are we designing for anyway? From utility to purpose to culture – and beyond. There are a multitude of needs we need to cater for, and, contrary to popular belief, no silver bullet.

To connect successfully with a more diverse workforce with a diverse spectrum of needs – lifestyles and working patterns needs to be considered. Accordingly, we need to design holistically, looking at the mental, environmental, social and physical aspects that influence personal needs and desires to work. Workplaces need to deliver a range of settings and places that cater for a diverse range of interests and activities. They need to enable workers to choose which of these environments suits their differing needs.


Providing variety and flexibility offers choice. Today, choice is the ultimate workplace driver. People want to be able to choose their job, career path,

project, mentor, learning pattern and work setting. Buildings over the course of their lifecycle need to evolve to these ever-changing requirements.

As we move towards an increasingly 24/7, 365-day “always on” society, the need for workplaces to facilitate people’s changing lifestyles is imperative. Workplaces need to cater to mixed-uses, providing a variety of physical environments to allow for social vitality, creating an inclusive, pleasurable and stimulating place for people to work in whilst supporting lifestyle aspirations.