The Future is Now: Urban Asia in the 21st Century: Introduction & Panel 1
More than 90 people participated in the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future conference “The Future is Now: Urban Asia in the 21st Century.” The conference was held Oct. 8 in the Metcalf Trustee Center on Boston University’s campus.
Experts from Boston University and elsewhere explored various aspects of the social and environmental impacts of urbanization in Asia. The all-day conference was co-sponsored by Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, the Initiative on Cities, the Center for the Study of Asia, Global Programs India Initiatives, and the Center for Global Health and Development, in collaboration with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and BU’s Metropolitan College.
The overarching theme of each panel was the impacts urbanization has and will have in Asian cities. The panelists noted that cities in Asia are not blank slates—they aren’t being built from scratch— but are urban landscapes being built on top of existing ones. Several speakers said that these “new” cities must be shaped not only by the large infrastructure that defines cities, but by paying attention to and meeting human needs, especially the needs of poor people. During the course of the day, they discussed specific examples in cities ranging from Singapore, Shanghai, and Beijing to Jarkarta, Phnom Penh, Kolkata, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“We are in a moment of historic urbanization particularly in Asia…the sheer number of people trying to live in the city is unprecedented and the density levels so high that we have to rethink how to organize our urban spaces,” said Annette Kim (Director, Spatial Analysis Lab, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California). In her remarks during the opening panel, Kim discussed the need for cities to focus on how to redesign a built city to accommodate an influx of people, with a special focus on how people actually use space.