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Leading universities, practitioners and institutions are represented from around the world, submitting proposals on a wide range of topics related to "The Ecology of Place: From Understanding to ACTION."

POUNDBURY (UK) - After the April 30th deadline for abstract submissions for the 59th International Making Cities Livable conference, the organizers reported receiving 94 submissions on a diverse range of topics related to the conference theme of "The Ecology of Place." The abstracts have now been sent on to the IMCL Board of Stewards for blinded peer review. Many of the proposals were made by leading researchers, practitioners and institutional representatives in a range of urban sustainability fields. "There are quite a few terrific submissions," reports Executive Director Michael Mehaffy. "We're really excited that this is going to be a great conference."

Conference partners include UN-Habitat, The Prince's Foundation, the Duchy of Cornwall, the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU), and the Congress for the New Urbanism. Major universities will also be represented, including the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and University College London.

The submitters of the abstracts will join a stellar lineup of plenary presenters, including major universities and leading global agencies and institutions, as well as representatives of case study projects who will give in-depth post-occupancy analysis.

Confirmed plenary speakers include Semir Zeki, FMedSci, FRS, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London; Setha Low, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Psychology at The Graduate School, City University of New York; Jose Chong, Leader, Global Public Space Programme for UN-Habitat; Ben Bolgar, MVO, M.Arch, Senior Director, The Prince's Foundation; Richard J. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., Professor Emeritus, UCLA, and former Director, CDC National Center for Environmental Health; Professor Ettore Mazzola, Professor of Practice, University of Notre Dame Rome Campus; Cleo Valentine, Vice-Chancellor's Doctoral Scholar, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge; Desiree Daniel, Lecturer in Sustainable Urbanism, The University of Oxford; David Brain, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, New College of Florida; Patrick Condon, Professor of Urban Design, University of British Columbia; and Vikas Mehta, Ph.D., Professor of Urbanism and Fruth/Gemini Chair, University of Cincinnati.

All accepted presenters will have the option of preparing a paper for publication in the conference's online journal, Proceedings of the International Making Cities Livable Conference. The papers will be double-blind peer-reviewed, and made available to all attendees on the conference website as well as through an online link available after the conference.

In addition, all paper presenters will be invited to submit their paper to the journal Sustainability, and the special issue we are guest-editing on "Sustainable Urbanism: Definition, Assessment, and Agenda for Future Research." This is an open access journal with an article processing fee, although applicants are eligible to have this fee waived. The journal has an h-index of 109 and is ranked first-quartile in Geography, Planning and Development, and second-quartile in Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment. For more information, please visit

In addition, papers covering transport issues are invited to submit to World Transport Policy and Practice (WTPP), a peer-reviewed journal published by Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities, based in Oakland, California. There is no article processing fee, and all articles are peer-reviewed. For more information, please see

Topics in the submissions include walkability, multi-modal transport, public space quality and management, health and well-being, urban ecology, urban resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation, new digital planning tools, governance, lessons from COVID, and of course, post-occupancy lessons from case studies, including our host venue of Poundbury.

"I'm particularly pleased to see a focus on research INTO practice," Mehaffy says. "This is a great group of not only academics, but practitioners and policymakers, who can come together and exchange lessons with each other about how to actually drive the changes we need."

The conference will be particularly focused on developing ongoing collaborations between participants and serving as a "springboard," into further research, practice and policy reforms. "Like all IMCL conferences, this is not a one-off event, but a chance to move further forward with ongoing work in the direction we so urgently need when it comes to urban reforms. This is not just about research and study, but actually doling it," Mehaffy says. "As our conference theme puts it, we're moving 'from understanding to ACTION.'"

The abstracts will be reviewed over the next two weeks, with decisions expected shortly.

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King Charles’ model village gets grudging respect on its impressive stats – but its revival architecture still rankles some

Image: Duchy of Cornwall


Contact: Leslie Barrett

Lennard Institute for Livable Cities Inc.

POUNDBURY, UK: “Twee.” “Mock.” “Nostalgic.” “Fake.”

These are just some of the architectural curse words regularly hurled at Charles III’s new model town of Poundbury, an urban extension of 3,800 people and 200 businesses that is billed as “focused on affordable housing and encouraging a more sustainable way of life.” On the evidence, it is a successful and popular place – but one wouldn’t think so from the harsh attacks of some architects and professional royal-bashers.

Calmer voices seem ready to offer a more reasoned assessment of Poundbury. Oliver Wainwright, architecture critic for The Guardian, wrote a typically revisionist article in 2016 titled “A royal revolution: is Prince Charles's model village having the last laugh?” In it he assessed Poundbury’s accomplishments and concluded that “a growing and diverse community suggests it’s getting a lot of things right.” This past May, Matt Oliver of The Telegraph wrote yet another sober reassessment titled “Inside Poundbury: Why Prince Charles's 'Disney-esque' model village is proving critics wrong.”

Some architecture critics are also coming around. In 2018 the critic Witold Rybczynski of Architect magazine rebutted his fellow critics when he found that “the place is neither anachronistic, nor utopian, nor elitist. Nor is it a middle-class ghetto. In fact, Poundbury embodies social, economic, and planning innovations that can only be called radical.”

“Poundbury IS radical, and ironically, it’s the offended architects who are the real reactionaries here,” says Dr. Michael Mehaffy, an architectural researcher and Executive Director of the US-based Lennard Institute for Livable Cities. “They’re mired in a century-old taboo against revival architectures that is actually quite unsound, from a modern scientific point of view,” he says.

A section of Poundbury, combining traditional English Classical and local vernacular architectures. Source: Lennard Institute.

“Revival and recapitulation have always been an integral part of architectures across cultures and eras,” Mehaffy says. “It’s only recently that the rather weird idea that ‘we mustn’t copy the past,’ that everything has to be daringly novel or edgy art, has taken hold. I don’t think that has worked out well for us,” he says sardonically.

Moreover, Mehaffy says, this approach is inconsistent with the historically more recent insights into biological evolution. “Natural systems build on their own past successes, and they refine and evolve in complexity,” he says. “They keep and recapitulate what works – the porpoise recapitulates the dorsal fin of the shark, because it’s a highly successful response to a complex environment.”

“Human environments are not so different: we evolve and refine and recapitulate. And the results are some of the most successful, best-loved, most enduring environments humans have known. We know they’re sustainable, because they have in fact sustained,” Mehaffy says.

The Pantheon in Rome, a “sustainable” building in continuous use for over 1,900 years. Source: Pickpic

“This game of recapitulation has gone on for a very long time, across cultures,” Mehaffy points out. “The Egyptians' architectural DNA was recapitulated by the Greeks', and theirs was recapitulated by the Romans and the Eritreans, and theirs was recapitulated by the Renaissance, again by the Americans, by London and Paris, and so on and so on – until it all came to a crashing halt only in the 1930s.”

“That’s when the taboo against “copying the past’ came along, and the modernist idea of “starting from zero’ – although by today’s standards of biological complexity, this is not actually a modern idea. It’s remarkably obsolete, in fact,” says Mehaffy.

Mehaffy notes that a growing body of research also shows a disconnect between what most architects design and what most users actually prefer. This preference does not seem to vary much by identity or ideology, but is remarkably well-distributed across non-architect populations. “It seems to be mostly architects and critics who are in the minority when it comes to what people regard as beautiful and desirable in their neighborhoods – and we should remember, it IS their neighborhoods, not ours,” he says.

For all these reasons, Poundbury dares to recycle some of the aesthetic characteristics that have proven themselves enduring, successful, and attractive over decades and centuries. One can debate how skillfully it does so, or whether it could have incorporated more innovative forms along with the “straight-ahead” traditional forms and patterns.

A small square in Poundbury. Source: Lennard Institute.

Mehaffy says that all this is fair game, and in fact, his organization will be holding a conference at Poundbury from October 10-13 of this year, gathering researchers, practitioners and policymakers to do a “deep dive” into the community and its lessons. “We can and should debate what can be done better in this and other communities, even as we learn from their successes,” he says. “But what we should not do, in my view, is perpetuate facile attacks and shallow memes that fail to recognize the real elephant in the room – and that is the dismal state of the other 99% of development out there. If we’re not dealing with that, we’re just committing malpractice, in my opinion.”

"Artistic creativity has its place," he says. "But it is a place, subservient to responsible professional practice aimed at human and planetary well-being."

Certainly, Poundbury has achieved impressive successes, enough to spark the envy of other aspiring sustainability practitioners: 35% permanent affordable housing – “pepper-potted” indistinguishably across the town, and not clustered into identifiable “projects”; mixed use zoning, with 207 businesses integrated into the town, and providing over 2,300 jobs for its population of 3,800; ample provisions for walking, cycling and transit; and a number of innovative ecological features. Among the latter are a net zero emissions biomethane generator that provides fuel for up to 59,000 homes; “solar slate” roof systems; electric charging stations throughout the town; high-insulation homes using cavity wall construction with high thermal mass; and a shift away from plastics and other problematic substances toward natural and renewable materials.

A view from Poundbury’s Duchess of Cornwall hotel toward the main square. Source: Lennard Institute.

“We’ll share these and other lessons, not only from Poundbury, but from other communities that have managed to move the needle toward better-quality development. We think it’s urgent to do so, and to move toward a new generation of more durable, more sustainable, more livable cities, towns and suburbs,” Mehaffy says.

The Lennard Institute’s conference series, the International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conferences, began in 1985 when a Viennese medical sociologist and a UK architectural scholar began gathering mayors, academics, practitioners and activists to focus on the well-being of urban residents and the health of their environments. This year’s conference will be the 59th in the series. For more information, visit the conference web page at


About the Lennard Institute for Livable Cities:

The Suzanne C. and Henry L. Lennard Institute for Livable Cities, Inc. is a US-based Public Benefit Corporation and 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the host of the International Making Cities Livable conference series. The IMCL was begun in 1985 by Dr. Henry Lennard, a Viennese medical sociologist, and Dr. Suzanne Lennard, a British architectural scholar. The current Executive Director is Michael Mehaffy, a researcher and practitioner who holds a doctorate in architecture from Delft University of Technology, who was the first Director of Education for The Prince's Foundation in London. This year’s conference focus will include cutting-edge topics of environmental psychology, neuroscience, and other fascinating subjects, exploring how human beings respond to different environments – and how those environments have surprising if sometimes hidden impacts on health and well-being. Speakers will include Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, and Cleo Valentine, neuroarchitectural researcher at the University of Cambridge. Many more eminent researchers will discuss topics of human health, ecology, public space, economics, and other urban issues.

For more information:

Dr. Michael Mehaffy

Executive Director, Sustasis Foundation

A background story with additional relevant information and quotes can also be found here:

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Updated: Apr 25

Partners, researchers and practitioners will bring the latest research and action on code reform, transportation design, financial incentives and barriers, legislative and policy tools, livable design practice, and other hands-on urban reforms, as humanity seeks to transition to a new generation of better-quality cities, towns and suburbs

Above: We are still building a generation of high resource-consumption, high-emissions, fragmented places, based upon an outmoded and failing set of practices from early in the 20th century. Inspiring examples of reform show us what can be done -- but we recognize the work ahead to bring them to scale.

POUNDBURY UK - In less than six months, the 59th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference will convene in Poundbury, UK, to examine the latest tools and strategies for a new generation of more resilient, more sustainable, more livable settlements.

This comes at a historical moment when all 293 countries of the United Nations have adopted by acclamation a "New Urban Agenda" that recognizes our failing models of urban development, and the need for a new set of tools and practices for more livable neighborhoods, cities, towns and suburbs.

The conference recognizes that there are many obsolete technical, legal and financial requirements that still shape and profoundly limit what can be done -- what we might think of as the global "operating system for growth." It consists of all the zoning codes, design codes, traffic standards, technical regulations, legal restrictions, financial requirements, incentives and disincentives, hidden subsidies and penalties, design models and images, and all the other elements that, taken together, still determine what can be built and where.

That's why reforms of these obsolete codes, regulations, laws, standards, models, and all the rest, are so urgent -- and why we need to learn from the examples that have made the most progress, and share and adapt their tools and strategies.

The Call for Abstracts deadline is April 30th, and the Early Bird registration discount also expires on that date.

The conference will focus on bridging the gap from understanding to ACTION – sharing the tools and strategies needed to effect a transition to more ecological ways of building and settling, in the fullest sense of the word. We will gather in Poundbury, a new urban extension developed under the guidance of the UK’s King Charles III, along with many collaborators over three decades. Poundbury is a fitting venue: a remarkable laboratory of multiple experiments in ecological technology, socially supportive design, and economic opportunity for all, as well as a fitting case study for debate.

As we do every year, we will examine our host venue (Poundbury this year) and its in-depth lessons, as well as other inspiring examples of progress in livable settlements. We will seek to understand how those lessons can translate into effective action in other parts of the world, and how conference attendees can play a key role in making that happen.

Some inspiring examples of livable, healthy cities and towns, new and old. We chose to discard these models of development in favor of mechanized autopia, and we can now choose -- if we want -- to re-engage them. But we need the tools and strategies.

Poundbury is a particularly poignant host venue for the conference: a gathering in the year of its founder's ascension to become king. Now in its 30th year, this remarkable place was founded by the former Prince of Wales soon after he wrote his popular 1980s book, A Vision of Britain. At the time, critics attacked him for "meddling" in architecture and urbanism, and not sticking with charity polo matches. He responded by "walking the walk" and not just "talking the talk".

Poundbury will offer many features to debate, and to explore - as any development should. But its achievements are undeniable, and in stark contrast to the vast majority of developments today: 35 percent permanent affordable housing, “pepper-potted” indistinguishably across the town, and not clustered into identifiable “projects;” mixed use zoning, with 207 businesses integrated into the town, and providing over 2,300 jobs available to its population of 3,800; generous provisions for walking, cycling and transit as well as the car; and a number of innovative ecological features.

The IMCL is partnering with a number of key institutions and agencies for this conference, including UN-Habitat, The Prince's Foundation (of which the King is still president), the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture, and Urbanism (INTBAU), the Duchy of Cornwall, and the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Leading researchers will present new findings on urban and environmental issues from Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, and other universities from the UK and the world.

We invite other researchers, practitioners and policymakers, to share their proposals for presentations via the Call for Abstracts. We also remind interested parties of the Early Bird registration, which also expires April 30th. We hope you will join us for a memorable and potentially historic gathering, in such a remarkable venue.

Above: Aerial view of Poundbury.

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