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  • Michael Mehaffy

A very memorable IMCL 2022 gathering draws to a close!

Updated: May 29, 2022

Le Plessis-Robinson, our host venue, offered many delights – and many inspiring and thought-provoking lessons

A full set of videos will be available of all the plenary sessions soon -- but meanwhile, here is a short 8-minute highlights reel! (Click on the image to start.)

The 58th International Making Cities Livable conference, just completed, was an unforgettable gathering of 150 mayors, senior planners, researchers, practitioners, NGO heads and citizens, all sharing the latest lessons and ideas for today’s urban challenges. The jam-packed content included six plenary sessions, eighteen breakout sessions, two “speed presentation sessions,” eight “networking coffees,” two tours, two receptions, an awards dinner, and plenty of time for great conversation over great meals.

The town of Le Plessis-Robinson, our host venue, was also a delightful place to explore and discuss, with many lessons about how to achieve greater walkability, mix of uses, diversity of populations and incomes, ecological practices, and many other goals of a “new urban agenda” – a key theme of the conference.

Laura Petrella.

Laura Petrella of UN-Habitat gave a plenary address on progress on the New Urban Agenda – the outcome document of the Habitat III conference that was later adopted by acclamation by 193 countries. Its language on the importance of public space also mirrors that of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Other plenary speakers included Carlos Moreno, developer of Paris’ “15-minute city” concept (now being applied to many other cities) and George Ferguson, Past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as the first elected mayor of Bristol, UK.

Another key theme (raised by Ferguson and others) was how architecture could transcend object-building, and contribute to supporting a vibrant public realm by defining the edges of human-scale, walkable, connected public space networks. (The conference was titled: Architecture and the Edges of Public Space: Tools and Strategies for a New Urban Agenda." Business-as-usual “object-building” architecture came in for some harsh criticism at the conference, as did tall buildings, whose claimed benefits from boosters received a rigorous (and rather damning) examination in light of the actual research evidence.

The city of Le Plessis-Robinson offered a case in point of the actual benefits that are possible. A former “dormitory banlieue” with many vacancies and social problems, its relentlessly repetitive, stripped-down building and urban design was a textbook example of the failures of 20th century methods. The city saw drastic – and very impressive – reforms, creating a mixed-income, mixed-use, walkable, ecological (and compact) neighborhood that wasn’t afraid to use the best ideas from the Parisian past. The results show, with an active public realm enjoyed by all.

Feedback from the conference was overwhelmingly positive and enthuiastic. A few of the comments we received:

“What a wonderful event! Bravo! It was inspiring and educational.”

- Alex Fisch, City Council Member, Culver City, Calidfornia

“Congrats on a tremendous event!”

- Rick Cole, Executive Director, Congress for the New Urbanism

“Thanks for doing so much to carry forward the Lennard legacy and offering to all of us these amazing experiences. I am forever thankful and grateful!!!”

- David Woltering, Owner, Woltering Community Planning

“You and Peter have set a high bar for subsequent conferences!”

- Christopher Leinberger, Emeritus Professor, George Washington University

“Thank you again for a wonderful conference. It was an eye-opening experience!”

- Josh Arcurio, Architect, David M. Schwarz Architects

“It was a great Conference! Congratulations!”

- Julio Cesar Perez, Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame

“I want to say thank you directly to you, Morgane, Ryan and the rest of the team for a great conference. Not only was Plessis-Robinson a truly worthwhile experience, but there were some great presentations, some new friends and delightful time with lovely people that I already value so much as great friends and colleagues!”

- Stephen Goldie, City Planning Advisor, City of Abu Dhabi

We look forward to more productive and enjoyable events together in the future!

Rick Cole, Executive Director of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Jim Brainard, mayor of Carmel, Indiana USA, leads a plenary discussion with Philippe Pemezec, former mayor of Le Plessis-Robinson, Nada and Marc Breitman, architects of a phase of Le Plessis-Robinson, and Henry Mestetsky, Redevelopment Director for the City of Carmel.

David Brain presents findings from a new database on public space research.

Ben Bolgar, Senior Director of the Prince's Foundation, discusses the structure of streets, blocks and neighborhoods in human-centered cities.

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