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  • Michael Mehaffy

IMCL '23 will focus on "changing the operating system for growth" at a critical time for settlements

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

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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