What the New Urban Agenda means for architects
By Tim Hawk, FAIA; Chere LeClair, AIA; and Derek Washam
May 17, 2017
How AIA’s Strategic Council is encouraging communities to embrace sustainable urbanization.
The United Nations convened its Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, referred to as UN Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador in October of 2016. This is the third international Habitat conference, with each meeting occurring 20 years apart. The conference was attended by 30,000 representatives from 167 countries, and AIA sent a delegation that included 2016 AIA President Russell A. Davidson, FAIA, along with staff and members.
The outcome of the Quito conference is a document titled the New Urban Agenda. The agenda is focused towards renewing the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, building on the initiatives adopted at Habitat II held in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. When Habitat I convened in 1976, the percentage of the world’s population living in cities was 37.9; it was 45.1 percent at the convening of Habitat II in 1996; and this past year in Quito, it was 54.5 percent.
By 2050, that number is projected to increase to 75 percent. It is estimated that two billion people will require housing by 2030 alone. These numbers demonstrate the massive migration of people to cities across the globe, driven by matters such as employment opportunities, war, political strife, and climatic changes. Ultimately, the impacts on urban and rural environments will be monumental.
The New Urban Agenda is not a checklist but a modifiable guide that can be tailored to the specific needs and issues unique to any community. It is wholly scalar and simultaneously applicable to megacities, peri-urban, and rural communities.
It serves to assist local and regional governments in addressing challenges such as creating sustainable development designed with sensitivity to urban ecology and resiliency, with a keen eye towards optimizing infrastructure and transportation.
It also speaks to the inclusiveness of underrepresented populations in the process of urban development, addressing their “rights to the city” and aligning with issues of housing tenure, health, women’s and children’s rights, diversity, access to services, urban space and cultural amenities, to name but a few. In addition to being inclusive of the spectrum of the populace that will be inhabiting these places, the planning process must also represent diverse constituencies, including economists, financiers, planners, governmental organizations, and architects.
The New Urban Agenda, simply stated, is a call to action for all architects.