Cork an ‘emergent success’ as urban outfit comes to town

Academy of Urbanism’s meeting in the city will also warn about pitfalls of success

Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork, which won the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Street award in 2015

Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork, which won the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Street award in 2015

 

Cork city will be under the spotlight at the end of this month when the Academy of Urbanism comes to town for its annual congress.

According to the academy, the “emergent success” of Cork is reflected in the “progressive regeneration” of its city centre, the vibrancy of its streets and the ongoing growth of population and employment.

But it cautions that such urban success can bring its own problems in terms of housing affordability, traffic congestion, social inequality and the preservation of local character– particularly important in Cork.

The success of cities has become central to national economies and culture as drivers of investment, tourism and migration, drawing young, educated and creative people to live and work in urban areas worldwide.

This is not just true of capitals such as London, Paris or even Dublin, but “next tier” cities such as Aarhus, Marseille, Rotterdam and Cork, which are where “the biggest and most exciting recent transformations are taking place”.

Will it succumb to gentrification and displacement, destroying the delicate social balance upon which success is based?

One of the main issues to be discussed at the conference is whether positive growth comes at the expense of what made these cities attractive in the first place: their identity, community and distinctiveness.

“Cork is at the point at which it needs to think about many of these problems,” the academy says. “Will it succumb to gentrification and displacement, destroying the delicate social balance upon which success is based?”

Urban crisis

Keynote speaker Richard Florida, the US sociologist who has been dubbed the “rock star of regeneration” and the “godfather of gentrification”, will suggest that these effects are precipitating a “new urban crisis”.

Jeffrey Tumlin, a city-planning strategist from San Francisco, will take issue with the roll-out of autonomous vehicles

Other speakers will include Susana Ruiz Fernández on equitable growth and neighbourhood regeneration in Bilbao, and Riccardo Marini on how streets should be designed for people, not cars – a lively topic in Cork.

Jeffrey Tumlin, a city-planning strategist from San Francisco, will take issue with the roll-out of autonomous vehicles, which he believes is “at odds with you and me and our right to privacy and freedom”.

The Academy of Urbanism, of which I was a founder member, is a network of built environment experts seeking to learn from and promote great places, in the hope of raising the standard of urban design generally.

Cork has been recognised by the academy four times, with awards for the city itself as well as Oliver Plunkett Street, Patrick Street and the west Cork town of Clonakilty, which members will visit after the June 27th-30th congress.

congress.academyofurbanism.org.uk

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