Urban Age Debate Virtual, April 27, 2021

Urban Age Debate 2: Humanising the City

Can the design of urban space promote cohesion and healthier lifestyles? “Urban Age Debates“ continue to discuss the nature of cities after the pandemic

Post-Event Film / Debate Recording / Key Takeaways / Trailer

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally challenged the nature of cities. The closure of borders and businesses and social distancing are having an impact in almost all cities worldwide and are threatening urban life as we know it. A reassessment of issues such as density, urban economy, mobility, governance and sustainability could be the result. Urban Age is taking up these issues with the "Urban Age Debates".

After the successful launch of the series in January, we now look forward to the second Urban Age Debate “Humanising the City: Can the design of urban space promote cohesion and healthier lifestyles?” 

Throughout 2020, the shape of the city – its buildings and open spaces – has taken centre stage in our experience of everyday life. Living in lockdown has confronted urban dwellers around the world with the limits of confined domestic environments yet reminded us of the benefits of a well-designed and accessible public realm. Living together has been challenged as a concept and as a reality. How we spend time at home, on the street, and in the city over the next decade is being re-framed. How we re-calibrate urban centres where people can live, work and transact is open to debate.

This Urban Age Debate brings together Liz Diller, Rozana Montiel, Amanda Levete and Suketu Mehta, prominent city-shapers and commentators who are committed to making cities more liveable, more democratic and more complex. Using images of recent projects in Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Moscow and London, architects and urbanists explore the deep connections between the design of public space and social inclusion as cities strive to become more humane, domestic, and home to diverse communities.  The debate will be opened with a welcoming address by Anna Herrhausen and chaired by Ricky Burdett


Liz Diller is a partner of the architectural practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) based in New York City.  Diller has been committed to an exploration of how democracy and the public realm intersect, realising spatially-inventive and socially-progressive projects in cities across the world including the High-Line in New York City and Zaryadye Park in Moscow, as well as educational and cultural buildings that prioritise connection with the city and the creation of social space.

Rozana Montiel leads the Mexico City-based architecture studio Rozana Montiel | Estudio de Arquitectura which has investigated how elegant, modest architecture can contribute to the creation of socially-inclusive urban spaces. She has transformed abandoned open spaces in a public housing project into active social facilities through the Common Unity project in Mexico City and completed a rural housing project for earthquake victims in Ocuilan, Mexico.

Amanda Levete is one of the United Kingdom’s most respected architects who has consistently pushed the boundaries of architectural, technical and social innovation. A regular commentator on design and urban society, she is the founder and principal of Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) which re-engaged the Victoria & Albert Museum in London with the city through its award-winning Exhibition Road project, re-animated Lisbon’s waterfront with the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, and is exploring the potential of regenerating inner cities across the United Kingdom. 

Suketu Mehta is a writer, critic and urbanist who focusses on the social and ethnic complexity of the contemporary city, and the deep connections between urban form and cultural vibrancy. Author of ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found’, winner of the Kiriyama Prize and finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, Mehta explores how cities sustain diverse urban communities, delving deep into the dynamics of migrant communities in the global cites such as New York City, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro.

Welcome Remarks

Anna Herrhausen is the Executive Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, which is cooperation partner institution of the Urban Age program.


Ricky Burdett is a Professor of Urban Studies at the London School of Economics, Director of LSE Cities, a global research centre at LSE, which is cooperation partner institution of the Urban Age Program.