Urban Age Debate January 26, 2022


Leading experts and thinkers in urban retail, design, and sustainable development discuss the future of retail

Key Takeaways / Debate Recording / Trailer 

Urban retail is being reinvented. Even before the pandemic, e-commerce was challenging recreational shopping in cities, ethical concerns about cheap labour were becoming more prominent and the climate and ecological emergency was prompting questions about hyper consumerism, the accumulation of more stuff and ‘discard culture’. In the wake of the global pandemic, new lifestyles and consumption habits are emerging which will accelerate changes in the shopping and retail sector with profound implications for cities and their spaces of mass consumption. 

Concrete changes are already evident: we are witnessing the displacement of physical retail spending and other multiple structural changes in the sector such as the demand for grocery deliveries and direct wholesale delivery increases; the introduction of efficient e-commerce platforms and prompt fulfilment being developed.
With online retail giant Amazon emerging as one of the winners of COVID-19, we should be realistic about the future of shopping districts in our cities by ask if these new patterns of consumption are changing our cities forever, and whether they could be a catalyst for positive change.  

This final Urban Age Debate aims to address fundamental questions of sustainable urban consumption, local economic development, entrepreneurship and placemaking in bringing together leading experts and thinkers in urban retail, design, and sustainable development to discuss the future of retail. Our guests will be Thomas Heatherwick, designer and founder of Heatherwick Studio, Andrew Murphy, Executive Director of Operations at The John Lewis Partnership and Ewa Westermark is an architect and a Partner and Director at Gehl. The debate will be co-chaired by Jonathan De Mello, Equity Partner at CWM and Philip Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities.



Thomas Heatherwick is a British designer whose prolific and varied work over two decades is characterised by its ingenuity. Thomas founded Heatherwick Studio in 1994 to bring the practices of design, architecture and urban planning together in a single workspace. The studio is currently working on approximately 30 projects in ten countries, including 1000 Trees, a mixed-use development in Shanghai; and Google headquarters in California and London (in collaboration with BIG).

Andrew Murphy is the Executive Director of Operations at The John Lewis Partnership (Waitrose Supermarkets, John Lewis Department Stores & John Lewis Financial Services) and a member of the Partnership’s Executive Committee, reporting to Chairman, Dame Sharon White.
Andrew is responsible for all of the Partnership's technology, change delivery, property estate, supply chain network and customer payments. Andrew is also a Board Director of Clicklink - one of the UK’s leading eFulfilment logistics providers.

Ewa Westermark is an architect and a partner at Gehl. She focuses on consulting with cities by developing Public Life and Public Space Strategies, Public Space Plans, Masterplanning Frameworks and guidelines which inform the quality of places. At the core of her work is the development of the Gehl methodology and thinking, within fields such as regional planning, sustainable mobility, innovation quarters or smaller cities and suburban centres.


Jonathan specialises in providing tailored solutions to the retail, retail banking and retail property sectors. He leads CWM's Retail Consultancy team and spearheads strategic retail consultancy projects for clients worldwide; creating strategies to help clients to maximise their retail potential. He is a member of the KPMG/IPSOS Retail Think Tank and regularly provides expert commentary on the retail and property sectors in national and international media.

Philipp Rode is Executive Director of LSE Cities and Associate Professorial Research Fellow at LSE. He is co-Director of the LSE Executive MSc in Cities and Executive Director of the Urban Age Programme.