Do we need an ‘urban revolution’?

Saturday 20 October, 15:3016:45, University of Zurich, 71 Rämistrasse, 8006 ZürichBattle of Ideas Europe


This debate is part of Battle of Ideas Zurich

By 2025, China will have built 15 new ‘supercities’, each with 25million inhabitants. Meanwhile, the West has built next to none. But in terms of the ‘liveability’ index, it is the older, more established Western cities that score well. China’s top four most liveable cities actually scored badly in the ability to buy a house, access to quality education, medical care, and perceived quality of life – which makes you wonder what the Chinese liveability index means.

However, Chinese cities are improving. New eco-cities – environmentally-friendly cities – are being built every year. Whether or not we choose to believe the hype, there is little doubt that this is an experiment that needs some investigation. After all, in just 35 years, China has transformed itself from an environmental pariah to a country that freely criticises the US president’s rejection of the Paris climate accords. While Western cities frequently complain about overcrowding and air quality, China is doing something about it: it is restricting migration and shutting polluting industries. Is there anything we can learn from China’s new environmentalism or is it too politically illiberal?

Austin Williams, the Architectural Review‘s China correspondent, explores the progress and perils of China’s vast eco-city program, describing the complexities which emerge in the race to balance the environment with industrialisation, quality with quantity, and the liberty of the individual with the authority of the Chinese state. This special provocation lecture will explore the social, political, historical and cultural context for China’s environmental rise compared to the discourse in the West. Along with respondents, this session will explore the implications for the future of urbanism, east and west.