Horizontal issues in the vertical space

vertical-horizontalWhile we can easily say that the future will be made in cities – given their dynamism and their increasing share in the growing total population – it is very hard to tell what this future will look like. We would like it to be a sustainable future in all three dimensions of social, economic and environmental development.

However, the weighting of the areas is where differences manifest themselves when we come to the details, very often driven by our own perspectives and professional background. It is, therefore, crucial to appreciate the full value of interdisciplinary approaches when trying to bring various actors to act together on multidimensional and shifting challenges.

Our different readings of keywords such as ‘participation’, ‘holistic’ or ‘sustainable’ become apparent once we engage with other stakeholders and researchers, once we leave our usual environment.

Thus, the October workshop of JPI Urban Europe in itself presented already a showcase of possible challenges to formulating common research needs and challenges across various disciplines and nationalities. Even if this is not always an easy road, it is a very fruitful approach to cross the disciplinary, regional and cultural boundaries as we cannot expect new solutions in old thinking.

To me, it is a recurring surprise how key issues seem to present themselves over and over again, no matter what disciplinary or geographic focus the research or intervention takes: How do we engage city authorities? How do we communicate research into policy? How do we involve stakeholders in a meaningful and effective way?

These questions are by far not easy to answer and they have implications that go well beyond the borders of urban research. It is not unlikely that our traditional ideas of top-down project design will soon be replaced across the board by bottom-up and flexible interactive designs.

It is strange to see so many horizontal issues in the vertical space. Nevertheless, it is here, in the cities, that these can be addressed and where we can gather these important lessons to then take them back into the various disciplinary fields, Members States and regions. Indeed, it would be paramount to open up JPI Urban Europe as the momentum is there with the growing prominence of urban research from the global to the national level. We can only hope that more Member States will join JPI Urban Europe to accelerate the research effort and to broaden the perspectives even further.

Max Grünig
Coordinator of the FP7 project Post-Carbon Cities of Tomorrow (POCACITO)




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