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Planning 2052


Planning 2052

What will urban planning be like in 2052? This one-day conference brings together policy makers, researchers and practitioners to envisage the role of urban planning in the future.

Planning for the profound political and social shifts that the future requires can feel intractable and overwhelming. Everyday realities makes it difficult to look beyond the rhythm of political cycles and yet it is critical that we do.

By taking a step away from our immediate constraints, this conference envisages government’s role in city design in 2052. What will a culture, in which regenerative ecosystems, circular economies, and human flourishing are core pillars of a new economy, mean for policy making and urbanism?

By brokering relationships between artists, creative practitioners and policy makers and extrapolating from bold urban planning initiatives, we will collectively engender a hopeful and practical conversation about the future role of policy in tomorrow’s economy.

Planning 2052 is part of the Oslo Architecture Triennale and programmed in partnership with the Architecture Foundation, Royal Holloway University, The British Academy and Rich Mix.


In 1972, the Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth – a pioneering study on the dangers of unconstrained population and economic growth. The report proposed methods by which citizens could live a good life that was equitable and ecologically regenerative. The message was positive and optimistic: while highlighting deep a problem, the authors also suggested a constructive solution.

The study was received with denial. Critics refused to listen to what they deemed to be a ‘doomsday fantasy’, arguing that technology would remove perceived planetary constraints and that the global population and economy should grow unhindered forever. Only today are its predictions being seen clearly.

Forty years later, the Norwegian Jørgen Randers, co-author of The Limits to Growth, published a new study looking forward another forty years. Reflecting on the insubstantial efforts in averting climate crisis since the seventies, Randers predicted what the world would look like in 2052.

As the mechanisms of economic growth falter, the world population will plateau. A stagnation in productivity in mature economies will hamper global GDP growth, poverty will persist in the world’s most vulnerable communities. Consumption will flatline. Governments will divert vast resources to repair and adaptation in the face of climate breakdown. All this will drive a seismic shift in focus away from GDP growth only, to growth in human wellbeing and ecological regeneration – good growth.

So what will urban planning look like in 2052? What factors determine what happens to a site, or city when economic growth is no longer the dominant goal and human flourishing and ecological regeneration matter most? How do we take the first step towards long-term envisioning for alternative urban futures? How do we measure success in relation to human well-being?


Planning 2052 will turn the tables on conventional ways of anticipating the future. Instead of starting with the question of ‘how to get there’, we will take imaginative jumps, assuming that positive changes are already widespread realities, mixing inspiring discussions with inventive formats to think boldly.

While our focus is the future, urban planning and economic breakthroughs taking place today hint at routes through the challenges ahead. The Greater London Authority’s Good Growth strategy draws a clear line under the atomised economic growth which The Club of Rome warned of. Oslo has been named European Green Capital for 2019 and the city has many ambitious plans in the pipeline that confirm its status as a pioneer in sustainable development. Framing these examples with the question of what comes next, we will hear from local and international leaders who are rejecting the status quo.

Planning 2052 will be a day of both serious and adventurous discussion among inspiring peers and creative collaborators. We know the status quo is faltering, together we can envisage the role of urban planning in the future.


Morning Session 9.30 - 13.00
09.30 – 10.00: Welcome address

10.00 – 10.15: Karl James: Setting the tone for the day
How might the practice of listening expand the ways we engage with urban space and with each other in contexts of urban transformation?

10.15 – 11.30: Jørgen Randers: Planning 2052 Keynote
What will the situation in 2052 be, and what can planners do to ensure better urban futures for all in this context?

11.30 – 11.40: COFFEE BREAK

11.40 – 13.00: Audio walk by zURBS: A walk in your words
Listening to year 2052.

13.00 – 13.45: LUNCH

Afternoon Session 13.45 - 18.00
13.45 – 14.15: Barbara Holub: Responding to the audio walk
‘Planning unplanned’ – the process when planners and other experts forget their own procedures and become open to unexpected results.

14.15 – 15.30: Workshop Sessions
Workshop 1 – ‘Counterpublic Consultations’ with Claire Louise Staunton
Workshop 2 – ‘Parliament of things’ with Building Conversation (Peter Aers)
Workshop 3 – ‘Framing well-being’ with Common Cause Foundation (Emily Howgate)
Workshop 4 – ‘Social Acoustics’ with Brandon Labelle

15.30 – 15.45: COFFEE BREAK

15.45 – 16.30: Panel discussion: Reflecting on and reporting back from the workshops
With special guests: Leo Pollak, Euan Mills, Daisy Froud and Barbara Holub

16.30 – 17.45: Kate Raworth, Dan Epstein, Zoe Svendsen, Sunand Prasad: Imagining 2052, chaired by Finn Williams
What factors may determine what happens to a site, or a city, when economic growth is no longer the dominant goal and human and ecological flourishing matter most?

17.45 – 18.00: Summing up and where to go next by organisers

18.00: Drinks and mingling


Tickets are open to architects, planners, urban designers, local authority employees and community advocates. All places are funded thanks to the support of Royal Holloway University, The British Academy and Rich Mix. Email Cecilie Sachs Olsen on Y2VjaWxpZSAhIHNhY2hzb2xzZW4gfCByaHVsICEgYWMgISB1aw== if you have questions about attending.

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