It seems that humanity is now, more than ever before in its history, an urbanised species. Despite our nomadic roots, contemporary humans are most at home when they are in cities. However, simply because the city has become the home of the majority of the world’s population, does not mean that we are entirely at ease with our urban environment. As the great social historian of the city, Lewis Mumford shows the invention of urban space has provided humans with a safe haven, culture, and civilization, but it has also produced novel problems, including:
* Environmental destruction
* De-industrialisation and redundancy
* Poverty and exploitation
* Criminality and the black economy
Each of these problems suggests the need to regenerate urban space. Indeed, the idea of regeneration has become perhaps the key principle of urban politics over the last thirty years and has emerged as a kind of ideological cureall to problems caused by economic restructuring, deindustrialisation, and wider urban transformation. The idea of regeneration has become about the transformation of the city from a space of production into a space of consumption in order to stimulate the production of economic value. Global and local case studies proliferate. Consider the examples of post-modern New York, post-apartheid Johannesburg, post-Thatcherite Manchester, Birmingham, and Stoke-on-Trent. An examination of these case studies can tell us a lot about the relationships between economy, society, politics, culture, and urban planning in contemporary society.
Regardless of the relative success of these cases of regeneration, the basic idea that it is possible to change the ways people live by changing the ways the urban environment is organised has a long history dating back to the Roman Architect Vitruvius. The central idea of this Master’s course is that Vitruvius’s principle still holds true and that it remains possible for humans to change their material situation by rethinking and reorganising their urban space. However, it remains true that these kinds of transformations can only take place within certain contextual limits and that it is not possible to simply wipe the urban slate clean and begin afresh as many Utopian thinkers have suggested throughout history. Herein resides the main objective of this new urban studies programme. The objective of the Urban Futures Masters programme is to think about problems relating to urban space in the 21st century and consider ways in which planners and policymakers might begin to address these issues and remain sensitive to local complexity.