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London’s economic dominance is escalating UK North-South divide

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conference in which experts from around the world will debate globalisation and the impact that mega-cities are making on the regions of many countries.

The multi-disciplinary conference, Regional Urbanism in the Era of Globalisation, taking place on 3-5 February, is organised by the University's Centre for Urban Design, Architecture, and Sustainability (CUDAS).

The Director of the Centre and one of the organisers of the event, Professor Nicholas Temple, comments: "According to some urban theorists, there is a rule of thumb for measuring equitable growth in a country that suggests that when the 'second' city is less than a third of the population of the principal city, then this can lead to irretrievable socio-economic, political and cultural divisions between regions. This factor is especially apparent in the UK with the over-riding dominance of London as a global city, located in the relatively small geographical landmass of the British Isles."

Professor Temple and his colleagues Dr Ioanni Delsante – who is Reader in Urban Design – and Dr Lucy Montague – Senior Lecturer in Urban Design – at the University of Huddersfield, devised a conference to explore the many facets of regional urbanism in this global context, asking if alternative forms of urban living can emerge that are fundamentally different to those in the mega-cities.

Although inspired by Britain's experience, the conference rapidly took on a global dimension. A call for papers resulted in 160 submissions from around the world, including the Far East, Australia, South America and Africa, in addition to the UK and Europe. Professor Temple said that the rise of 'global' or mega-cities in different parts of the world has meant that other countries experiencing similar socio-economic divisions as those of Britain.

In China, for example, there is a growing divide between the rapidly expanding east of the country, around the mega-cities of Shanghai and Beijing, and some of the less developed regions in the west of the country. This is an issue to be explored at a forthcoming exhibition, hosted by Huddersfield Art Gallery and entitled China East – West: Alternative Forms of Urban and Rural Development. Running until 23 April, the exhibition is curated by Professor Temple, Dr Delsante and Dr Yun Gao, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Huddersfield.

Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers invited to the Regional Urbanism conference are among the most influential in the debates over globalisation and regionalism:

  • Professor Saskia Sassen of Columbia University is acknowledged as a world authority on the impact of globalisation on cities and nations – she coined the term "global city". She has examined the social, economic and political dimensions of globalisation, in areas such as immigration, the development of networking technologies and terrorism.
    • John Tomaney is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University College London. He has published over 100 books and articles on questions of local and regional development and given evidence to Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees regarding High Speed Rail 2 – controversially warning that economic benefits from the rail project would flow from the North to London and the South East.
    • Carlos Garcia Vazquez, is Professor of Architectural History, Theory and Composition at the University of Seville and has been Principal Investigator in national and international research projects, on issues such as social housing and regional regeneration in Andalusia.
    • There will also be a joint keynote address by Alexander Tzonis – who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Technology Delft – and Liane Lefaivre, Professor of Architectural History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Both are world-renowned critics, theoreticians and historians of architecture and both have written extensively on issues relating to 'Critical Regionalism', which seeks an alternative (regional) approach to architecture in response to the homogenising effects of globalisation and internationalisation.

    A publication of selected papers from the conference is planned after the event.

    "What I hope we will get out of this event is an awareness of quite specific challenges that are being presented in different regions of the world and what local stories can be told about how these things are being addressed," states Professor Temple.

    "There is growing reaction against the negative aspects of globalisation, in the context of urban development, urban infrastructure and identity, so our conference is an opportunity to reveal these responses from regions of the world that have not had a proper voice in the past."

    Professor Temple added that Huddersfield was a significant location for the conference because of its geographical relationship to the two main cities in the north of England – Leeds and Manchester – and the government's promise to regenerate the region as a 'Northern Powerhouse'.

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