Green Capital Bristol can take centre stage in global debate on future shape of cities

May 23, 2014

Bristol can be a lightning rod for a global debate on the look and shape of the city of the future as it prepares for its role next year as Europe’s green capital.

Its year in the international spotlight can also help it shape future thinking about what makes a healthy and happy city – going beyond the confines of the word ‘green’ and reaching out to businesses and its citizens.

These messages were delivered by Green Capital director Kris Donaldson to more than 150 leading international urban designers, architects and planners gathered in Bristol to attend a three-day conference on urbanism.

Delegates at the conference, which started yesterday, have been learning how Bristol is already delivering on its green agenda ahead of being the 2015 European Green Capital.

In his opening address to the conference, Mr Donaldson outlined why Bristol had been selected to be the green capital, what it had already achieved to become a sustainable, smart city and its ambitions to set the tone of the debate over what makes a modern, forward-looking city.

“We are at an extraordinary moment in time. One of the times when Bristol can be a pioneer for the whole UK,” he told the event, staged at the Arnolfini – the pioneering contemporary art space that became a catalyst for the redevelopment of the city centre docks in the 1970s.

In 2015 Bristol will be the only city to have the title ‘green’, he said, which gave it an opportunity to become a global centre for debate on future cities, sustainability and the impact of climate change on urban living.

This is especially important as the next global summit on the issue will be at the end of 2015 in Paris, when world leaders will gather to discuss the issue.

"We can be a lightning rod for public discussion and debate as the focus shifts from what countries and governments can do to what cities and their people can do," he said.

Initiatives that will put Bristol at the forefront of debate on sustainable, smart cities during next year will include the Bristol Prize – an international scheme to highlight thinking around innovation in clean technology and promote knowledge transfer on an unprecedented scale.

The city will also host a number of high profile events including a gathering of city mayors from across the world and the international Fairtrade conference.

Bristol will also act as a laboratory for change, looking at what makes a modern, accessible city including the roles of transport and health in promoting social inclusion.

Mr Donaldson outlined Bristol's achievements over the past few years in gaining an international profile for its forward-looking approach to becoming a smart city. These included being named as one of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 'resilient cities' – one of only two in the UK and eight in Europe.

It was also one of only two UK cities to take part in an EU smart city programme working with China's main cities.

Bristol City Council's recently-appointed director of strategic director for place Barra Mac Rauri, whose responsibilities span planning, economic and cultural development and transport, also spoke at the opening session. He gave an overview of the city's economy, its development areas including the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and its image as a city of fun – pointing out that the recent waterslide on Park Street had attracted 100,000 people into the city centre on just one day.

responsible for a wide portfolio including major projects, economic and cultural development, regeneration, transport, highways, planning and property. – See more at:
responsible for a wide portfolio including major projects, economic and cultural development, regeneration, transport, highways, planning and property. – See more at:

The delegates yesterday toured key parts of Bristol to see the changes taking place and today heard from a wide range of speakers including Mayor George Ferguson, a founder of conference organisers The Academy of Urbanism, a not-for-profit organisation which celebrates and learns from good places.

Also speaking today were Peter Lord, joint founder of Bristol-based Aardman Animations, and leading international urbanists including the former mayor of Brazilian city Curitiba, Jaime Lerner, who over three terms implemented a series of transformational social and urban reforms.

Curitiba is now viewed as a blueprint for cities across the globe seriously embracing the sustainability agenda.

Ahead of yesterday’s opening session Mayor Ferguson said: “The annual Academy of Urbanism Congress is a great opportunity for cities to share thinking about how good urbanism can be deployed to create healthier, happier and fairer cities.

“We are very excited to be hosting the congress here in Bristol this year, sharing our knowledge and exchanging ideas as we prepare to be European Green Capital in 2015.”

Click here for the full programme of the Bristol conference


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