Our Metropolitan Futures

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Our Metropolitan Futures was prepared in 2021, a critical time for metropolitan cities.

In 2020 our media channels became filled with footage of abandoned business districts from Sydney to Paris and London. As lockdowns continued, conversations bubbled about whether people would ever return to CBDs.

COVID-19 impacts disrupted established patterns of life and work in cities. Economic crises and a growing climate emergency presented challenges and opportunities for long-term recovery.

We partnered with UK-based consultants The Business of Cities to undertake a global review of the impacts on major cities. This report was produced from more than 30 interviews with metropolitan leaders and planners around the world.

Key insights

The report found that COVID-19 accelerated existing trends, such as the digitisation and shift to the ‘hybrid’ city , green transitions in infrastructure and mobility as a driver of equity. Cities experienced new trends, such as the incorporation of public health and wellbeing into planning systematically, localisation of service delivery and the rise of macro-regional strategic planning beyond the central business districts.

The ways that metropolitan areas experienced COVID-19 varied depending on both policy responses to the pandemic and their existing economies. Those that relied heavily on tourism, retail, students and events had to quickly re-evaluate the potential of city centres and rethink the ways that land has been used. Cities with more diverse economies and more established second centres tended to adapt more confidently to the shifts in demand generated by the pandemic, leaning on longer histories of experimenting with reimagining metropolitan land, mobility, streets and neighbourhoods.

The report highlights ten key dynamics that will shape the next cycle of metropolitan strategic planning:

  1. The changing character of competition for metropolitan areas
  2. Planning for a hybrid future
  3. Long-term planning that confronts the climate emergency
  4. Re-balancing the centres of metropolitan gravity
  5. Adapting to new mixes of metropolitan land
  6. Tools and tactics for a sustainable future of housing
  7. The metropolis as a platform for innovation and new industries
  8. Re-imagined streets and mobility
  9. Data as a vehicle for more compelling metropolitan storytelling
  10. Turning a contemporary co-ordination booster into a permanent government dividend.