Bridging European Urban Transformations – Building a better understanding of the future of Europe’s cities

In 2016 Urban Transformations launched a new series of seminars, Building European Urban Transformations, to take place in Brussels until the end of 2017. Working with a selection of European partners, including the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies, Cosmopolis and Brussels Academy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the seminars aim to bring together a range of practitioners, academics and policy makers to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing Europe’s cities today.

The first, (Un)plugging Data in Smart City-Regions, was held with the Brussels Centre for Media Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, on 14 November 2016. With participants from a number of projects within the Urban Transformations portfolio as well as several speakers from leading smart initiatives in Europe, the event looked at the implications of smart urbanism and the use of big data for cities and their citizens. A summary of the discussions by Professor Michael Keith and Dr Igor Calzada outlines some of the key findings from the workshop, in particular the social and ethical dilemmas posed by the increasing use of big data in urban management.

The second, Experimenting Urban Living Labs (ULLs) Beyond Smart City-Regions (13 February 2017) built on these insights by focusing on the potential opportunities of ‘living labs’ to enable a more democratic and socially informed approach to the techno-centric tendencies of much smart city planning. The workshop, with lively contributions from a variety of speakers, explored the emerging potential of experimental approaches to city-region planning as an alternative to the ‘smart’ approach that currently dominates. An overview of the day’s discussions presents some of the key points from the presentations.

The third session, ‘Scaling urban migration and mobility on European city-regions’, took place on 11 September 2017 at the Maison des Cultures in Brussels, in partnership with VUB-Brussels Centre for Urban Studies.

The final session, ‘Rethinking the urban commons in European city-regions‘, will take place on 12 February 2018 in Brussels. The workshop will seek to better understand the idea of “urban commons” at different scales, under what circumstances and contexts urban commons emerge, what contributes to their durability and effectiveness, and what undermines them. It will also stress the importance of an “urban commons narrative” for urban infrastructure, collaborative civilian empowerment, network governance, alternative finance, urban co-operatives, energy grassroots mobilisation, data-driven sovereignties/devolution, urban welfare, and urban development. Additionally, the workshop will focus on questions of urban governance and will explore different frameworks for governing common urban resources.

More information about the final workshop can be found here:  Anyone interested in attending can contact the coordinator, Dr Igor Calzada, at Together these events aim, by bringing together specialists and experts in different fields from across Europe, to support greater public engagement and innovative research in city-region decision making.