COP21 AND BEYOND: Defining the “New Urban Agenda” in a Changing Climate

November 27-29, 2015

Council for European Urbanism
In partnership with:
International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU), Sustasis Foundation, Center for Metropolitan Studies at the Technical University of Berlin and other partners (tba)

Please join us in Berlin for a very timely Council for European Urbanism conference, from Friday evening, 27 November to Sunday 29 November (mid-day).

The topic could not be more urgent: defining the “New Urban Agenda” (as the UN is terming it) through the COP21 Paris Climate Conference, and to the Habitat III meeting next year and beyond.

Building on its previous successful conference on “Climate Change and Urban Design” in Oslo, Norway, The Council for European Urbanism and its partners will hold a seminar in advance of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21).

Conference Focus:

The world is increasingly recognizing the dimensions of a deep environmental crisis, and urgent action is now necessary. Several seminal international events are occurring this autumn:

  • The United Nations is hosting Habitat III on the rapid (and too often sprawling) growth of cities in 2016
  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals have been adopted at the October UN summit and general assembly in New York City
  • The UN conference on climate change, COP21, is taking place in Paris in December.

Cities, their structure, and their development, are increasingly at the center of the agenda, which Habitat III has termed the “New Urban Agenda.”

What is the role of architects and urbanists in this urgent agenda? Is it to continue to build the same kinds of buildings and urban settlements we have been building for a century, only now festooned with new “green” high-technology gadgets? Is it to continue as visionary artists, dutifully serving – or sometimes ignoring – the agents of modernization, sprawl and global capital? Or must we confront the need for a deeper, more radical model of urbanization and urban life – one more centered around human dynamics and well-being? What would this entail, in concept, strategy, detailed practice? What are the lessons we must now share and act upon?

The Council for European Urbanism has long explored these questions, and championed new answers. In particular, the CEU has advanced the radical proposition that the allegedly “modern” post-war model of cities is actually antiquated, and profoundly destructive of long-term sustainability; and that real advancement now lies in recognizing the evolutionary “collective intelligence” embodied in the patterns of centuries of urban dynamics and patterns of human experience.

But many questions remain in filling out this “new urban agenda.” What is the role of urban morphology? How does “genetic” information (patterns, types, etc) translate into built structures and environments? What are the elements of the “operating system for growth” – e.g. codes, laws, models, standards, incentives etc. – and how must (can) they be changed? How do global patterns express themselves in local form? What lessons can we learn from local case studies – particularly the lessons of European urbanism, which for better or worse – has played such a central role in shaping global settlement?

We will explore all these questions, with the aim of concluding on our own version of a “new urban agenda” – with concrete next steps. What must we do? How can the CEU as an organization facilitate the actions needed?

Conference Venue:

Center for Metropolitan Studies
Hardenbergstraße 16-18
10623 Berlin

Conference Registration:

There is no cost, but registration is required as space is strictly limited.  Plase email a reservation request to: moc.liamgnull@yffahem.leahcim


Friday, 27 November: Keynotes and Opening

18:00 Welcome
Aljoscha Hofmann, DFG Fellow, Center for Metropolitan Studies, TU Berlin; Board Member, Council for European Urbanism and Director, CEU Germany.
18:15 Defining the New Urban Agenda for COP21 and Beyond
Michael Mehaffy, COP21 Participant/Presenter; Academic Chair, Future of Places Forum (partnership of UN-Habitat, Project for Public Spaces and Ax:son Johnson Foundation); Architecture Faculty Member and Researcher on climate change and urban form, TU Delft; Board Member, Council for European Urbanism, and Chair, INTBAU College of Chapters.What is the “New Urban Agenda” as the UN defines it? What is the role of cities, and of those who shape them? What are our core premises (theories, practices, suppositions) for “good city form,” and how do we achieve it? Michael Mehaffy will give a briefing of current UN activities, the current needs, and the opportunity (and need) for the CEU to help to shape the agenda.
The Role of the Architect-Urbanist: Toward a Hippocratic Oath for the Built Environment
Joanna Alimanestianu, Co-founder, CEU; Visiting Professor, University of Notre Dame; Architect and Urbanist based in Brussels and New York.
Architects and urbanists are awakening to a new level of responsibility for the built environment. The current status quo is increasingly untenable, and we need a new dedication to rigorous professionalism and “duty of care.” How do we (especially as European urbanists) meet LOCAL needs, with LOCAL responses? We can start with our own “hippocratic oath for the built environment.”
19:15 Panel Discussion (with audience)
20:00 End (Walk to dinner nearby)

Saturday, 28 November: Symposium

Whatever Happened to Urbanism?  The Berlin Story
Harald Bodenschatz, Professor, Technical University Berlin and President, CEU Germany
What does Berlin teach us about “good city form,” and the damaging effects of changes from automobile-dependent development?  How has this begun to change urban form in profound  ways – and how does the CEU propose to take up reform?  Harald Bodenschatz discusses  Berlin’s example, and the work at TU Berlin to address automobile-dominated, functionally  segregated planning.
Main Streets: Key to a Sustainable and Just City Region?
Aljoscha Hofmann, Director, CEU Germany
The Bundesplatz: Transforming the Automobile-Dependent City
Christian von Oppen, TU Berlin, CEU Germany
10:00 Dialogue: Building the Post-Automobile-Based City
10:45 (Break)
11:00 Good City Form: Formal, Informal and Picturesque
Peter Kellow, UK-France architect, regular author with American Arts Quarterly, and member, RIBA, AWG, TAG, and INTBAU.
 Understanding the “Urban Genome” and its Generative Effects
Hillel Schocken, Professor, Tel Aviv University and architect; Co-founder, Movement for Israeli Urbanism
Retrofitting Existing Morphologies: What Are The Opportunities and Challenges?
Alessandra Fidanza, Architect, Environmental Advisor, Researcher at TU Berlin
Dialogue: Urban Morphology in the New Urban Agenda: From Global to Local (And Back)
12:45 (Break for lunch)
Changing Urban Codes: Case Study in Transforming Modern Arab Cities
Duane Phillips, DPZ-Europe
Involving the Public: Places for People, BY People
Arne Sødal,  Sødal Architects, Oslo
14:30 Economics Lessons: Getting Good Projects Built
Christian Lasserre, Developer, Brussels, Belgium
14:45 Dialogue: Toward an Agenda for Reform
15:45 Break
16:00 The Revival of European Urbanism: How Far We’ve Come, How Far We Still Have To Go
Liam O’Connor, Architect-Urbanist, UK
The Stockholm Charter, The Oslo Declaration and Beyond
Audun Engh, Board Member, CEU and Secretary, INTBAU
16:30 Dialogue: Declaration of a “CEU New Urban Agenda”
17:30 END
 Walking tour through northern Neukölln (city quarter with thriving night life) and finish with dinner and/or drinks, with Aljoscha Hofmann

Sunday, 29 November: Walking tours

NOTE: Walking tour 1 and 2 are 2.5-hour tours operating simultaneously. Walking tour 3 follows as a 1.5-hour tour and can be combined with one of the other tours. Meeting places will be announced at the conference.

7:30 Train/Walking Tour:  Potsdam, with Joanna Alimanestianu

Potsdam is a fascinating historical city, including new traditional projects, a historic Dutch neighborhood for craftsmen who worked for the king building palaces, and a Russian vlllage, built to please a homesick Russian princess who married a member of the royal family and lived at the remarkable Sans Souci Palace.  Schinkel designed a number of exceptional structures here.  (6.5 hours)

10:00 Walking tour 1: Mediaspree, with Aljoscha Hofmann

Mediaspree is a new urban development district with large developments of media companies and other new projects, featuring traditional urban patterns with new Modernist architectural expressions. See e.g. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediaspree. (2.5 hours)

10:00 Walking tour 2: Construction in the core, from 1950 to the present, with Duane Phillips

A walk through the different urban planning phases 1950s-today along where the Wall used to be (Hallesches Tor-Ritterstrasse-Checkpoint Charlie-Potsdamer Platz- Brandenburg Gate-Regierungsviertel) with photos of before-and-now. Ending at a place where they have excellent Apfel Strudel! (2 hours)

12:30 Walking tour 3: The Historic Center of Berlin, with Harald Bodenschatz

Explore the historic core of Berlin, including its distinctive block structure and urban fabric.  Tour starts at Alexanderplatz and from there continues along the new Berlin castle to the Friedrichswerder district (1.5 hour)

14:00  Lunch, CEU Board Meeting (Open to all)
Location TBA

15:00  Depart (approx.)


Organising participants include:

Joanna Alimanestianu, CEU co-founder and board member.  Joanna has developed a draft “Hippocratic Oath for Architect-Urbanists” and will discuss the issues around recovery of a human-centred local architecture.

Harald Bodenschatz, CEU-Germany President. Associate Professor at the www.metropolitanstudies.de.  Harald has been an active leader and participant within the Council for European Urbanism since its beginning.

Aljoscha Hofmann, CEU-Germany Chair and CEU board member.  Aljoscha is a DFG-fellow with the International Graduate Program (Berlin – New York – Toronto) who is active in research on current Berlin planning issues. He is co-founder of the urban development initiative Think Berl!n. Aljoscha Hofmann has a strong interest in contemporary as well as past debates, challenges and chances regarding Berlin’s urban development. He’s generally following the question: “Who does what for whom, and why?” looking at the political, economic, social and cultural side of things. In order to understand Berlin’s development he has also done research on other German and international cities, like Hamburg, London, New York and especially Sydney and Melbourne. His research focuses on urban renewal, gentrification, participation, waterfront as well as general brownfield site developments.

Audun Engh, CEU board member.  Audun was chief organiser of the CEU conference, “Climate Change and Urban Design,” and he will report on the declaration that emerged and the agenda that it outlines for further work, including COP21.

Michael Mehaffy, CEU board member; chair, INTBAU College of Chapters, and executive director, Sustasis Foundation.  Michael has been a participant in planning Habitat III, the major 20-year UN conference on urban issues whose theme will be “the New Urban Agenda,” as Academic Chair of the Future of Places Forum for the Ax:son Johnson Foundation.  He is also scheduled to participate in COP21 and present doctoral research on urban form and climate change, first presented in the CEU Oslo conference on “Climate Change and Urban Design.”

Nearby hotels:

Novum Hotel Gates Berlin Charlottenburg
Knesebeckstraße 8-9
10623 Berlin

Wyndham Berlin Excelsior
Hardenbergstraße 14
10623 Berlin

Savoy Hotel Berlin
Fasanenstrasse 9
10623 Berlin

Aletto Kudamm Hotel & Hostel
Hardenbergstrasse 21
10623 Berlin

Sir F.K. Savigny Hotel Berlin
Kantstrasse 144
10623 Berlin

Hotel Am-Savignyplatz
Kantstrasse 22
10623 Berlin


  1. I write regularly for New York magazine American Arts Quarterly. My latest essay published this summer is entitled “Urban Design in the Footsteps of Camillo Sitte”. http://www.nccsc.net/essays/urban-design-footsteps-camillo-sitte Steven Semes of Notre Dame University wrote of it:

    “A nice essay by Peter Kellow on the urbanism of Camillo Sitte. Peter makes some very good points, especially with regard to more contemporary attempts at “traditional” urban design. I have often been dissatisfied with the apparently “contrived” “organic” (largely shapeless) planning of Poundbury and much prefer the plan of Seaside, perhaps the only truly formal urban plan in New Urbanism. Sitte was not a “medievalist” but a promoter of the “Grand Manner” of the Baroque, which had both its grand and its intimate versions. Thank you, Peter, for this!”

    If you have a place for another speaker perhaps you would like to consider my giving a talk based around some ideas in this essay. There are more aspects to it than Mr Semes mentioned.

    Peter Kellow
    Architect RIBA