Panel “Building the Cities of Tomorrow” addressed future challenges for a more sustainable growth

Columbia professors and Brazilian specialists engaged in the discussion of topics such as environment, urban planning and public health issues in the world’s largest cities. 

March 14, 2016

The multi-dimensional transformations and issues currently faced by global cities were the leading topic on the panel “Building the Cities of Tomorrow”, event organized by Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with Fundação Roberto Marinho and Museu do Amanhã, on March 14th. The main panel presented John Coatsworth, Provost of Columbia University; Amale Andraos, Dean of Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia); Linda Fried, Dean of Mailman School of Public Health (Columbia); Thomas Trebat, Director of Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro; Georgia Pessoa, Environment Specialist at Fundação Roberto Marinho; and Sergio Besserman, President of Instituto Pereira Passos.

Besides the Columbia University representatives and the Brazilian specialists, Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, introduced the debate with a keynote speech about the Olympics’ role in making Rio de Janeiro become a model of a “city of tomorrow”. According to Paes, although the city is frequently facing physical and budgetary constraints, Rio is being transformed in “an innovative way, which will be an example to other global cities” - he stated, referring to the use of Public-Private Partnership as a strategy to improve the urban infrastructure. The Mayor believes that, with the Olympics, “we, Rio, will show the world it is possible to get things done in a simple and original way.”

Provost John Coatsworth begun the panel through a historical perspective to stress how present day cities still do not provide decent living conditions to all of its inhabitants - “no matter if it is New York or Rio de Janeiro, some parts of the global cities are still living in dreadful conditions, not so different from the nineteenth century reality”. Dean Amale Andraos highlighted the importance of understanding architecture through more socially concerned lenses. The architect’s role, Andraos said, must be more engaged in making the cities more sustainable spaces. Linda Fried, who related the public health current challenges to the global cities growth, emphasized the need for creating public health systems that sustainability issues.

Representing the brazilian perspective on the global cities current issues, Georgia Pessoa and Sergio Besserman reflected on the obstacles Rio needs to surpass in order to become the "city that we want". Envoronment Specialist Georgia Pessoa mentioned "resilience" as a fundamental feature for the global cities: although those spaces are under constant transformation, they cannot compromise, for example, their citizens' well-being. Besserman, President of Instituto Pereira Passos, alerted the audience for some Rio's agendas that have been "dangerously unsustainable". According to him, changes must be done in a way that induce Rio's institutions and citizens to move towards a more conscious agenda: "Cities are like people: it is necessary to convince them, to seduce them, so they will want to take that one right decision".

The panel celebrated the third anniversary of Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro and the signature of a partnership agreement with Fundação Roberto Marinho and with the Museu do Amanhã.