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Urban Age Debates

Cities in the 2020s

An exploration of how cities are responding to profound global change

Watch the 'Socialising Remote Work' film here. Watch the 'Socialising Remote Work' film here.
Watch the 'Socialising Remote Work' film here.

Building on the success of the Urban Age conferences and research programme, Urban Age Debates: Cities in the 2020s includes a series of live virtual events, newly commissioned short films with key urban actors and commentators, new data on city dynamics and the results of surveys on how we live, work and connect in the post-2020 city.

The debates will explore what could and should happen in cities around the following core themes: 

19 January 2021
Will changing patterns in knowledge work reduce or amplify the human need to meet in cities?

Event details

Cities have traditionally been the sites of economic agglomeration, reaping the benefits of a high concentration of economic activity, spurred by collaboration and innovation. However, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have forced offices to close, city centres to empty, with many knowledge workers operating from the safety of their homes.

While some trends indicate a return to office-based work patterns (which will be accelerated by access to a vaccine), some commentators welcome the greater personal flexibility and access to the global talent pool afforded by virtual technologies. The debate interrogates the impacts of the dramatic shift in working conditions, how sites of knowledge work have adapted, and how cities can maintain their economic and cultural vibrancy without negatively impacting on productivity, connectivity and personal freedom.


Richard Florida (@Richard_Florida) is a Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at the University of Toronto School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a Distinguished Fellow at New York University’s Schack School of Real Estate. He is a writer and journalist, having penned several best-sellers including the award-winning The Rise of The Creative Class, and his most recent book, The New Urban Crisis. He is also the co-Founder of CityLab, the leading publication devoted to cities and urbanism.

Ayesha Khanna (@ayeshakhanna1) is the co-Founder and CEO of ADDO AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) solutions firm and incubator. She serves on the Board of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the Singapore government’s agency that develops and regulates its technology sector, digital economy and Smart Nation vision. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils, a group of experts who provide leadership on the impact and governance of emerging technologies.

Janina Kugel (@janinakugel) Non-Executive Board Member, Senior Advisor and Speaker. Prior to this, she has been Chief Human Resources Officer and a member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG with global responsibility for Human Resources. She is a non-executive board member of Konecranes Oy, Finland and the German Pension Benefit Guaranty Association. and a member of the international Advisory Board of Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Germany and IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain.


Camilla Cavendish (@CamCavendish) is an award-winning journalist and Contributing Editor at the Financial Times. She was the former Director of Policy for Prime Minister David Cameron and now sits in the House of Lords as an independent peer. During the pandemic she has been working with the Department of Health as an adviser assisting on COVID-19 from March to November 2020. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, where her research focuses on demographic challenges. She is the author of the 2019 book "Extra Time: ten lessons for an ageing world", which is now being read in 16 countries.

Film, podcast and other debate materials

27 April 2021
Can the design of urban space promote cohesion and healthier lifestyles?

May 2021
Towards the 15-minute city or the one-hour metropolis?

June 2021
Is the spectacle and unexpected in urban life at risk as cities become overregulated and commodified?

July 2021
Are new patterns of consumption an opportunity for reinventing urbanity?

Through interviews and live discussions, the series will feature urban leaders, practitioners and researchers who engage with profound global changes tied to the triple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, new demands for social justice and the global climate emergency.

These will include leading urbanist, author and academic Richard Florida, artificial intelligence strategist Ayesha Khanna and business executive Janina Kugel; the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and urban leaders from Asian, Latin American and African cities; innovation and public value economist Mariana Mazzucato and pro-density author and urban researcher Edward Glaeser; award-winning designer Thomas Heatherwick and other leading architects and planners. All public sessions will be moderated by experienced media and commentators including Camilla Cavendish, contributing editor of the Financial Times, and Jon Snow, anchor of Channel 4 News.  

For more information on the Urban Age Debates, follow LSE Cities and the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft on Twitter and subscribe to the LSE Cities newsletter.