I'm at the 9th World Congress of Metropolis here in Sydney for bits of today and tomorrow. It's an odd event - perhaps the major global gathering of urban bureaucrats (alongside C40 and UN Habitat, perhaps), combined with numerous academic speakers and intellects, businesspeople and local councils, and several points in-between. As Saskia Sassen put it earlier, "multiple, very specialised forms of knowledge are in circulation".
Unfortunately, that can mean that elements of events like this are remarkably dull, with years of experience of different cities averaged out in an attempt at communication. And leaving many ultimately saying nothing.
However, the speaker list had some stellar talent on it too, and highlight of the day was certainly was the session 'Connecting Cities', featuring Saskia Sassen (Columbia University), Carlo Ratti (MIT) and Dr. Kathryn Pain (Loughborough University).
Sassen's talk was fascinating, encompassing urban density, the recently released Mastercard World Centres of Commerce city ranking, and the fall-out from the credit crisis. Continuing the city ranking theme, Dr. Pain presented the latest globalisation and world cities index (aka GAWC). Both indexes show Sydney rising up fast, albeit on the coat-tails of its major trading partners Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. They also show medium-sized European cities on strong form, the steady disappearance of American cities (save NYC) but most of all the continued rise of East Asian cities. Their data was largely collated before the current financial meltdown - but that as is only likely to reinforce this global reorientation towards Asia Pacific.
However, the most interesting and engaging presentation was by Carlo Ratti, showcasing the work of his SENSEable City lab at MIT, which many readers will be familiar with (their site has a great list of papers, as well as projects, if you're not familiar with their work).
Carlo and I had a good discussion afterwards, which I'm writing up for a piece in Architectural Review Australia, all being well. So I'll save the details of that for another time. More to follow.