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Global cities of the future by Arch. Felino Palafox, Jr.Published: November 7, 2014Updated: December 2, 2014

Arch. Felino Palafox discusses the importance of establishing global cities in the Philippines' future development and success.


Global cities are influential, progressive, connected, diverse, and optimist cities. These cities are deemed strategic sites and have a direct and lasting effect on global affairs through socio-economic means.

Advances in communication and technology like the Internet and the Aerotropolis may have reduced travel times and brought cities closer virtually, but they are far from addressing the global conundrum: 2.5 billion people are expected to move into cities between today and 2050. It’s the largest expected migration in human history. Cities are about to become global in a physical way, and majority of them are from the millennial generation. And from Asia.

The global move
The term ‘global city’ was largely popularized by sociologist Saskia Sassen in the early nineties in her work, “The Global City: Introducing the Concept” where she studied extensively and comprehensively the effect of globalization and international human migration in urban areas. Global cities in the past are represented by the largest and greatest empires, like London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo. Today, size doesn't matter so much.

New York and London are the more established global cities, and they represent the best examples of global city planning that countries like China and the UAE are replicating in their own city developments. They have both managed to incorporate old and new planning and architecture where millennials can comfortably live in.

Millennials are helping shape future global cities. According to international developer Rob Speyer, who delivered a keynote address in the recently concluded Urban Land Institute (ULI) Fall Meeting in New York City, “(Millennials) want to live in cities and that’s not going to change. People are using more space than ever before, and because of that, we need to build and operate our buildings differently.”

The millennial generation, says Speyer, are making our future cities “younger, greener, denser, more accessible, more diverse, and teeming with energy and fun.”

Cities have now become important global hubs for many multinational tech companies, and the millennials that work in these firms are now more informed and aware on the convenience of living where they work. I have seen this being incorporated in a massive and accelerated scale in China, when I was there a month ago for the 2014 Shanghai Conference hosted by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. China does not only host the largest number of tall buildings in Asia, but they also hold the most innovative, pioneering new sustainability techniques and technologies that leaps and bounds ahead of other Asian cities. The United Arab Emirates has also done well in creating global villages and having the best global air connections in the world. Singapore, with an already saturated population where 100 percent are now living in urban areas, have addressed it with development projects that considered the human element of global cities.

Planning the Future
This week, the world celebrates World Town Planning Day. I’ll be participating globally through video conference. Planners all over the world will convene in their respective cities to celebrate the annual celebration of World Town Planning Day (WTPD) to raise awareness on the importance of planning in their communities. Urban planners and town planners worldwide mark this day by talking to cities, communities or various groups, or sponsoring activities that highlight the importance of planning.

To correspond to the WTPD, The Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP), where I currently serve as President, has been hosting a conference every year for environmental planners, urban planners, town planners, architects, engineers, designers, local government units, politicians, developers, academics and professionals, civic groups, and community stakeholders to talk about the relevant and persistent urban issues, development initiatives, sharing best practices, and finding attainable solutions for them.

In this year’s PIEP National Conference with the theme: Planning Cities of the Future, I will be talking about the importance of global cities as our inevitable urban future. My presentation talk will be “Cities of the Future: Global Best Practices.” As with all future scenarios, there are possible urban futures ahead in our country: do something or do nothing. Doing something, planning for the urban futures can make our cities globally competitive- smarter, resilient, green, safer, vertical, and more sustainable cities.

Unfortunately, our country cannot afford anymore to do nothing. The country hit its 100 million population mark this year, and the United Nations projects that more than fifty percent of the Philippines already living in urban areas. Our cities, compared to established and developing global cities London, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, and Dubai, lag a bit behind with global cities only starting to emerge from renewed foreign investment.

The Global move represents “the biggest development opportunity in the history of the planet,” asserts Speyer. How we respond to this is going to define the future of our world, and our children. A radical change of mindset is needed to look beyond the ‘bricks and mortars’ of the built environment, and this is needed more than ever in our cities.

Our country and our cities need visionary leadership, strong political will, good planing, good design and good governance to bring the Philippines globally competitive well into the 21st century.


From Our Partner in Information Dissemenitaion, Arch. Jun Palafox

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