Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Urban studies (Planning and development)

Publication Details

Futures Academy, Technological University Dublin. 2004


The 21st century is fast being recognised as the ‘century of cities’. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities now, and the importance of efficient urban land use and ‘smart’ development has become ever greater over recent decades. Cities are the key centres of human activity and the engines of economic growth in the world today. A world which has been drastically transformed by rapid technological change, expanding globalisation, profound cultural shifts and new economic perspectives. One, moreover, bring a whole range of fresh opportunities and challenges. Traditional ways in which cities were planned and managed increasingly turn out to be less relevant and less sustainable in such times of accelerating change and greater complexity in the global environment. The central thrust of this paper is around the adage: “Imagine ahead – plan backwards”. The paper explores the challenges facing 21st century cities, their municipal governments and constituent planning agencies. It examines the role of different ‘futures’ approaches applied in order to assist urban planners and municipal decision-makers in dealing with the issues that lie ahead. It presents examples of different ways in which cities reposition themselves, envision their futures and deal with challenges and opportunities brought about by global and local change.