Network of Cities Meeting

Taipei’s Mayor Wen-je Ko opened the meeting and shared his objective to bring about urban change through design under the theme of Adaptive City – Design in Motion. He emphasized the importance of design thinking “as a way of problem-solving in response to public needs” and an integral part of any creative city’s long-term strategy. He credited design as an effective tool in the face of limited resources to strengthen sustainability and make the city more attractive and competitive. With an estimated 8 million people having participated in the WDC 2016 events, Mayor Ko said WDC 2016 was the beginning of a new design movement in Taiwan that touched all aspects of life in Taipei, through transformed neighbourhoods, markets, MRT systems, parks and street vendors as well as the introduction of design thinking in various city government departments such as education and public health.

Icsid/WDO President Mugendi M’Rithaa asked participants, “How can we best activate this Network?” He noted that everyone at the table had developed a strong understanding of the merits of design in city planning, and he expressed his aspirations for continued collaboration in order to make a positive contribution on the world stage as cities everywhere grapple with the challenges of rapid urbanization.

Helsinki’s newly appointed Chief Design Officer, Anne Stenros, said that what started out as a city scale experiment in WDC 2012 had in fact created a new standard throughout the city of Helsinki. She cited the co-creation of a smart city district, the addition of design thinking in elementary school curricula, the application of design in the development of a new children’s hospital and library, as well as the creation of her CDO position as key legacies of WDC 2012.

Quoting Austrian designer Victor Papanek, who saw design as an inherently social tool for the betterment of peoples’ lives, Stenros explained her bold plan to find and establish more open, transparent, user-centred, collaborative and co-creative ways of doing things and putting design thinking into action. “We are entering into a design economy,” she said. “We need more long-term thinking and sustainable value creation. We need to focus on overall citizen experience, the legacy we leave for design, and the consequences based on the design choices we make.”

Stenros sees much potential for the future, with innovative design thinking paving the way. Design helps us to understand what does not yet exist, tackling both unknown problems and unknown solutions. Quoting Buckminster Fuller, she said, “The best way to predict the future is to design it.”

Cape Town Alderman Ian Nelson explained that his city has had lasting benefits from its year as WDC, building momentum from its 2014 reign to tackle urban planning from a design perspective. Having inherited a built environment based on apartheid, Cape Town faces a dysfunctional land use pattern, low density, and a long commuter system. The city is redesigning its systems to be more functional, inclusive, and user-centred, focusing on public transit, public engagement through an open data portal, and a digital city strategy. He said, “Cape Town is working to incorporate an inclusive design perspective into its policies and strategies,” he said, “and deliver more citizen centric services designed to deliver value to our citizens.”

Eindhoven’s Vice Mayor Staf Depla explained that his city’s bid to become World Design Capital in 2012, under the theme Creating a Caring Society, led to a lot of positive energy and design-led initiatives. He said Eindhoven is proud of its WDC bid and its participation in the Network of Cities meeting. He expressed the city’s commitment to continued cooperation across all of the WDC Network’s design-effective cities around the world.

Depla described Eindhoven’s design story and its connection with local giant Philips electronics. Known for its excellence in high tech, knowledge and design, Eindhoven has embedded design-led policy across municipal processes and structures. It works to actively involve its citizens in improving quality of life. Depla cited the example of Eindhoven’s multi helix tender, fuelled by residents and supported by the city and Philips, to develop a LED lamp post system. This smart and interactive lighting system has improved the safety, atmosphere, air quality and parking accessibility in the city’s centre.

Mayor Jorn Pederson of Kolding (Denmark) said he considers this WDC Network of Cities meeting to be a milestone in his city’s efforts to cooperate with design effective cities and obtain international partners. Despite their small population, they still find ways to implement design into education, city development, and business. “In comparison to Mexico City’s population of 9 million, Kolding is small with only 100,000 people,” he said, “but we design for life, from diapers to PhDs.” For the past 10 years, Kolding has taken on an entrepreneurial mindset. For example, Mayor Pederson noted that 50 municipal leaders are all taking training in design leadership. Design competence is important to business and city development, he said. He also noted that “humans not buildings come first” in designing their city. Kolding has plans to start a design week in 2017.

Phoenix, Arizona is a sister city of Taipei and one of the fastest growing cities, the fifth largest, in the United States. Its population is soon to be majority Latino. Mayor Greg Stanton is working to build a city that is sustainable for the long haul. “Design and economic development go hand in hand,” he said. Phoenix is looking to strengthen its export-based economy and quality of life. The city of Phoenix is committed to ensuring the citizens of Phoenix have a say in the way the city is developed. Through the use of apps and contests to drive participation, 7000 people participated in the city’s PlanPHX, a concerted effort by Phoenix to engage with residents on the future of their city.

Phoenix is also committed to mobility issues and has been investing in a light rail system, bus lanes, bike lanes, and Dial-a-Ride. Located in the Sonoran desert, Phoenix is concerned with water conservation in an urban environment. Mayor Stanton said the city is exploring options for sustainable water protection from a design perspective to better secure their water future.

Mexico City’’s Secretary of Tourism Miguel Torruco Marqués spoke about the importance of design as a fundamental building block to drive city development. As the world struggles with the challenges of rapid urbanization, he said he looked forward to learning best practices from other cities, noting that “it is through important platforms, such as WDC, that we can promote the use of design as an efficient tool for the development of livable cities.”

As WDC 2018, Mexico City is embracing the opportunity to showcase its vibrant and dynamic creative community, and it will use the department of tourism to do so. Mexico City receives more than 13 million tourists annually. He noted that the city has focused efforts on mobility, sustainability and revitalizing urban spaces to make them more attractive and secure. A public bike sharing system, EcoBici, has recorded more than 25 million rides with more than 6,000 bikes located on 452 stations within the city. He also pointed to new bus lanes, subway system and international airport as important investments undertaken by Mexico City to drive city development and tourism.

Emilio Cabrero of Design Week Mexico and WDC 2018 lead, is working closely with the City of Mexico to promote design as a tool for solving problems and improving quality of life. Under the theme Responsible design for the city, Cabrero said the objective for WDC Mexico City 2018 is to share Mexico’s design story and to communicate the importance of design in everyday life.

Icsid/WDO President Mugendi M’rithaa closed the meeting by acknowledging the tremendous efforts of those around the table to continue the legacy of the WDC programme. He said, “The benefits of the WDC programme continue to be felt long after the designated year due in large part to all of you who have invested your time, creativity and resources to make sure that the design-led innovation experienced as part of World Design Capital is shared with other cities around the world.”

M’rithaa also announced the launch of the World Design Capital 2020 bid process and hoped that in keeping with the vision and mission of the World Design Organization, the next city would be even more focused on design for a better world, raising awareness of how important design is to making a city more efficient, competitive, livable, and sustainable.

To close the Network of Cities meeting, the cities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU aims to strengthen bilateral exchange and cooperation by enhancing the promotion of design and exploring export opportunities for the design industry. The signatories—Cape Town, Eindhoven, Helsinki, Kolding, Mexico City, Phoenix, and Taipei—agreed to facilitate collaboration in design exchange, the incubation of talent, industrial support, and research and development.