Because cities are the places where most people live, where most goods and services are produced and traded, and because they are the primary sources of advanced technology and business innovation, what happens in them and to them is of central importance to a society.
The better they are planned and developed, the more effective they can be in aiding wealth creation. Their structure, nature and functioning also affect the quality of life, social justice and equity and the natural environment. They provide the setting for and are an expression of a nation's cultural development.
Growing concern over the environment, increasing globalisation of the economy, the rapid uptake of information technology, and the persistence and deepening of divisions between groups within the city are leading to new and unstable patterns of working and living. The future of cities as we know them is uncertain. They need to and are replacing their infrastructure, but what kind of government and administration should be making decisions about the new structure is problematical.
The challenge is to find a way of accommodating diverse and changing urban activities. How do we provide and finance ‘urban’ services, and how do we democratise governance of the emerging urban space? How do we manage the transition from the inherited form and structure to the new urban space and accommodate new patterns of urban development within it? These questions do not imply either physical or technological determination but a recognition of the impact of dynamic economic forces and changing social attitudes on physical development, which is itself long-lived and shapes subsequent development.