Oxford Programme for
the Future of Cities The Flexible City: rethinking the urban to face future challenges
Our understanding of the urban, whether in theory or practice, stands at a turning point. Cities all over the world face complex and rapidly evolving challenges, such as climate change, global migration flows, transnational governance demands, financial volatility, and expanding social inequalities. Existing political, socio-economic and technical lock-in and path dependencies involve high switching costs that reduce innovation in decision-making. Addressing these challenges requires ingenuity and versatility, whether in policymaking, investment decisions or everyday livelihoods. Yet, mainstream understandings of cities and how to transform them often derive from rigid concepts, models and practices about the urban environment.
The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities aims towards rethinking the city as a flexible and dynamic space that better responds to evolving circumstances. Our focus on the ‘flexible city’ presents scholars, policymakers, investors and the public at large with an inherently interdisciplinary perspective and multi-faceted approach to question contemporary concepts, methodologies and policies towards urban change. We ask:
Conceptually, what does flexibility mean in different contemporary urban contexts and for whom are cities made flexible?
What methodological tools and perspectives can enable us to look beyond the rigidity of mainstream models for urban development, governance and livelihoods?
How can concepts and methods for a ‘flexible city’ reveal the contested nature of places in progressive and pragmatic ways that are useful in practice?
What are the benefits and limits of ‘flexible’ urbanism from a policy and practice point of view?