As 2024 starts to ramp up – it’s time for me to pass on the baton as Academy Chair. The past year I’ve spent in the role has been for me the culmination of some 17 years of activity from our launch – 12 years as Congress Curator and five serving on the Board. Increasing care commitments at home mean I would no longer be in a position to give the role of Chair all the attention and energy it deserves, but I am delighted to be passing the vital position on Andreas Markides. As many of you will know personally or by reputation, he has an equal passion for the role and importance of the Academy. 


It has been an exceptional year for the Academy.

We have brought people together from across the world. At our Cambridge Congress we were able to see first-hand the great work being done in and around the city, and heard incredible stories, from Vienna, Utrecht, Paris and beyond. With the Danish Embassy we also hosted a memorable event on the Green and Affordable Mobility, drawing on international best practice.

The Academy also delivered real impact for communities. Collaborating with our friends at the RIAI we led the development of the Galway Charter – capturing the enthusiasm and place-shaping ideas coming from local people and organisations. I am delighted we will be holding a follow-up event in May this year. Meanwhile in Cork City the Academy team contributed to the future thinking, planning and engagement of their Docklands project.

Our Awards showcased the fantastic urbanism being practised in all of the finalist places.  We rewarded the achievements in locations including Claypits Local Nature Reserve (Glasgow), Venn Street (Clapham, London), Leith Shore (Edinburgh), Stromness (Orkney, Scotland) and as we saw online from our great cities finalists, Estepona (Spain), Exeter (UK) and the winner, Amersfoort (Netherlands).

Key message

What this year has reinforced for me is that:

  • Good urbanism and positive placemaking is hugely important, indeed as important as ever, both for the quality of life of citizens and the vitality of business and services, but also crucially for the planet, in terms of energy, climate resilience and biodiversity.

  • Think about this: in my short lifetime the world’s population has more than doubled from 3.4 billion to over 8 billion souls. Visionary strategies and policies are essential to cope with this, to provide better, safer settlements and liveable places for all, cumulatively over time. It is not a quick fix.

  • As we have seen from historic Amersfoort’s growth to Glasgow’s Claypits nature reserve, people and communities are absolutely central. Strategies and plans, however clever or considered, cannot be delivered without consent, credibility and commitment – from politicians and policymakers to school pupils and their parents. Without thoughtful and innovative researchers and design practitioners we can’t address the issues of adaptability to change we need to build much more resilient places.

  • We may be rapidly running out of time, certainly to make the necessary change before the impacts of climate change disrupt our norms and the expectations that we have of our towns and cities – of safety, affordable shelter, security and wellbeing.

Academy role and future

The Academy is therefore a body of potentially huge significance at this time of volatility and uncertainty locally and internationally.

We are a trusted independent network and vehicle for capturing and sharing knowledge and ideas, experiences, lessons and inspirational practice.

We are also uniquely powerful with a cross disciplinary ‘culture’ that connects people and places, from streets and neighbourhoods to towns and cities, nationally and internationally, in a way that very few organisations can.

The survival and flourishing of our Academy is therefore hugely important to me and to everyone else who values its contribution. In pursuing this I would like to thank my Board colleagues and all our supporters and sponsors, from this year and the past. Thanks to the team at Camargue, our communications partner, for helping to spread the message. I offer warm thanks to our Executive team who work tirelessly to put on events and learning activity: from lectures and publications, to awards and study visits, to conferences and our great international Congress.

But most of all I’d like to say thanks to all members across our fantastically diverse geography and professional backgrounds, who provide content for our awards and shared learning, personal contributions and ideas.

We appreciate you and need you. Given the importance of our task I hope you will continue to believe in our mission and get involved; support, participate, nominate, sponsor, and be part of that wave of people who make a difference. The Academy will champion urbanism, if we all champion the Academy.

Jas Atwal AoU

Chair, 2023-2024

The Academy of Urbanism (Number 2) Limited is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales 0595604, 11c Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 IXE, United Kingdom.
Log in | Powered by White Fuse