FUTURES DIALOGUES: Global Practice in Local Scenarios.

Spencer de Grey & Saskia Sassen in Conversation


As part of Futures Fair 08, Building Futures hosted its first ‘Futures Dialogues’ evening event at the RIBA’s Jarvis Hall. Picking up on the overiding ‘Global and Local’ theme of the day event, the evening explored the nature of global architecture, What do we mean by this term and what are the various binding issues uniting practice around the world?

Since 1989, the number of practices with offices abroad has gone from 20 to 150 (BD Survey, ‘World Architecture,’ Jan 2007). Architecture has followed financial capital and consumer goods into new territories with the profession producing new landmarks confirming a city’s revival or new found confidence. Recently completed schemes across Asia and the Middle East demonstrate an extra-ordinary style of architecture on a vast scale by a number of global architects. The evening brought together these trends and dicussed them in light of the various incarnations of the ‘global city’, its role, its status and how it does business.

FF08-Dialogues1 FF08-Dialogues2

Spencer de Grey opened the discussion with a broad introduction to the work of Foster and Partners’. As a truly global practice, Fosters’ is charged with creating architecture around the world to a myriad of briefs in cities with diverse economic standing. He set out what defined each project and their approach to the local dynamics of place.


In her reposte, Saskia Sassen outlined the shifting economic and social role of the global city. She cited many examples where global architecture had defined a city, yet affirmed the particularity of place in ensuring that the experience of the international city is never the same. Introducing a set of League Tables, many cities, she said, are global, but each has its distinct qualities and drivers which both propel and hinder a place in those leagues. London, for example may score highly on a table for global competiveness, but falls down the table for effective local government.

The evening higlighted the synergies between architecture and place making. The experience of cities can be felt simply through its buildings, but the analysis of place takes on a diverse range of economic and social factors.

FF08-Dialogues3 FF08-Dialogues4

Futures Dialogues was in conjunction with the RIBA trust and was supported by Foresight and Gleeds

For more information on this event contact buildingfutures@inst.riba.org


Futures Fair 08
RIBA Trust