6th October 2020

Norman Foster addresses the first United Nations Forum of Mayors in Geneva

Norman Foster has given the opening keynote to the first UN Forum of Mayors, a platform where mayors presented their experience dealing with the COVID-19 health emergency and other challenges their cities are facing. Marking the start of this year’s Session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, mayors from 41 cities as diverse as Belgrade, Glasgow, Kazan, Milan, Pittsburgh and Reykjavík, sent a clear message that healthy populations require more resilient and sustainable cities.

From introducing temporary public spaces where people can walk or cycle while practicing social distancing, experimenting with new means of public transport, to decarbonizing heating systems, Norman Foster’s speech to the forum outlined how the current pandemic can be seen as an opportunity for mayors and other civic leaders across world.

Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners, said: “Many have questioned the impact that the pandemic will have on cities. Significant issues have been raised about their future and as an architect and urbanist I am honoured to have had this opportunity to address Mayors and civic leaders from around the world as part of this important initiative by the United Nations.”

Speaking about how it is ‘vital that Mayors lead public debate on how cities can be remoulded into greener, healthier, and more liveable places’, he lauded the initiative, urging civic leaders to be ‘at the forefront of change.’ His address illustrated the challenges and opportunities at both the urban scale and at the level of individual buildings with ‘sustainable principles hardwired into them’. He went on to showcase how these are not novel ‘trends’ but moves that have already taken place in cities around the world, from Madrid to Seoul.

“Cities are the future, statistically more so today than ever before. City centres will have the potential to be quieter, cleaner, safer, healthier and vitally, if the opportunity is grasped, to be greener,” added Foster.

Click to read Norman Foster's keynote speech.