Cities are More Important than Countries: Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) celebrates its 50th anniversary

IHS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. IHS was founded in Rotterdam after the Second World War, during the postwar reconstruction of the city. As the international division of the Bouwcentrum, IHS was established to communicate the knowledge concerning housing and urban planning that was garnered in Rotterdam to governments in the developing world. After 50 years, IHS has harnessed its leading role as the international knowledge centre that makes cities work.

This autumn, several events will mark the 50-year celebrations, including a photo and essay competition, the release of a documentary film and a series of urban meetings. The anniversary theme is “Cities Are More Important than Countries.”

In 2008, the world has reached an invisible but momentous milestone: for the first time in history, more than half of the human population is living in urban areas. Along with this rise in urbanization, both production and wealth are increasingly located in cities. City councils cut direct deals with multinationals concerning their location requirements and investment opportunities. People make use of the amenities in their direct urban surroundings, created and maintained by city authorities. Cities are becoming more important than countries.

As a gift to the city of Rotterdam, IHS in close collaboration with the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) and Architecture Institute Rotterdam (AIR) is organizing a series of urban meetings that explore the need for an Urban Agenda for an Urban Age. What are the main issues for urban managers in the 21st century? How does urban development connect to urban design? And: How are we responding to the challenges of an urban age, worldwide and in Rotterdam?

Connecting the (inter)national and local networks of IHS, IABR and AIR has resulted in an interesting selection of speakers and debaters: Jan Pronk (former Special Representative for Sudan, United Nations); Anthony Williams (former Mayor of Washington); Ivo Opstelten (Mayor of Rotterdam); Kees Christiaanse (Curator of the 4th International Architecture Biennale and member of Design for London Advisory Group); Francesco Maria Orsini (Urban Engineer AE Architect, Columbia) and others. These urban meetings will take place in October and November 2008. The meetings will be held in English.

Celebrating 50 years of IHS and shot in Rotterdam, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and New Delhi, a documentary film with the working title IHS: Developing Cities for the 21st Century illustrates why urban management is important in the 21st century and how IHS responds to the challenge. The film is directed by Rob Schrder and produced by George Brugmans and IABR and will be available on DVD in October 2008.

IHS invites its 7,000 alumni to share their insights on housing and urban development through an alumni essay contest and photo competition. The writers of the winning essays will win an executive course at HIS, and the essays will be published in the autumn of 2008. Additionally, IHS alumni and other urban management professionals are asked to submit their images of urban development. IHS will put them on show in an online and offline exhibition from mid-September onwards.

Leading academics give their insights on the economic aspects of the world’s rapid urbanization at an academic conference entitled “Are Cities more Important than Countries?” The conference will take place from October 30-31, 2008 at the IHS. Keynote speakers are: Edward Glaeser (Harvard University, USA); Gianmarco Ottaviano (University of Bologna, Italy); Henry Overman (London School of Economics, UK); and Jacques Thisse (Core and UCL, Belgium).

The Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), helps individuals, organizations and cities to find suitable approaches to housing and sustainable urban development and management. IHS offers postgraduate education and training, provides advisory services and conducts research in these fields. IHS is the international institute of urban management of Erasmus University Rotterdam, and has over 7,000 alumni, including ministers, mayors, businessmen and university lecturers. With clients such as the World Bank, the European Commission and UN-Habitat, and working relationships with some of the most important organizations in the area of urban management, IHS continues to play a leading role in the management of the contemporary city, even after 50 years.

For more information on IHS and the 50 years celebrations, please visit: