Media Releases

City leaders join prominent academics and researchers to celebrate the launch of the Global Cities Institute

September 13, 2013

TORONTO, ON — Promi­nent urban­ists and city lead­ers from around the world — includ­ing schol­ars, plan­ning and design pro­fes­sion­als, and indus­try actors — rep­re­sent­ing the Unit­ed Nations, the World Bank, the Cana­di­an Gov­ern­ment, the Province of Ontario, the Toron­to Board of Trade, the Maytree Foun­da­tion, Metrolinx, Water­front Toron­to, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and its aca­d­e­m­ic part­ners, and com­pa­nies such as Siemens, Philips, and Cis­co — joined Pro­fes­sor Patri­cia McCar­ney on Sep­tem­ber 11 to cel­e­brate the offi­cial launch of the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute (GCI).

The new, pre-emi­nent Insti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape, and Design will assem­ble a glob­al net­work of indi­vid­u­als, orga­ni­za­tions, foun­da­tions, and indus­try inno­va­tors ded­i­cat­ed to secur­ing a bet­ter future for cities.

The Glob­al Cities Insti­tute will dri­ve inno­va­tion across tra­di­tion­al silos of schol­ar­ly and pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with cities and city build­ing, and play a com­bined role as a cus­to­di­an of knowl­edge; a fair bro­ker of infor­ma­tion and cre­ative, evi­dence-based solu­tions; and a cat­a­lyst between indus­try, gov­ern­ment, and the acad­e­my.

Join­ing the strengths of the Uni­ver­si­ty and the Province of Ontario, GCI will pro­vide a glob­al plat­form for schol­ars, design­ers, indus­try, and cor­po­ra­tions asso­ci­at­ed with our region to show­case their work inter­na­tion­al­ly.

The new Insti­tute will expand on the ground­break­ing work of the Glob­al City Indi­ca­tors Facil­i­ty (GCIF), which has devel­oped an unprece­dent­ed sys­tem to col­lect glob­al­ly stan­dard­ized data from cities around the world. GCIF will be the anchor pro­gram in the new Insti­tute.

Pro­fes­sor Richard Som­mer, Dean of the Daniels Fac­ul­ty, will join Pro­fes­sor McCar­ney, the found­ing Direc­tor of GCI, in wel­com­ing recent­ly named Senior Fel­lows — includ­ing soci­ol­o­gy Pro­fes­sor Sask­ia Sassen from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and Chief of the Glob­al Urban Obser­va­to­ry at the Unit­ed Nations Gora Mboup — to help launch the Insti­tute.

Cities world­wide are dri­ving the pros­per­i­ty of nations and are cen­tral to glob­al sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. Today, there are 3.7 bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in cities, or 53% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. By 2050, 6.3 bil­lion peo­ple will be liv­ing in cities, or 70 per­cent of the total world pop­u­la­tion.

Across the world, the health of cities is tied to the health of economies, the envi­ron­ment, and the social devel­op­ment of nations. As a result, local gov­ern­ments now find them­selves play­ing a larg­er role in glob­al affairs.

“GCIF is build­ing a plat­form of stan­dard­ized met­rics that allow cities to learn from each oth­er, by talk­ing to each oth­er using com­pa­ra­ble data. The mod­el that we’ve adopt­ed doesn’t exist any­where else in the world,” says Pro­fes­sor McCar­ney. “The Glob­al Cities Insti­tute will con­vene a con­ver­sa­tion that is unpar­al­leled, draw­ing on col­lab­o­ra­tive, cross-dis­ci­pli­nary research that builds on GCIF’s impor­tant met­rics, bridg­ing the fields of urban gov­er­nance, plan­ning, design, tech­nol­o­gy, and eco­nom­ics.”

When it was cre­at­ed in 2009, GCIF was work­ing with 9 cities to build data on infra­struc­ture, trans­porta­tion, age­ing, gov­er­nance, finance, edu­ca­tion, and safe­ty, among oth­er indi­ca­tors of a city’s health. Today, a total of 252 cities across 80 coun­tries are now GCIF mem­bers. The abil­i­ty to col­lect and mean­ing­ful­ly com­pare infor­ma­tion is a boon to researchers and pol­i­cy mak­ers, whose capac­i­ty to ana­lyze data from dif­fer­ent cities was pre­vi­ous­ly lim­it­ed due to dif­fer­ent stan­dards, def­i­n­i­tions, and meth­ods used to track and mea­sure data through­out the world.

GCI will be able to build on the work of GCIF, by con­nect­ing the results of its research to urban thought lead­ers and aca­d­e­mics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and beyond. The data will form the basis for more in depth analy­sis cul­mi­nat­ing in reports, work­ing papers, and speak­er series. The Insti­tute will also work with devel­op­ment agen­cies, gov­ern­ments, and busi­ness­es world-wide to share and dis­cuss find­ings. Papers and reports — such as the forth­com­ing Child City Friend­ly Index, and a pol­i­cy snap­shot on Cities and Age­ing, which will also launch in Sep­tem­ber — will be pub­lished on GCI’s new web­site:

A series of events, includ­ing the Annu­al Mayor’s Address, the Annu­al GCI Lec­ture and an on-going series of round­table dis­cus­sions called Lessons from Oth­er Places, will fur­ther enhance the dia­logue on urban issues. On May 15 &16, 2014, the Glob­al Cities Sum­mit will con­vene 250 city lead­ers from around the world here in Toron­to.

Locat­ed in the largest city in Cana­da and one of the most dynam­ic and diverse urban cen­tres in North Amer­i­ca, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to pro­vides an ide­al base for the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute. Space for GCI will be incor­po­rat­ed into the Daniels Faculty’s new land­mark com­plex at One Spad­i­na Cres­cent, which will include a “Mod­el Cities The­atre and Lab­o­ra­to­ry.” Mod­el Cities at GCI will bring togeth­er data from the GCIF with emerg­ing 3D/parametric tech­nolo­gies and oth­er visu­al­iza­tion tech­niques to cre­ate com­plex city mod­els, explore exper­i­men­tal, evi­dence-based modes of urban design, and devel­op sce­nar­ios for alter­na­tive urban futures. The The­atre and Lab at GCI will under­take need­ed research on design­ing cities holis­ti­cal­ly, cre­at­ing a pub­lic forum that will engage new con­stituen­cies and insti­gate new deci­sion frame­works, design options, pol­i­cy alter­na­tives, and indus­try solu­tions.


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact: 

Dale Dun­can, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer
John H. Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture,
Land­scape, and Design
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
230 Col­lege Street
Toron­to, ON M5T 1R2