• 27 May 2024

Galway conference calls for radical reform of current planning to create lifelong, liveable neighbourhoods

The second annual conference on contemporary urban development took place in Galway on 29 and 30 May with a fantastic line-up of both Irish and international speakers, many of whom are renowned experts with first-hand experience in creating lifelong, liveable neighbourhoods.  

Planning, Designing and Delivering the 21st Century Neighbourhood is a joint initiative of the RIAI, the Academy of Urbanism, Galway City Council and the Greater Galway Forum. This year's event promises to be a collaborative, impactful, and diverse gathering, building on the success of last year’s groundbreaking conference and the publication of the Greater Galway Charter.


Pictured at the conference opening were (l-r): Andreas Markides, AoU Chair; Tony Reddy FRIAI; Peter Hynes FRIAI; RIAI President Sean Mahon FRIAI; David Browne FRIAI; and Kathryn Meghen RIAI CEO 


The 2024 conference will seek to identify innovative ideas and strategies to tackle the unique challenges facing Irish and European cities, with a special focus on Galway. It will highlight the urgent need for radical reforms in current planning, design, and delivery systems to ensure the survival and prosperity of Irish and European cities and towns in the coming decades.

An inclusive and diverse forum, the conference will welcome the voices of community activists, young people, local residents, representatives, policy makers, architects, planners, urban designers, engineers, and developers. It aims to foster collaboration and build alliances among all stakeholders involved in place-making, ensuring that the future development of urban areas is both sustainable and inclusive. Placemaking is an approach to urban planning and design that focuses on the quality of space that people are using.

Sean Mahon, President of the RIAI said:


"Architects play a crucial leadership role in urban design and the regeneration of our communities, as many of the featured projects at this conference demonstrate. The RIAI has long advocated for vision-led and plan-led development in our cities. To achieve this, we need meaningful dialogue between local authorities, professionals, and communities. For Dublin and Ireland’s larger cities, we need to embrace three-dimensional planning. 3D-planning will empower local authorities, planners, urban designers, architects, and communities to create a comprehensive digital twin of the city. Such a tool will ensure that all future development can be fully understood and evaluated.”


Galway, known for its rich cultural heritage and dynamic urban landscape, provides the perfect backdrop for this significant event. By hosting the conference, Galway will further solidify its position as a leader in urban innovation and a model for other smaller cities to follow.

Leonard Cleary, Chief Executive of Galway City Council commented,

“This conference is a welcome opportunity for Galway City to explore potential solutions for common European problems, as low density urban sprawl and unaffordable housing have become universal challenges for urban areas. Since the 1940s Galway City’s population has increased from 20,000 people to 80,000 people (a factor of 4) but the

footprint of the city is twenty four times the bigger than it was in 1940. That means we are occupying 6 time more space than the Galwegians of the 1940s. This conference is a significant opportunity for Galway City to be at the centre of discussions on climate, sustainable transport, and affordable housing, and it creates an opportunity to examine how plan-led, community-led development could deliver the Galway City Development Plan. The delegates and speakers are very welcome to Galway City, and I look forward to the outcomes of the conference”.


Andreas Markides, Chair, Academy of Urbanism commented:

“The Academy of Urbanism is pleased to be partnering with the RIAI for the second year on an event in Galway. Following 2023’s successful Galway Charter initiative, we will examine ‘Planning, Designing and Delivering the 21st Century Neighbourhood’ with local experts and international speakers. We look forward to another few days of lively debate in a city that guarantees a warm Irish welcome.”


Prof Ciarán Ó h’Ogartaigh, Chair of Greater Galway Forum and University of Galway President commented:

“Research is at the core of teaching and learning at University of Galway, where we have a strong commitment to being of, and for, our city. Along with our focus on working for the public good, we place a high value on the open exchange of ideas, of new ways of thinking, and of making a difference for society. As Chair of the Greater Galway Forum and as President of University of Galway where we have a wealth of research in this area including in the linkages between place, health, and happiness, we see immense opportunities in bringing communities, leadership and expert voices together to rediscover our ambitions for our city and region.”


The event is open to anyone interested in architecture, urbanism, sustainability, and the future of Galway and other Irish cities.