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24 September 2002

Urban Sprawl: Is Europe Going the American Way?

International symposium "Urban Realms in the United States" from 13 to 17 November 2002 at the University of Heidelberg — Leading geographers and urban planning experts discuss consequences and control prospects in postmodern settlement processes

On the occasion of the international conference on "Urban Realms in the United States" from 13 to 17 November 2002, urban geographers, urban planning experts and sociologists from the US and Germany will be meeting to discuss new trends in North American mega-cities and their significance for European metropolises. The symposium is organised by Heidelberg University's Institute of Geography.

New settlement processes and "postmodern" consumer patterns are exacerbating the already staggering use of space in the cities of the United States. Increasingly, systematic urban planning is reaching its limits. How can postmodern developments be controlled in European cities? Are big cities in Europe likely to become insatiable and uncontrollable urban monsters as in the United States? The symposium looks into these central issues in the future of urban development with lectures and panel discussions.

The experts on urban research and urban planning in the US and Germany will first examine the full implications of the "postmodern" situation in big North American cities and submit them to critical investigation. New York is one example of a "modern" urban development characterised by extreme density and as such it will be a central topic at the symposium. "The events of 11 September 2001 have given the question of the limits to the concentration of jobs, capital and building substance a new and unforeseen urgency," says Werner Gamerith of Heidelberg's Institute of Geography. He has been intensively concerned with developments in New York for a number of years.

The participants will also be looking in depth at the problems and future prospects of Los Angeles, the United States' second-largest city. "New York was the city of the 20th century," Gamerith asserts, "but now it looks as if Los Angeles is well on the way to becoming America's city of the 21st century." Michael Dear, professor of geography at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, will be providing a critical discussion of the facets of postmodernism as reflected in the Californian metropolis. His colleague Edward Soja of the School of Public Policy and Social Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, will also be providing a contribution on this topic. Soja is one of the key thinkers in present-day urban research.

At the closing panel discussion, the representatives of urban geography and urban research attempt to answer the question of which of these "postmodern" phenomena — untrammelled growth, increased ethnic isolation coupled with increasing diversity, the creation of new urban event areas — will also mark the European development and how this will affect big German and European cities.

A detailed programme of the symposium can be found at

For further inquiries, contact:
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Werner Gamerith,
Institute of Geography,
University of Heidelberg,
Berliner Strasse 48,
D-69120 Heidelberg.
phone: 06221/544368, fax: 544996

For general information (journalists) please contact:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 29.09.2002


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