Cities are globalized and the world’s population is urban. On a planetary scale, the development of road and highway networks during the 20th century has fragmented and blown out cities. Diffused and without limits, cities and metropolises have spread out into undefined territories so as to densify once again. Today, these urban areas are in search of coherence, meaning, and expressions for their generic nature has rendered them illegible and unintelligible. This urban development, increasingly banal, marks every landscape with the same traces: city gateways, shopping centers, highway interchanges, residential pavilion developments, advertising displays, and spaces in states of abandonment associated with non-places. Thus, when thinking of the city, we increasingly evoke the idea of an urban territory in need of re-design in order to respond to issues becoming more and more complex both on a local (densification, gentrification, social inequality, interculturality, migration, inclusion, environmental resilience, etc.) and global (climate change, biodiversity, environmental management, energy, etc.) scale. Faced with these observations, the future of urban landscape is one of the main preoccupations tied to landscape. Today, the quality of urban landscapes is tied to environmental (climate, health, biodiversity), social (living conditions) and fundamental economic (tourism, economic development, etc.) issues and questions pertaining to territorial attractiveness, heritage, and identity. This context asks us to consider landscape as a concept of social and cultural values, stated and fluctuating in time, acting upon the well-being of urban populations.
These considerations lead us to imagine the intent of cities and the responses to their issues via the idea of urban landscape and the strategic landscape visions that bear its context and singularities, links and coherence to the territory, singular experiences, and appropriation of spaces. Contemplating the future of urban landscape in these terms implies considering the landscape dimension prior to urban planning, recognizing it as one of the strategic foundations of any approach tied to the preservation, improvement, and development of a territory. This is the challenge that the UNESCO Chair in Urban Landscape has contended with for more than 15 years with the support of its scientific cooperation network distributed across cities and metropolises in different regions of the world. This is also what the Chair is pursuing with the development of a complementary field of research on the instrumentation of the processes of strategic design (e.g. participatory approach, co-design, etc.) and the innovative methods of characterization and ideation which serve as inputs for the execution of urban projects.