Cities are now recognised as being one of the major challenges in the transition towards a sustainable world. They are both a subject and an object of sustainable development. Cities are also often considered an appropriate place for testing the concept of sustainable development, or even a catalyst for sustainable development.
With urban sprawl, congestion, local and global pollution, segregation and fragmentation, it is clear that any compromise between the three requirements of sustainability is difficult to achieve in urban areas. We still know very little about the city, a complex system that is often poorly understood.
Given the potential path dependencies, it is imperative that we inform and accompany urban developers in order to jointly redirect and govern urban dynamics towards greater sustainability. However, urban production, understood as a form of collective action, is still somewhat deaf to scientific messages about sustainability. Over 15 years after Rio, the individual and collective responses provided to date fall very short of the challenges facing us. Obviously, knowledge in itself is not enough to ensure shaping a collective will and changing attitudes and behaviours.
This interface between the sphere of knowledge and that of collective action and behaviour is the backbone to the programme of activities “Urban fabric: Sustainable urban development” set up by IDDRI.
IDDRI has chosen to approach these urban issues by analysing the urban fabric – defined as all economic, political, legal and sociological processes whose interactions determine the production of the urban and peri-urban framework. The aim is to shed light on urban fabric mechanisms and the conditions needed for a path change, to thereby facilitate a shared understanding of the issues, to put them into a global perspective and to accompany the transition towards a sustainable path.