Introductory remarks by Martin Panek, Director of the Liberální Institut, before the 2024 Annual Lecture
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good evening
It is my distinct honor and privilege to stand before you today to introduce a luminary in the field of urban planning and development, a man whose insights have shaped our understanding of cities and their dynamics. We gather here in the vibrant city of Prague, just under the Prague Castle, a fitting backdrop for the ideas that our distinguished speaker has dedicated his career to exploring.
Alain Bertaud, a name synonymous with innovation and pragmatism in urban planning, has spent decades unraveling the complexities of cities, unraveling the intricate dance between people, space, and economic forces. Born in France, Alain’s journey has taken him across the globe, leaving an indelible mark on the way we perceive and plan our urban environments.
Trained as an architect and urban planner, Prof. Bertaud’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable. He has seamlessly blended his academic prowess with practical experience, working in cities around in places as diverse as New York, Bangkok, Yemen, Haiti, 1980s China or 1990s Russia. Right here, right there, he has been influential everywhere. His unique perspective is a product of not just theoretical knowledge but a profound understanding gained through hands-on engagement with the challenges faced by diverse urban landscapes.
At the core of Prof. Bertaud’s philosophy is a departure from traditional, top-down urban planning approaches. He advocates for a market-oriented lens, recognizing the dynamic interplay between urban design and economic activities. His work challenges us to view cities not merely as static entities but as living organisms, constantly evolving and responding to the needs and aspirations of their inhabitants.
A prolific author and researcher, Alain Bertaud has contributed groundbreaking ideas to the field. His book, Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, stands as a testament to his commitment to unraveling the intricate fabric of urban life. The book begins with a paragraph on F. A. Hayek. How many planners – urban or otherwise – even know who Hayek is? This makes the book instantly a favorite of mine and we are happy to announce that we will publish a Czech translation next year. Through his writings, he invites us to rethink conventional wisdom and encourages us to embrace a more flexible, adaptive approach to city planning.
For the 27th Liberální Institut Annual Lecture, let us prepare to embark on a journey of intellectual exploration. His insights promise to challenge our preconceptions, provoke thoughtful discourse, and perhaps, inspire a new generation of urban planners and thinkers. In the spirit of Prague, a city that has witnessed centuries of transformation, let us open our minds to the transformative ideas that Alain Bertaud is about to share.
But first, let’s hear from Salim Furth, an urban economist at the Mercatus Center who will tell us more about our guest of honor and about today’s topic.
Without further ado, please join me in welcoming the distinguished urban planner, researcher, and author, Alain Bertaud, to the podium.