Rapid urbanisation

Professor David Sanderson is applying his background in humanitarian response and management, to address the needs of people in the most vulnerable areas of the world.   

Professor David Sanderson and his team are working to find solutions for one of today’s greatest challenges – rapid urbanisation.

We live in an urban age. Cities are growing by 1.5m people per week. Two-thirds of humanity will be living in cities by 2050 - 2.5b more people than today. While cities offer economic opportunities and stimulate innovation, they are also places of growing inequality, and a major contributor to climate change. Unless urban solutions are developed, cities will continue to deplete resources, increase temperatures and contribute to chronic poverty.

Professor Sanderson, who is the Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Architecture at UNSW, has over 25 years’ experience working across the world in urban disaster resilience and humanitarian aid. He is leading UNSW’s newest Grand Challenge on rapid urbanisation, working to find answers for creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities – particularly in the vulnerable Asia Pacific Region.

“[Urban resilience] is one of the defining issues that is currently shaping our planet. Cities bring massive global opportunities but also very complex challenges.

“On a personal level, it’s an issue I’ve been involved in for some time, firstly early on in my career working in the UK in architecture, and then subsequently engaged in urban poverty and humanitarian issues in a number of contexts.”

Having trained in architecture at De Montfort and Oxford Brookes Universities, he has worked with international aid agencies in development and disaster risk reduction for the past 25 years including with CARE International UK as Head of Policy, and as Regional Manager for Southern and West Africa.

University of New South Wales UNSW - Urbanisation - Sanderson

Prior to that, Professor Sanderson worked at the Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies and at Oxford Brookes University as Director of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice. He was also a Visiting Professor at Harvard University from 2013-2014.

Before joining UNSW in 2015, he was based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology where he specialised in urban disaster resilience and humanitarian aid.

Professor Sanderson holds a PhD in urban disasters and livelihoods and is a Visiting Professor at Université Paris-Est Créteil in Paris. He teaches annual courses at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, EOI Business School, Madrid, Oxford Brookes University, Université Paris-Est Créteil and Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano. He is also an Editor of PLoS ONE: Disasters Journal.

“The need has never been greater to address the challenges faced by people caught up in poverty, conflict and disaster. Architecture can play a central role in engaging these issues through social action, critical engagement, building evidence of what works, and above all, prioritising affected people.”