Capitals Alliance Meetings

Washington, DC, 2008
The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the federal government's planning agency for America's capital city, brought together capital city planning officials and policymakers from around the globe for a series of thought-provoking discussions on greening the world's capitals. International delegates started the week on Sunday, September 14. Public sessions began Monday, September 15 and ran through Thursday, September 18. An optional day of touring was held on September 19.

Capitals Alliance 2008 highlighted the timely and important topic of creating a more sustainable planet. Throughout the week, we explored the role of national capitals in creating a greener world; learned about successful green strategies from champions of environmentally-friendly policies; and showcased sustainability initiatives from dozens of national capitals.

Attendees heard insights from some of the world's most prominent thinkers, urban designers, and activists working to create more sustainable cities. Speakers included:

Herbert Girardet, director of Programmes for the World Future Council in London, provided the opening keynote address. Girardet is a renowned author, documentary filmmaker, and recipient of a United Nations Global 500 Award for Outstanding Environmental Achievements.

Falah Al Ahbabi, general manager, Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. The UPC is leading the way to establish Abu Dhabi as a global capital renowned for its architecture and sustainable features.

Diana Balmori, member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and a landscape architect recognized for innovations in environmentally sustainable design.

Larry Beasley, chairman, Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty at the National Capital Commission in Ottawa. Former planning director for the city of Vancouver and current planning consultant.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon, 3rd District) has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996. A member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change, he is a strong advocate for the environment and sustainable development.

Majora Carter, founder and executive director of the environmental justice organization Sustainable South Bronx in New York. Currently heads the Majora Carter Group, LLC.

Laurel Colless, executive director, Energy Efficiency Partnership of Greater Washington, a program based at Virginia Tech University, that is devoted to helping communities become greener.

George S. Hawkins, director of the District Department of the Environment for Washington, D.C.

Tom Hicks, vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council, where he oversees the Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Neighborhood Development Program.

Jim Huffman, associate principal with the architectural firm Busby Perkins + Will.

Roger K. Lewis, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland and author of "Shaping the City," an architecture and urban design column for The Washington Post.

Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and co-author of Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl.

Tom Murphy, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute and a former three-term mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Daniel K. Slone, expert in land use and environmental law. Counsel for prominent green organizations including the U.S. Green Building Council and Congress for the New Urbanism.

Robert Stacey, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Oregon, a public interest group advocating smart growth in land use planning.

Harriet Tregoning, director, District of Columbia Office of Planning.

David L. Winstead, Commissioner of Public Buildings for the U.S. General Services Administration.

The signature event, World Leaders on Sustainability, was held in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum. Officials from cities recognized for good urban planning and progressive ecological policies discussed their unique experiences with sustainable development projects. Participants included United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Irene Svenonius, chief executive officer of Stockholm, and Cassio Taniguchi, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil. Marcel Beaudry, past chairman of Ottawa's National Capital Commission facilitated the discussion.

Discussions and workshops were devoted to topics such as building community support for green and sustainable policies; addressing the challenges facing capital cities; balancing tourism and responsible energy consumption; and the effect of green design on world-class architecture and open space.

Partners included the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Building Museum and participating entities included the Embassy of Sweden, and Onuma, Inc. The conference took place at several of Washington, DC's most renowned venues, including the National Press Club, the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, and the National Building Museum, an institution committed to the promotion of sustainable building practices. International delegates took part in special events throughout the week, including poster presentations and site visits to Washington's top green sites.

Canberra, 2007
Delegates from eleven countries participated in the fifth meeting of the Capitals Alliance, hosted by the National Capital Authority in Canberra the week of January 21. In addition to the host city, the national capitals in attendance included Beijing, Brasilia, Islamabad, Moscow, Ottawa, Paris, Seoul, Tshwane (formerly Pretoria), Washington, DC, and Wellington.

The conference provided attendees with in-depth sessions on a number of key issues unique to capital cities: commemoration, promotion and celebration, and planning and development of a capital city. Larry Beasley, who served as Vancouver’s planning director for more than a decade delivered the keynote address. Beasley emphasized that a great capital must first be a great city.

“A capital city serves as a model for an entire country, embodying its hopes and inspiring its people,” said Beasley during his presentation. “It should be a diverse and engaging economic, social and physical place.”

While in Canberra, Alliance members participated in tours to the Australian War Memorial (a national museum commemorating the sacrifice of Australians who served in wars), the Anzac Parade (an avenue lined with commemorative works of national significance), and the new Parliament House. The latter opened in 1988 and houses the legislative branch of Australia’s national government.

For more information on the 2007 Capitals Alliance, or to access papers presented by Alliance participants, please visit the website of Australia's National Capital Authority.

Ottawa, 2005
In September 2005, Capitals Alliance delegates gathered for the fourth-annual meeting hosted by the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, Canada. In addition to Canada, representatives from the national capitals of Australia, Brazil, England, France, Russia, South Africa, and the United States gathered for the event. Through numerous site visits, delegates discovered how Ottawa’s vast system of urban parks, greenbelts, and parkways contributes to the quality of life in the city. Participants discussed a variety of issues including commemoration; how land-use planning can help distribute economic benefits throughout a city; managing rapidly growing cities; and implementing security reinforcements while protecting the public realm.

The week-long meeting also included sessions entitled:

  • Planning the Capital City Gateway,
  • Representing and Involving Citizens in their National Capital,
  • and Green Capital: Cultural Landscapes, Parks and Open Spaces.
Before concluding the week’s activities, the senior delegates from each of the capital cities renewed their call to the mission of the Capitals Alliance, as laid out in the 2005 Ottawa Statement.

Brasilia, 2004
The third annual meeting of the Capitals Alliance took place in Brasilia, November 15-19, 2004. In a dramatic move in 1960, Brazil relocated its capital from coastal Rio de Janeiro to this new city, 600 miles inland. With daring new architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia fired the imagination of mid-century modernists.

The 2004 meeting featured working sessions on topics of shared interest such as security and urban design, national commemoration, relationships between the capital city and its surrounding region, and the impact of historic preservation on urban development.

Meetings with faculty members at the University of Brasilia’s School of Architecture and members of Brazil’s Institutes of Architects and Engineers provided additional opportunities for exchange as did discussions with the State Secretaries of Culture and Tourism and the Chairman of Brazil’s Agency for Airport Infrastructure.

In addition to Washington, the capital cities of Seoul, Ottawa, Canberra, and Buenos Aires sent representatives to Brasilia.

Washington, DC, 2003
The National Capital Planning Commission hosted the second annual meeting of the Alliance in Washington, D.C, from October 19-24, 2003. Senior planning officials from 10 capital cities gathered to exchange strategies on building vibrant national capitals and to get a behind-the-scenes look at new development in the American capital.

Delegates discussed the stewardship of national land and historic buildings, commemoration and national celebration, security, and the accommodation of embassies and international organizations.

The meeting attracted more than 30 senior representatives from the capitals of Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Japan, Germany, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

Highlights of the week-long meeting included a lecture at the National Building Museum given by noted international architect and master planner of the World Trade Center, Daniel Libeskind. The standing-room-only event, cosponsored by NCPC and the National Building Museum, drew an audience of more than 1,300 to hear Libeskind’s plans for rebuilding the 16-acre World Trade Center site.

Another event was a public panel examining Washington’s struggle to be both a livable city and the symbolic seat of government. During their time in Washington, Capitals Alliance delegates also:
  • Toured the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center construction site,
  • Attended the public panel, “Planning a 21st Century Capital City,” featuring some of the nation’s leading architectural and planning experts,
  • Toured several prominent foreign embassies and chanceries,
  • Met with the designers of the Pentagon Memorial to victims of September 11.

Canberra, 2002
The inaugural meeting of the Capitals Alliance was held in March 2002 in Canberra, Australia. Representatives from Canberra were joined by delegates from the three other founding capitals—Ottawa, Brasilia, and Washington, D.C. They discussed commemoration, security, symbolic function, and the challenge of balancing local and federal planning jurisdictions.

During the first official meeting, delegates adopted Terms of Reference to establish the Capitals Alliance organization and to provide for its future expansion. Following this initial gathering, NCPC offered to host the next meeting of the Capitals Alliance in fall 2003 and to work on attracting new capital cities to participate in this important forum.