10 Things The “Cities: Skylines” Video Game Taught Us About Modern Urbanism

Courtesy of D. Wheatley (in-game screenshot)

Ask a random person in the street about their favorite hobbies, and it’s unlikely that they’ll say “urban planning and traffic management” – yet when video games began to take off in the late 1980s city-building was one of the first breakout hits, in the form of ’ SimCity series. The huge success of the “Sim” series in general drove conversations about the value of , as part of the general 1990s optimism about virtual worlds being the future. Sim games became the subject of academic critiques of their philosophy of the world, while city builders became a lot more than a game: in 2002, SimCity 3000 was used as a semi-serious test for mayoral candidates in Warsaw.

After a slump caused by a difficult transition to 3D graphics, city builders are back in vogue. Following what is widely considered as a disappointing SimCity reboot in 2013, Finland’s Colossal Order recently released Cities: Skylines to critical and financial success. But simulations require assumptions; they are, after all, written by people who have their own conscious and unconscious views on how and why cities work. The limitations around designing a video game – the fact that each asset must be modeled and textured, and that each transport option requires a huge amount of work to simulate – mean that Cities: Skylines is as stripped down and streamlined an articulation of urban philosophy as Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse or the New Urbanists’ models, and just as interesting. We investigate 10 things this game tells us about 21st century urbanism, after the break.

First Renderings of Populous’ Downtown Milwaukee Stadium

View from Entertainment District Live Block. Image Courtesy of Populous

The Milwaukee Bucks have just unveiled Populous‘ initial renderings of their downtown revitalization plan for Milwaukee’s sports and entertainment district, anchored by a multi-purpose arena. The first step in their vision, the arena hopes to be a modern expression of Wisconsin’s heritage and a vibrant cornerstone to the growth of downtown Milwaukee.

32 Winners of Inaugural Knight Cities Challenge Announced

Courtesy of

Thirty-two projects have been announced as the winners of the Inaugural Knight Cities Challenge, sharing in a prize pool of $USD5 million. An initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge received an overwhelming number of entries, with winners selected from a pool of over 7000 submissions. Each of the projects proposed strategies for the civic and economic development of one of the 26 in which the Knight Foundation invests, including Detroit, Akron Ohio, San Jose California, Lexington Kentucky, and Biloxi Mississippi.

The winning proposals each addressed one or more of the Knight Foundation’s “three drivers of city success”: (1) Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest, (2) Opportunity: Ideas that create economic prospects and break down divides, (3) Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

James Corner Field Operations Amongst Frontrunners for Milwaukee’s Lakefront Gateway Plaza

Courtesy of City of Department of City Development

The City of Milwaukee has announced the four finalists in a competition to redevelop the city’s lakefront, naming OJB, James Corner Field Operations, multidisciplinary firm AECOM, and Wisconsin-based consulting firm GRAEF. Selected from 24 entrants, the shortlisted teams are competing for a chance to revitalize the Milwaukee lakefront as part of the Lakefront Gateway Project masterplan. Each firm must now submit specific proposals for the Plaza project in time for a June deadline, after which all proposals will be made available to the public and judged by a selection committee. Learn more about the project after the break.

How Should Cities Prepare for an Aging Boomer Population?

CannonDesign’s plan for Jaypee Sports City features a continuous 10-mile park woven through a dense urban fabric of high- and low-rise developments. This entirely walkable parkland links all the city’s neighborhoods and social amenities. Image Courtesy of CannonDesign

Since the end of the Second World War, one of the biggest agents for social change has been the “Boomer” generation, those born in the postwar years who thanks to a spike in birth rates in those years represent a disproportionate amount of the population. But as this group ages, what will their effect on our be? In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “How Boomers Will Shape the Future of Our Cities,” principle at CannonDesign Peter Ellis outlines what his generation will need from the places they live as they get older.

I am an architect, and a designer of cities. I am also among the Boomer generation, the 65-year-plus demographic that, due to our increasing numbers, is creating a giant bubble at the upper end of the population charts.

We are not, however, aging like the generations that preceded us. “We will be able to give many people an extra decade of good health, based on what we are able to do in the lab now,” says Brian Kennedy, President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. The primary triggers for most disease can be controlled, enabling people to remain productive well into their eighties, nineties, and beyond.

How will this “revolution” in human longevity impact our cities? Unlike our parents, Boomers have not moved to retirement communities, preferring, rather, to stay as long as they are able in their urban neighborhoods—where they can continue to lead active lives.

Curtin University Masterplan First to Receive 5 Green Star-Communities Rating in Australia

Courtesy of Curtin University

The Curtin University has become the first project to receive a 5 Star Green Star-Communities Rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). Helmed by AECOM and Donaldson and Warn architects, the plan sets forth a strategy for the renewal of the University’s main campus in , Perth, aiming to create a “vibrant urban community” that combines commercial, retail, residential, educational, and transport infrastructure. Sustainability is a cornerstone of the project, which seeks to be adaptable to, and respectful of, its site and heritage. 

The 5-star rating honours Australian Excellence in “innovation, design excellence, environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and liveability”. Learn more about the project and view selected images after the break.

CIAM 4 and the “Unanimous” Origins of Modernist Urban Planning

Courtesy of THOTH Publishers

Held in 1933 on a ship in the Mediterranian, the fourth CIAM congress and Le Corbusier’s subsequent Athens Charter (La Charte d’Athenes) are widely regarded as a defining period in Modernist , a moment when architects came to an agreement on what the future of our should look like. But how correct is this interpretation? Edited by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Perez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, a significant new 480-page book, “Atlas of the Functional City - CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis” examines the congress in depth. In the following excerpt from the book’s introduction, Daniel Weiss, Gregor Harbusch and Bruno Maurer examine the commonly accepted history of the congress, finding that support for the underlying principles of Modernism was perhaps not so unanimous after all.

Mayor Of London Supports Plans For Europe’s Longest Segregated Cycle Lane

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According to a document published last month, ’s aspiration to become “a great cycling city” has taken one step closer to reality. The office of the Mayor of has approved plans to develop Europe’s longest segregated bicycle lane through the centre of the city following modifications to an original plan that drew sharp criticism from residents and commuters. The new plans, which have been supported by a number of private companies and public bodies, aims to maintain vehicular traffic capacity whilst allowing the segregated cycle lanes to cater for a large capacity of cyclists.

Video: Hawkins\Brown Go Underground with Crossrail

After more than two decades of planning and development, the design for London’s Tottenham Court Road tube station by Hawkins\Brown has been revealed. Part of the Crossrail project and described as a “dream project” for the firm, the £375m upgrade will see a complete overhaul of the station’s interior and accessibility points.

In this video from Crane.tv, Roger Hawkins explains ’s collaborative design approach, identifying the project as an “opportunity to rework the space…as a plaza, as a public space, but fundamentally [as] an access site.” has since been commissioned to upgrade the Liverpool Street and Bond Street tube stations.

Making Complex Systems Visible: “Between Geometry and Geography” Carefully Uncovers the Layers of Mexico City

Courtesy of and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro

I always book a window seat when flying into Mexico City. It guarantees exposing the traveler to the exhilarating immensity of the city and the valley that barely contains it: a blunt encounter of geometry and geography indeed. Braving traffic I arrive to my hotel in the historic center and the first morning, over breakfast and with those aerial images still fresh in my mind, I invariably marvel at the fact that I have just had a hot shower and that I am enjoying, as usual, excellent huevos rancheros. “How did these eggs get here?” I wonder. The thoughts quickly dissipate as one is engulfed by the many renowned attractions of City.

Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro have chosen not to be distracted. Their book, “Between Geometry and Geography: Mexico City”, is an ambitious portrait of Mexico City that avoids reading the city through the singularities of its monuments. They have produced instead a stunning graphic biography of the metropolis, focusing on the infrastructures that have shaped the city and make it function today and speculating on opportunities for future multifunctional infrastructures.

New City Square in Perth Reconnects Urban Landscape, Honors an Indigenous Warrior

Courtesy of Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority of Perth has released conceptual images for what is to become the city’s latest public space, designed by a team comprised of Aspect Studios, Iredale Pedersen Hook, and Lyons Architecture. With construction to begin in mid-2015 and slated for completion in 2017, the square takes its name from Yagan, an Indigenous Australian warrior of Perth’s local Noongar people. Integral to early resistance against British colonization, Yagan’s tenacity, leadership, and subsequent execution by settlers have cemented his role in Indigenous Australian folklore. Read more about this significant acknowledgement of Indigenous history after the break.

The Three-Dimensional City: How Drones Will Impact the Future Urban Landscape

Hawkins\Brown’s ‘Romance of the Sky’ proposal for the site of Heathrow Airport features drones – but does the urban design of the proposal accommodate the role of drones in the urban sphere?. Image © Factory Fifteen

Many have come to associate drones with the looming unmanned aircraft deployed in the defense industry, but as technology continues to improve drones have gotten smaller and progressively less expensive. Consumers can now purchase their very own drone for as little as $600 or less and the technology is already proving to be useful for a wide variety of purposes, including possible uses for architects in everything from site analysis to construction.

However, this technology could have much broader consequences on not only the airspace above our streets, but also in how we design for increasing civilian and commercial drone traffic. Just as other technologies such as cars and security surveillance have shaped our urban , so too will an emerging network of for pilotless technology. Particularly as drones become ever more precise and nimble, opportunities arise for their increased use in urban areas. If these devices can be programmed to learn from repeated maneuvers with the use of cameras and sensors, it is not unrealistic to say that they could soon learn how to navigate through increasingly complex vertical cities. But if drones become fixtures of our urban environment, what impact will they have on exterior spaces? And could they become as ubiquitous in our city’s skies as cars on our streets?

Prince Charles’ 10 “Geometric Principles” for Architecture Cause a Stir in the UK

uses Poundbury as an example of his architectural principles. Image © Flickr CC user JonathanLClarke

Last weekend, published an article by the Prince of Wales in which he outlined his stance on architecture, reiterating his belief that a return to traditional design principles is necessary to enable sustainable urban growth that meets human needs. In the 2,000 word essay, Prince Charles argues that “we face the terrifying prospect by 2050 of another three billion people on this planet needing to be housed,” adding that rather than ”wanting to turn the clock back to some Golden Age” as he is often accused, he is focused on the needs of the future. At the conclusion of his article, he outlines ten principles for architecture which meet the requirements of his vision.

As is often the case with Prince Charles’ pronouncements on architecture, the article has prompted a strong reaction from members of the profession, with responses ranging from Robert Sakula saying “if more people cared as much as he does we would have a better architectural culture,” to the response of Birmingham City University’s Alister Scott, who said ”there is clear evidence of elitism and his lack of empathy with the problems facing his peasantry.”

Read on after the break for more on the Prince’s article and the reaction from architects

Sebastian Irarrazaval Proposes Urban Solution to Political Turmoil with Trans-Border African Cities

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As the continent with the fastest growing population in the world, African frontiers will soon become attractive areas for urban settlements and the potential for conflicts arising from colonial borders may inhibit necessary economic growth. Colonialism’s legacy continues to spark conflict revolving around arbitrary borders established by Europeans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with no regard for ethnic, linguistic, and religious disparities across the continent. These decisions resulted in the separation of cultural communities within each nation and the creation of political boundaries that often did not reflect shared civil interests. Consequently sub-Saharan Africa has experienced sustained conflicts in the years following independence, resulting in diminished potential for further economic development in many regions. Today, border disputes have led to a rise in separatist movements in numerous countries, but African governments are hesitant to abandon the colonial borders to avoid further disruptive conflicts.

As political approaches to this issue continue to be extremely contentious, an architectural intervention at the urban scale proposed by Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos may be the key to a prosperous cultural and economic future for . In their concept for an ideal African city, Sebastian Irarrázaval and his team have conceptualized their solution as a network of trans-border cities. This set of “bi-national urban entities” will serve to erase the old colonial borders and “will reintegrate the continent as it was prior to European domination when cultural and economic exchange flourished.”

Find out how the proposal aims to address some of Africa’s longest-standing social and political problems after the break

Why New York Shouldn’t be a City for the One Percent

View above Central Park looking south towards “Billionaire’s Row” towers, with Midtown towers in background and various Financial District and Downtown Brooklyn Towers in far background. Image Courtesy of CityRealty

In recent years, it’s been difficult to miss the spate of supertall, super-thin towers on the rise in . Everyone knows the individual projects: 432 Park Avenue, One57, the Nordstrom Tower, the MoMA Tower. But, when a real estate company released renders of the New York skyline in 2018, it forced New Yorkers to consider for the first time the combined effect of all this new real estate. In this opinion article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “On New York’s Skyscraper Boom and the Failure of Trickle-Down Urbanism,” Joshua K Leon argues that the case for a city of the one percent doesn’t stand up under scrutiny.

What would a city owned by the one-percent look like?

New renderings for CityRealty get us part way there, illustrating how Manhattan may appear in 2018. The defining feature will be a bumper crop of especially tall, slender skyscrapers piercing the skyline like postmodern boxes, odd stalagmites, and upside-down syringes. What they share in common is sheer unadulterated scale and a core clientele of uncompromising plutocrats.

Project Meganom Wins Contest to Transform Moscow Riverfront

Fishing on Kremlin © Courtesy of

Russian practice Project Meganom has been announced as the winner in a competition to drastically transform the Moscow riverfront. Their masterplan proposal aims to create a series of linear green spaces, while also incorporating new cultural and education spaces along the waterfront and improving the surrounding public transport. Announced at the IV annual Moscow Urban Forum which opened earlier today, the goal of the competition was to return the Moscow river from a “barrier” into a “link” in the city, restoring its historical status as the city’s heart and most important transportation route.

Read on after the break for more details of Project Meganom’s masterplan

10 Points of a Bicycling Architecture

© Steven Fleming and Charlotte Morton

A revolution is occurring in street design. New York, arguably the world’s bellwether city, has let everyday citizens cycle for transport. They have done that by designating one lane on most Avenues to bicyclists only, with barriers to protect them from traffic.

Now hundreds of cities are rejigging to be bicycle-friendly, while in there is a sense that more change is afoot. Many New Yorkers would prefer if their city were more like Copenhagen where 40% of all trips are by bike. But then Copenhagen wants more as well. Where does this stop?

If you consider that we are talking about a mode of transport that whips our hearts into shape, funnels many more people down streets than can be funneled in cars, has no pollution, and costs governments and individuals an absolute pittance, you wont ask where it stops, but how close to 100% the bike modal share can possibly go and what we must do to achieve that.

Typological to Evolutionary: A New Theory of Cities

Champs Elysees – Paris, France. Image © Flickr User justininsd

Why do cities exist and how will they grow and change? As more than half of the world’s population now lives in it is becoming increasingly important for urban designers and planners to seek answers to these questions. This article by Laura Bliss from City Lab presents the “science of cities,” and the ways in which the urban-planning world is moving away from traditional methods of simply putting cities into categories, in favor of a more evolutionary theory. Benefiting from the vast amounts of data available today on statistics such as crime and voting patterns across cities, researchers have worked to establish the quantifiable characteristics of urban areas as a whole, and recent studies in this area reveal how the shapes of cities themselves could be connected to internal economic and social processes. Learn more about these radical developments in the full article from City Lab.