Our cities, vulnerable by nature and design, have generated the biggest challenge that humankind has to face. With the vast majority of the population expected to settle in urban agglomerations, rapid urbanization is going to raise the issue of adaptability with future social, environmental, technological and economic transformations.
In fact, the main problematic of the decade questions how our cities will cope with fast-changing factors. It also looks into the main aspects to consider in order to ensure long-term growth. In this article, we highlight major points that help future-proof our cities and create a livable, inclusive and competitive fabric that adapts to any unexpected future transformation.
By definition, future-proofing is the action of anticipating and planning the future. This requires taking prior measures that can reduce damaging impacts and prevent any harm that can occur. Through elaborative methods that belittle the effects of future events, cities can not only survive but also prevail. Anything can be future-proofed. From buildings to streets, any component can undergo this process, which lays the basis of a steady and growing future.
Cities that can manage any shift are the ones with the most efficient, sustainable and grounded strategies. A lot of developing countries have short-term dynamic policies, that guarantee progress, but cannot withstand major alterations. In fact, this requires long-term visions that showcase a lot of creativity and bring together different disciplines, in order to draw the groundwork of the future.
In 2018, the world economic forum has released a list of the world's most future-proof cities. The majority of the top 10 cities are located in the United States, like San Francisco that tops that list, followed by Silicon Valley and New York. Historic European cities also make an appearance with London in the 4th position, Paris in the 7th followed by Amsterdam in the 8th. The city momentum index measures key elements of future-proofing like technology, infrastructure, and connections, quality of life, long-term vision, attractivity, education, livability, inclusivity, and sustainability, etc.
For Caroline Bos, the Dutch urban planner and the co-founder of Amsterdam-based architectural design network UNStudio, the action of future-proofing cities is synonymous with planning resilient cities. Although there aren’t any generic measures that can be implemented on all types of fabrics, experts of Paulinyi & Partners, a sustainable architecture group in Hungary, have distinguished the most important solutions to apply in future-proof urban design.
1 - Economically Plannable City
The fundaments of urban and business planning rely on several aspects that help achieve the optimal functioning and utilization of the districts. These features depend largely on “parameters of area and density, ideal reach and access, phasing, usability and aspects of environmental consciousness”. In line with this idea, BIG designed, for the world’s first urban incubator, a project that proposes a connected city, with a newfound balance between vehicles, alternate forms of movement, built environment, people and nature.
2- Multifunctional Urban Districts
Resilient cities incorporate a mix of functions, that can serve all types of residents. Creating a diverse program and distinct urban districts cater essentially to the well-being of users. A recent project on San Francisco’s waterfront transforms 28 acres of land into a mixed-use urban neighborhood. Featuring housing, office space, retail, and open space, Mission Rock aims to create a new community hub.
3- Innovative Solutions for the Transportation System of a City
Efficient infrastructure and public transportation systems are at the core of every resilient city. Creating new connections and improving existing networks will help integrate new developments. With major environmental, economic and social impacts, “automobile traffic is increasingly being eliminated from city centers and new districts, and new, shared electric transport options, pedestrian use and bicycling are gaining ground”. Combining forward-thinking technology with existing public transport modalities, UNStudio imagined recently a cable car that enhances connections, to be implemented by 2025 in Amsterdam.
4- Sustainable Built Environment for Future Generations
On a smaller scale, the principles of a resilient built environment include local materials usage, diversity in systems, smart energy use, flexibility of scheme, durability, environmentally responsive design, low carbon footprint, safety, sensitivity and finally adaptability to change. In fact, rapidly shifting future needs of users should determine planning possibilities, in order to generate flexible future-proof spaces. Nowadays, architects are venturing in adaptive reuse projects, known to be the most effective form of sustainability and energy saving.