Cities across the globe are undergoing makeovers - swapping out old, antiquated technology for new, sleek alternatives. The development and implementation of computer vision and real-time analytics are ushering in the newest wave of smart cities. The combination of cloud-based dashboards and machine learning are providing actionable data to be collected and understood regarding everything from vehicle concentration to pedestrian activity. As cities continue to push forward and develop socially and technologically, there is no doubt we will continue to see cities incorporate tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to facilitate such changes. Despite the fact that eye-popping technologies like drones and robots are at the forefront of this technological revolution, there are also a number of unexpected ways cities are becoming smarter.
Smart Cities: The Latest Architecture and News
Bryden Wood, Cast, and the Mayor of London have launched a new app to speed up the capital’s home building. The freely-available app, titled PRISM, is aimed at the design and construction of high-quality, factory-built homes to address the current demand of 50,000+ houses per year.
Innovation and technology are often presented as inextricably linked ideas. Yet, when it comes to solving today’s urban problems, technology does not always represent the best way forward.
Innovation instead should come from a thorough understanding of the city’s functions and processes, including its municipal government and other local organizations. Technology can help, yes, but cannot be used as a panacea.
The We Company has announced plans to launch a Future Cities Initiative, hiring the head of Studio Dror and a former Google executive to lead the team. Dror Benshetrit and Di-Ann Eisnor will work with engineers, architects, data scientists, biologists, and economists to generate ideas addressing problems raised by globalization, urbanization, and climate change.
Known for pioneering works such as their vegetated biosphere in Montreal, Studio Dror has been creating visions for designing without boundaries since their inception 17 years ago. Working at the intersection of art, design, and architecture, Dror has led a team of designers, artists, architects, researchers, and communicators to create holistic design solutions for everything from a vase to a city masterplan, a lightbulb to an island, and a collaboration with NASA.
When we think of energy from renewable sources, the first that probably come to mind are solar and wind. And decentralizing power generation is something that has inspired engineers and inventors from all over the world.
So what about turning the mechanical energy generated when people walk into electrical energy? It can be done thanks to technology developed by Laurence Kemball-Cook,founder of Pavegen. Using platforms inserted within sidewalks Pavegen converts steps into electric power (while also generating data and even rewards). But before you go out there feeling like Michael Jackson in Billie Jean, you should understand how this system works.
In 2017, ArchDaily Brazil reported that Smart City Laguna would become the first “smart city” in Brazil. With its inauguration scheduled for that same year, the venture opened with 1,800 units in its first phase, and in its final phase, 7,065 units divided between residential, commercial and technological uses.
Located in the Croatá district of São Gonçalo do Amarante, the first Brazilian smart city occupies 815 acres directly connected to the federal highway BR-22, which crosses the states of Ceará, Piauí, and Maranhão, starting in Fortaleza towards Marabá, in Pará. Its location has economic reasons: the proximity to Pecém Harbor, in Fortaleza, the Pecém Steel Company (CSP) and the Transnordestina Railroad make Croatá a strategic hub that has been recently occupied by technological companies, becoming a “digital belt” a little over 50 kilometers from the state’s capital.
Car manufacturer Jaguar has teamed up with architect Tom Barton of Barr Gazetas to imagine the consequences of an electrified automotive future on cities. Taking four case studies across the United Kingdom, the team speculated on existing infrastructural issues, and the opportunities for improvement made possible by the advent of electric cars.
With 180,000 electric vehicles on UK roads in 2018 and 1 million estimated by 2020, the case studies imagine a future where green alternatives to fossil fuels power transport and buildings in zero-emission cities. Below, we have republished the four scenarios, featuring a motorway, inner-city car park, industrial wasteland, and a wider urban landscape.
Tech giant Siemens is to partner with World Expo 2020 Dubai in rolling out a major smart building project, encompassing 130 structures in a digital platform to control energy efficiency, comfort, safety, and security.
As reported by Arabian Business, Siemens will “digitally connect, monitor, and manage essential functions of 137 buildings across the 4.38 square kilometer site, through its cloud-based energy analytics platform, Siemens Navigator.”
London-based architectural and urban design firm ecoLogicStudio has unveiled a large-scale “urban curtain” designed to fight climate change. “Photo.Synth.Etica” was developed in collaboration with Climate-KIC, the most prominent climate innovation initiative from the European Union, to “accelerate solutions to global climate change.”
Photo.Synth.Etica, currently on display at the Printworks Building in Ireland’s Dublin Castle, captures and stores one kilogram of CO2 per day, the equivalent to that of 20 large trees.
In a world increasingly obsessed with the potential of Blockchain (the decentralized technology behind Bitcoin), lawyer and cryptocurrency millionaire Jeffrey Berns has purchased an enormous 67,000-acre plot of the Nevada desert near Reno envisioned as an “experimental community” revolving around the technology.
His company, Blockchains LLC, has worked in collaboration with Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC) to design “Innovation Park” which will be “developed into a smart city with decentralized Blockchain underlying all infrastructure.”
Toronto-based WZMH Architects has been recruited into Microsoft’s global Internet of Things (IoT) Insiders Labs, a program aimed at “transforming how people, devices, and data interact in every sphere of life.” The firm’s Intelligent Structural Panel (ISP) offers a “plug and play infrastructure” allowing a wide range of spaces and devices to be adapted, remotely-controlled, and optimized.
WZMH is the first architecture firm to be accepted into the program, which takes applications from organizations developing IoT and/or AI solutions.
Following the October 2017 unveiling of NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion futuristic city billed as a “startup the size of a country,” details of the project's progression have been scarce. Situated close to the border with Jordan and the Red Sea, the remote area has been sealed off to visitors, leaving onlookers to speculate with minimal details, such as the announcement by Japan’s Softbank that they were investing in the megacity.
However, news carried by Reuters suggests that the project may be far more advanced than originally expected, reporting that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has arrived in NEOM for a holiday. The news marks a break in tradition from the King’s holiday choices, typically a villa in Morocco or the South of France. Reuters also detail a design document revealed to them offering the first descriptions of what the architecture of NEOM may contain.
The Center for Globalization and Strategy from Barcelona’s IESE Business School has unveiled its annual list of the world’s smartest cities. In its fifth year, the IESE Cities in Motion Index has calculated the performance scores for 165 cities across 80 countries based on an exhaustive rubric of economic and social indicators. Familiar global power centers have maintained their position at the top of the heap, while expanded categories of assessment have helped a few small cities advance their position drastically.
Snøhetta has released images of its proposed sustainable data center concept, named “The Spark.” The project seeks to address the typical high-energy-consuming typology of the data center, transforming it into an “energy-producing resource for communities to generate their own power.”
The proposal is adaptable for a wide range of contexts and can be scaled for any location around the world, fueling connected cities with energy from the center’s excess heat.
In partnership with Lendlease and the University of Melboure, Woods Bagot designed an architectural reflection of the university itself. Named the Carlton Connect Initiative, this masterplan will be a mixed-use precinct where not only university students and staff, but also international business professionals, researchers, and start-ups can come participate in idea exchange. In order to attract the best and brightest for the university, Woods Bagot is pursuing the highest standard of cutting-edge, sustainable design.
A bounty of technological innovations in the 21st century have led to the theorization and implementation of so-called "Smart Cities," urban environments driven by data, and designed for efficiency. Although most smart technology focuses on infrastructure, a new tech startup named UNSense has been launched with adopts a human-centric approach, focusing on health and wellbeing.
Founded by Ben van Berkel, Principal Architect of Dutch firm UNStudio, and based in an Amsterdam innovation hub, UNSense aims to use technical interventions in the urban realm to improve people’s physical, mental and social health. As an independent, sister company of UNStudio, UNSense will specialize in sensor-driven technology for user-focused architecture – a "software" approach offering a counterpoint to the "hardware" of UNStudio.
“Smart cities” are the latest urban phenomenon popping up across the globe. Among the newest being realized will be Union Point, a masterplan with a commitment to innovation located just south of Boston, USA.
What is a “smart city?” It is a city in which embeds multiple data collection technologies within the city in hopes of providing a supportive and competitive advantage to the city’s residents and business. Officials then use this data to make their cities safer, healthier, and more efficient. Cities are not geniuses quite yet, but the “smart city” is rethinking the way cities are run.