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.
Dutch design practice UNStudio has created a new urban vision to create the world's smartest neighborhood in the Netherlands. Located in Helmond’s Brandevoort District, the project was imagined as a flexible grid that will be developed per users’ demand. Dubbed the Brainport Smart District, the project explores social cohesion and safety, health, data, new transport technologies and independent energy systems. The BSD is designed to be a living lab that embraces experimentation and ‘learning by doing’.
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.
The government of Moscow has begun developing an existing district in the city to test nearly 30 new ‘smart’ technologies for urban development. Home to over 8,000 people, the district is testing ideas on smart lighting, smart waste management, and smart heating. The city intends to evaluate what impact technologies bring to residents and adjust its urban renewal plan once the pilot is complete.
Due to rapid population and economic growth, Indonesia is facing issues such as land subsidence and rising sea levels. To combat these problems and more, SHAU Architects created a master plan for the Jakarta Jaya Foundation focused on large-scale land reclamation to integrate green space. By addressing impending challenges, SHAU Architects proposal, Jakarta Jaya: the Green Manhattan, won a Smart Cities prize at the World Architecture Festival 2017.
In order to be successful in any field, professionals must stay ahead of the curve—though in architecture nowadays, technology progresses so quickly that it’s difficult to be on the front lines. Virtual Reality can transport architects and their clients into unbuilt designs and foreign lands. Smart Cities implement a network of information and communication technologies to conserve resources and simplify everyday life. Responsive Design will give buildings the ability to be an extension of the human body by sensing occupants' needs and responding to them.
With the technology boom, if architects want to stay in the game they will inevitably have to work alongside not only techies but scientists too. Neuroscientist Colin Ellard works “at the intersection of psychology and architectural and urban design.” In his book, Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Ellard examines how our technology-based world impacts our emotions and behavior to try to figure out what kind of world we should strive to create.
“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.
An investment firm run by Microsoft founder Bill Gates has paid $80 million for 25,000 acres of Arizona desert to serve as the site of a new “smart city.” To be known as Belmont, the city will be made up of 80,000 residences, as well offices, retail spaces and civic amenities such as schools and police stations. The city will serve as a test ground for the latest in logistical and infrastructural technologies.
The University of Virginia’s School of Architecture Dean Ila Berman recently announced her intention to launch the NEXT CITIES INSTITUTE, an interdisciplinary design and research platform focused on the rapidly changing dynamics of global urban futures.
The Indian Government’s Smart City Mission, launched in 2015, envisions the development of one hundred “smart cities” by 2020 to address the country’s rapid urbanization; thirty cities were added to the official list last week, taking the current total of planned initiatives to ninety. The $7.5-billion mission entails the comprehensive development of core infrastructure—water and electricity supply, urban mobility, affordable housing, sanitation, health, and safety—while infusing technology-based “smart solutions” to drive economic growth and improve the citizens’ quality of life in cities.
In a country bogged down by bureaucratic corruption, the mission has been commended for its transparent and innovative use of a nation-wide “City Challenge” to award funding to the best proposals from local municipal bodies. Its utopian manifesto and on-ground implementation, however, are a cause of serious concern among urban planners and policy-makers today, who question if the very idea of the Indian smart city is inherently flawed.
Future cities have captured our imaginations for centuries. From Thomas F. Anderson’s 1900 vision for a Future Boston, through Le Corbusier’s 1924 Ville Radieuse, to modern ‘future-proof’ cities such as Songdo, South Korea, architects and town planners have considered how cities will respond to the movement of people, capital, technology, and ideas.
Today, groups such as the Senseable City Laboratory at MIT have been created with the goal of suggesting ideas for the city of tomorrow. Through a technique known as ‘Futurecraft’, the Senseable City Lab places the designer in a possible future environment and asks them to generate design proposals which could enhance daily life. As we are about to see, some of their ideas would make heads turn even in a galaxy far far away.
The international contest is open to students, graduates and experts and its aim is to imagine and design possible scenarios of the city of the future: How will smart and sharing cities look like in the future? How are these changes going to impact on people’s lives in cities?
In 1925, Italian designer Armando Brasini created a sweeping masterplan to transform the Albanian capital city of Tirana. Almost one hundred years later, the Tirana 2030 (TR030) Local Plan by Italian firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has been approved by Tirana City Council. Collaborating with UNLAB and IND, Boeri seeks to define a new era in the country’s capital, incorporating controlled development, advanced infrastructure, green corridors, and an enhancement of the city’s architectural heritage.
In an interview withThe Indian Express, Rahul Mehrotra—conservationist, architect and author of Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral MEGACITY—talks to Shiny Varghese about his belief that the current notion of a 'smart city' is about "blanket replication, [which] will result in gated communities and flattening of the city, driven by infrastructure and investment." He argues that this approach "will create a form of exclusion."
Has the concept of the smart city "crystallised into an image of the city as a vast, efficient robot?" In the age of the "Internet of Things," where does the citizen fit in? In this article from The Guardian, journalist Steven Poole takes a critical stance against the purported utopian ideals of smart cities. Poole delves into the nuances of who the smart city is truly meant to serve, questions the debate over whether it should develop along a top-down or bottom-up approach, and poses the provocative thought: "a vast network of sensors amounting to millions of electronic ears, eyes and noses - also potentially enable(s) the future city to be a vast arena of perfect and permanent surveillance by whomever has access to the data feeds." Questions of control, virtual reality, free-will, and hierarchies of power, Poole asserts are critical to the discussion of technology's powerful role in the future. Read the full article to learn more about the possible potential of the smart city to "destroy democracy," here.
Last year the UN General Assembly issued a resolution to “designate 31 October, beginning in 2014, as World Cities Day.” A legacy of the Expo 2010 Shanghai, the first World Cities day is being hosted today in Shanghai, with the aim of focusing on global urbanization and encouraging cooperation among countries to solve and promote sustainable urban development worldwide.
“In a world where already over half the population lives in urban areas, the human future is largely an urban future, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on the importance of World Cities Day. “We must get urbanization right, which means reducing greenhouse emissions, strengthening resilience, ensuring basic services such as water and sanitation and designing safe public streets and spaces for all to share. Liveable cities are crucial not only for city-dwellers but also for providing solutions to some of the key aspects of sustainable development.”
To celebrate World Cities day, we’ve rounded up 23 articles that you can’t miss on critical issues relating to our cities, ranging from sustainability to addressing equality and creative solutions for integrating cycling into our cities.
Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments below.
"Architects and the City" is the overarching theme for this year’s main conference sessions, and the talks will focus on the contributions architects can make to cities and how they affect – and are affected by – politics, infrastructure, planning communities and technology. Conference talks include “Greening the urban landscape: strategies for environmental urbanism,” “Question time- is ‘iconic’ architecture out of control?" and “Connecting the city; regenerating communities.”
The festival also features an impressive line-up of key note speakers, including Rocco Yim of Rocco Design Associates who will speak on his involvement in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the largest arts and cultural project in Hong Kong to date, and Richard Rogers who will speak candidly about his life as one of the most influential global figures in architecture and his future agenda. Moshe Safdie will close the Festival, looking back over his extensive career to talk exclusively about the defining moments that shaped its path.