"When you look at a city, it is like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride
of everyone who built it."
Hugh Newell Jacobsen
Mankind is facing a challenging shift which is sometimes compared to changes brought by the Industrial Revolution. Certainly in the last couple of decades, we saw the urban population grow extensively. Therefore mankind is at a defining point in how our (people's) urban life will look like even in the very near future. The growing urban population along with ongoing climate change and declining resources seem to be challenges which will transform the future of cities worldwide.
Undoubtedly, cities are dense network of information, goods and people, not to mention that they are centers of both innovation and knowledge management. According to data, as many as 400 cities around the world have over 1 million citizens. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area with approximately 28 million, while New York has roughly 20 million.
Scientists are arguing whether the upcoming changes will bring either revolution or evolution of the cities in general, in fact it is not so important. What is important is the fact that, without a doubt, the cities in not so far future will change not only an appearance, but the way of functioning as well.
Factors of the r/evolution
These days approximately half of the world's population lives in cities. And recent data shows that the urban population is still growing and nothing probably will reverse the trend. On one hand, urban areas make up only 2 percent of the world's land. On the other hand, they spend as much as three-quarters of the world's resources.
The 2004 United Nation HABITAT report predicted that as much as 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2030. By 2050 urban growth will have continued to increase, according to another research. What's more, only in the United States approximately 90 million homes and about 190 billion square feet of nonresidential space will be built.
Who has never been at least once fed up with the traffic? Contemporary cities welcome us with traffic and difficulty to find free parking lots. Yet these are the urban signs of the fact that cars are common and natural way of transport these days. And as more people move to cities, everything indicates that they will be increasingly dependent on cars. We should keep in mind that cars have not lost their meaning of social status. In some ways this meaning has been even strengthened lately.
However, the Center for Architecture in New York City showed an alternative vision for the cities of 2030 envisioning them without car presence to such an extent as we experience it nowadays. The use of express bus rapid transit and the increased capacity for bicyclists and pedestrians have been recommended as a cure for the growing presence of cars and car-related issues as well.
Another issue that might be a factor of the upcoming r/evolution of the cities is the matter of agriculture. These days people use land equal in size to the continent of South Africa to grow food as well as raise livestock. According to demographers' estimates, the world will be populated with approximately 9,5 million people by 2050. Taking everything into consideration, including the fact that a person requires a minimum of 1,500 calories per day, mankind will have to cultivate another 2 billion acres to keep up with demand.
Other factors might also lead to the emergence of the cities of the future, just to mention the sea level rise, risks of flooding, etc. All of these call for change in the urban planning of cities which should be more eco-friendly and people-friendly at the same time. People-friendliness is one of the aims of the future cities as these days cities become an integral place of human life which sometimes seems to be a modern jungle with all dangers included.
Yet the question remains how the city of the future will look like. Will we see the cities of future looking like taken from science fiction movies or will they just incorporate the newest technology to ease every-day life and minimize the effects of overpopulation making themselves easier places to live?
Kent Larson's vision
Kent Larson believes that the answer to gripes of the modern world is the creation of responsive cities. He is strongly convinced that the obsolete model being used from 1950s and 1960s has to be change. The city of the future, in his opinion, is a place for people. The question is how to create the city without its negative aspects, including congestion, pollution and disease as well.
New technologies should be widely used to help with the problem of urban overcrowding and cities should be designed the way to optimize land usage so many contemporary problems will be solved. His envisioned version of the city of the futures includes folding cars, apartments with quick-change robotic walls, vehicles sharing and shared offices as well. He holds an opinion that one of the first things which should be created is better mobility systems for urban areas. Shared-use vehicles for at least four people could be an answer.
Moreover, Kent Larson believes that we should look for an inspiration in cities which consist of neighborhoods where each single person could reach his basic needs within 20 minutes walk. Cyril Connolly stated: "No city should be too large for a man to walk out of in a morning."
Green Cities are another vision of the cities of the future as they are aimed at reducing or even eliminating fossil-fuel use, promoting "green spaces" and public transportation. The idea is very similar to the idea of the city of the future developed by Kent Larson himself as the aim is to create sustainable urbanism.
Even though green cities are incredibly expensive, they seem to be an answer to all of the environmental gripes mankind has been struggling with. The urban population grows and at the same time the pollution grows as well. Therefore current generations need to focus on developing green, responsive and responsible cities which will be able to cope with issues including the urban overcrowding, pollution, crimes, etc., using the technology of the future as an advance.
Certainly , most environmentalists are focused mainly on cutting down the fossil-fuel use and using sustainable materials for building the cities of the future. Yet, the cities of the future also have to be built and designed the way which will enable its citizens to fully enjoy and take advantage of new technologies so that living conditions will be more tailored to their needs. The Seascraper is one of these projects aimed at building a sustainable green city of the future. The conception of the Seascraper envisions self-sufficient community of houses, workplace and recreational space at the same time.
Tech-savvy cities of the future
What will the cities of the future look like? Concepts of architectures differ significantly from each other. Yet they have a few things in common, they want to make the private and professional lives of its inhabitants more sustainable as well as make them more eco-friendly using new technologies at the same time.
Technologies, which are now under the construction or will be, should concentrate on couple of issues which will make the cities of the future good places to live, work and socialize at. Technologies should focus on the issue of feeding, including the possible use of urban gardens. These days alternatives to fossil-fuel travels are being worked on, which will not only help to reduce the pollution, but also to economize the space as well. Folding cars, shared cars, pod cars and driverless buses might be used even in the near future. Housing of the fast-growing urban population is another issue which is aimed at finding the way to make building more efficient and less wasteful at the same time. While thinking about the future apartments, the robotic walls might be the answer, as it was highlighted by Kent Larson.
Cities are, certainly, well-positioned to spearheading the greening of the global economy by using technological developments in transport, energy, building, etc. The cities of the future might produce economic and social benefits as well. However, to achieve this, the cities of the future will have to adopt development strategies.