Envisioning the City of the Future | Blog | design mind. This work caught my eye as it is an interesting view of the future of cities. Cities have become a big focus for sustainable development, social innovation and projections around the future due to the tipping point that was reached in 2008. As, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s human population (3.3 billion people) were living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. “Many of the new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now in preparation for this growth.” http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2007/english/introduction.html

The New Cities Summit in Paris, the inaugural annual conference of the New Cities Foundation, came at the right time (May 2012). It brought together thought leaders in technology, infrastructure, architecture, energy, transport, national and local government, the media, academia, and the non-profit sector from all regions of the world. Seven hundred high-level urban thinkers and city shapers met to discuss the “first truly urban century.”

The report on the frog website and the ebooklet that can be found here indicated the types of discussion which were had for the duration of the conference.

The lives of the people living in those cities can be improved – and the impact of this growth on the environment reduced – by the use of “smart” technologies that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of urban systems. Given that cities are, and always have been, about the clustering of people, digital innovations are now undoubtedly accelerating human interactions in urban environments and readying citizens for contributing to inclusive growth. By unlocking technology, infrastructure and public data, cities can open up new value chains that spawn innovative applications and information products that make possible sustainable modes of city living and working.

This image of the future as it pertains to cities is one which rests upon data, technology and the current acceptance of technology as a key part of everyday life. It makes assumptions about physical energy support, growth, technology driving social inclusion and the links these have to efficiency and effectiveness of urban systems. It is always a useful activity to look at previous attempts to envision future cities as a comparison to the current effort. The Forum for the Future is the UK made a series of movies about the scenarios they developed on the future of urban transport called mega-cities on the move.

Forum for the Future’s scenarios are not predictions or depictions of desirable futures which we wish to promote, and they do not represent our vision of a sustainable future. They are pictures of different possible futures, designed to help people understand the major trends that are shaping our world. They aim to challenge, inspire and excite, so that people feel motivated to plan for a better, more sustainable future.

Compare these images to those found here. Brasilia, Paris, Canberra, Dongtan and The Jetsons are all images of preferred futures at some time.

Work by artist Luc Schuiten reflects his view on what future cities might look like.

The website Vegetal City is conceived as a progression in time and space, through Luc Schuiten’s eye. It takes us on the path of this thoughts about Mother Nature’s presence as a model of a new way of building named by him “archiborescence”.

These type of images can also come out pre-occupations with food as the work around urban food cities demonstrates. For instance, http://issuu.com/designataecom/docs/urbanfoodjungle is the conception of urban food systems that positively give back to the ecosystem rather than degrading it.

There are also images of urban futures that are a reaction to climate change and peak oil, such as the work done by Transition Towns, James Kunstler and Post Carbon Cities.

As is said often about images of the future – it is as interesting to interrogate them for what they reveal, as much as what they conceal.

What are the ‘taken for granted’ assumptions in these futures? Who benefits? Who doesn’t? Which voices are silenced?