Digital technology is becoming ever-more pervasive and the world is increasingly urban. The simultaneous rise of these trends find us at a unique intersection in space and time. In a reflective interview with Smart Circle that ranges from urban mobility and citizen participation to cyber terrorism and the future of sharing, Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab aims to make sense of these changes. It’s a worthwhile read, particularly for those seeking to connect the “smart” city with it’s citizens.
The evolution of cities as labs is clear in a Fast Company interview with Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, a Google startup company. They discuss the opportunity technology presents to solve big urban challenges, the need for scalable solutions and a fourth technology revolution in modern cities. Perhaps most interestingly, Doctoroff emphasizes the need for new technologies to benefit the triple-helix of urban stakeholders: the City, the public and the private sector. A shift towards a kinder, gentler smart city?
As sites of opportunity, cities have a long history of attracting new, poor residents. Terrible housing conditions for these newcomers was well documented and in response, governments began offering social housing. Balancing quality of life, good design and cost has remained a stubborn challenge, however. Numerous designs have been tested, with varying success. Recently, a low-rise, high-density approach has regained popularity. This typology is promoted on the basis of encouraging eyes on the street and creating well-defined spaces, while lower building heights reduce costs. While the success of this typology within current socioeconomic context(s) remains to be seen, a return to this typology suggests that architects, social advocates and policy-makers may be closing in on the (contextually-dependent) Goldilocks of social housing.
It’s been more than two decades since Sim City was first released. During the interim, city-making games have become more popular and nuanced, reflecting a growing public interest in urbanism. More than just fun, these games can teach planners valuable lessons about how we plan and how we envision the idealized city. Games can also be used as valuable engagement tools and to re-imagine the places we call home. Could the games of today lead to the self-building cities of tomorrow?
Many cities take great energy and pride in the factors that make them unique. In an era of rapid urbanization, particularly in developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, is city-making losing touch with context? The Guardian Cities tackles this in an illuminating article on new cities and the challenges of accommodating population growth. With developers, architects and designers regularly jumping from projects on one continent to another, and with local decision-makers seeking to showcase smartness or modernity of their city, is this turn inevitable? Or is their a more suitable approach?
What does the future of transportation in (North) American cities look like? Ecolocalizer tackled this huge question in a recent post. Notably, they foresee fewer private cars on the road, identifying four key factors influencing mobility of the future: technology, a planning evolution, driverless cars, and policy. While they underline that the impacts are difficult to predict (especially for driverless cars), new technologies, good planning and well-crafted policy appear set to contribute to a future of increasingly people-friendly cities.
No longer an emerging concept, the approach and application of the smart city is evolving rapidly. Over at Iambente, Boyd Cohen describes the three generations of smart cities that now exist. Beginning as an industry-led, technology-driven initiative, urban leaders quickly grasped specific applications for this approach, leading to the city-led, technology enabled smart city. In the past year, perhaps inspired by efforts in cities like Medellin, twinned with the sharing economy and pushed by slow economic growth, citizen co-creation has emerged as the third generation. Harnessing the potential of all residents will make cities even more innovative. The next generations of smart cities may be the most interesting and dynamic yet.