How do we imagine the cities of tomorrow? This is one of the most difficult questions that architects, designers, and urban planners need to answer in a time where more than half of the world’s population lives in urban settlements – a mere century ago only ten percent of the people inhabited urban dwellings. We have reached an era where the exponential growth of population, along with the shortage of natural resources, and the destruction of the natural environment, jeopardize the balance of the entire planet. In China alone, five-hundred-million people are migrating from rural to urban areas; a desperate measure to improve their quality of life, and fulfill the promise of higher salaries in a country of imbalanced economic growth.
Recognizing the biggest problems of our time is the first step to investigate the future of our existing cities and the possible conception of new ones. We start off with two essays with provocative analyses of the history of urbanism from 1850 through 1975. The second half of the 19th century saw the work of Georges Eugène Haussmann modernize Paris with a new circulation grid of broader rectilinear streets and boulevards that connected monuments and plazas, while the beginning of the 20th century was a laboratory for experimentation, including Edgar Chambless’ Roadtown, where a series of row houses run along rail lines from Baltimore to Washington. Soon afterwards, Le Corbusier proposes the Radiant City as a generic city plan based on the influence that spatial characteristics have on a sociological level – determining the appropriate space, ventilation, and illumination according to their effect on our senses. Richard Neutra followed those principles in Rush City, while Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were able to see their ideas materialized with the creation of Brasilia as the new capital for Brazil -it was imagined as two programmatic axes, the first one for residences and the second one for administrative, cultural, and recreational activities.
From 1960 to 1980 other visionary architects proposed urban fantasies and utopias rethinking the way we should live. They used pop culture imagery and technological advances to redefine the term metropolis. Yona Friedman’s Bridge City and Constant’s New Babylon explore mega-structures in the air for mobile societies, while Superstudio’s Continous Monument and Rem Koolhaas’ Exodus explore a post-capitalistic environment. In the same line we include the work of many other innovative architects including projects by the Japanese Metabolists, Archigram, Archizoom, Alison & Peter Smithson, and Buckminster Fuller.
Other essays explore the future of urbanism and the influence of pleasure and other primal senses in the outcome of architectural production and the development of digital cities fused to real ones to create a quasi-virtual reality – a city customized to each user according to specific needs in a specific time and space.
The Depth section is a collection of contemporary projects for new cities around the world. We have included a selection of large-scale projects whose sheer magnitude will restructure existing chaotic urban areas. We have compiled seven urban visions for Australia in 2050 – the most urbanized continent on Earth, with ninety-three percent of people living in cities. These visions include an underwater city, a new typology for the suburbs, a bridge city that could connect Melbourne to Hobart, and a network of small coastal cities linked by infrastructure to create the first city-continent.
Among the large-scale urban projects we analyzed the proposal by Bjarke Ingels Group for Zira Island in Azerbaijan, a zero emission development defined as an “autonomous ecosystem where the flow of air, water, heat, and energy are channeled in natural ways.” In a different but equally optimistic way, Mitchell Joachim, from Terreform One, envisioned three ingenious projects for the cities of tomorrow. The first one, Homeway, proposes a radical change for the future of American dwellings by creating a twenty-first century mobile city. The second one, Fabtree, grows homes from living trees to create a fully integrated ecological community. The third one, Urban Re(f)use, proposes cities built with compacted waste. Other projects included are: UNStudio Creative Zone in Beijing, MAD Architects’ Taichung Center, LAVA’s Masdar development, and WOHA’s vision for Singapore in 2050.
Furthermore, Vincent Callebaut’s Dragonfly is an urban agriculture solution for New York City, with a vertical farm that “not only grows food, but also produces meat, dairy, poultry, and fish, recycles its own waste and water, and produces renewable energy.” Ted Given and Benny Chow’s Suburban Land Reclamation Project, located in the mid-west of the United States, imagines the future of suburban dwellings as kinetic structures that respond to one of the most violent climatic conditions: tornadoes which destroy thousands of homes each year.
Being immersed in one of the worse environmental and economic crises, it seems almost natural that the city of tomorrow should be one that preserves the natural landscape with integral architecture and urbanism with deep connections to site, culture, and environment. Existing cities should be transformed with hybrid buildings that could offer a juxtaposition of programs to live, work, and play for a hyper-mobile population.
123 pages, color ills / 23 x 29 cm / English