In the southeast corner of Iowa, near the small town of Fairfield, lies the state’s newest utopian community. Here, followers of an Indian guru have built their own city, following ancient traditions with modern twists. 3,000-year-old Sanskrit texts guide everything from meditation to architecture, but solar panels are visible around almost every corner and an accredited university runs its film school out of the city. And all of this has developed in the last 70 years.Read more
Hiatus: The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
When I started reading this book, I didn’t intend to review it. It was a birthday gift, and it didn’t seem like it fell in with the other books I’ve reviewed here, which were perhaps weightier or more profound. The 99% Invisible City isn’t that, and that’s precisely why I felt I needed to review it once I was done.Read more
Visible Yet Unverifiable: The Panopticon
Surveillance pervades modern society. From CCTV cameras to cellphones to digital tracking, it can be impossible to tell whether someone is watching. This monitoring almost certainly affects our behavior, and theories about exactly how it does have a long history, tracing back to a model of the ideal prison: the Panopticon. Read more
Arcology, Arcosanti, and Paolo Soleri’s Evolution of Cities
About 110 km north of Phoenix, Arizona, in the middle of a semi-arid desert, you’ll find an odd sight: a community of rough concrete buildings sitting on a mesa. Inside, brass and ceramic wind-bells are cast and sold, construction on the development continues, and, in theory, all the needs of a modern city are met with minimal environmental impact. This is Arcosanti, the brainchild of Paolo Soleri, built to prove his vision of architecture and ecology working hand in hand. Read more
The Farms of Detroit: Urban Agriculture in the Motor City
Detroit has a long history of agriculture, from the French farmers who colonized the area and set up ribbon farms along the river to the Panic of 1893, which prompted Mayor Hazen S. Pingree to open empty lots for farming. With the growth of the auto industry, the city’s agriculture faded into the past. Now, as the city plans for shrinkage, a resurgence in agriculture is making its way through cracks in the urban fabric. Read more
Detroit: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Motor City
In recent years, Detroit has become a byword for the decline of industrial cities in the United States. The community grew rapidly with industrialization in the mid-1900s, faced political, social, and economic turmoil through the rest of the century, and decayed into a disaster of infrastructure. Today, Detroit is finding its own way in the future of urban life, and it just might prove an example for all of the cities facing their own changing futures. Read more
Hiatus: Comparing 3 Smart Cities
Author’s Note: With my finals week closing in, I’ve had to once again push off my next major post. Once summer starts, I’ll start building up a backlog again, and have new posts for the rest of the year. Until then, here’s another piece I wrote for my Smart Cities class.
New Songdo City
New Songdo City, AKA Songdo International Business District (IBD), is a South Korean planned city begun in 2008. The city was designed by an international partnership, led by two New York companies. The plan covers many distinct and occasionally contradictory goals. First, Songdo aims to be the first “ubiquitous city,” with technology in every aspect of residents’ lives (Kshetri, Alcantara, & Park, 2014). It was also built near the Incheon International Airport as an aerotropolis, claiming to be “a 3 ½ hour flight to 1/3 of the world’s population” (Songdo IBD, 2015). Songdo’s developers also claim it is a sustainable green city, but it is clear the main goal is to be a hub for international business. Read more
South Korea’s Ubiquitous City: New Songdo
New Songdo City, South Korea has been in planning and construction since 2003. It is and has been many things: a truly global city, an aerotropolis supported by the nearby Incheon International Airport, a green city, a “ubiquitous city” with technology in every aspect of life, and the backdrop to scenes in the video for the hit song “Gangnam Style.” As an early and long-running smart city project, Songdo says a lot about what we want from our cities of the future – and about what we may actually get. Read more
Vienna’s Seaside City
Seestadt Aspern, literally the seaside city at Aspern, is home to Smart City Wien’s large-scale experiments. The planned community of 20,000 people in the northeast corner of Vienna will be completed in 2028. Much like Masdar City, Aspern aims to act as a “living laboratory” to prove various new technologies, from smart electric meters to entire smart energy grids. Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR), the company in charge of research in Aspern, sorts its projects into four “Smart” areas: Building, Grid, User, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Teaching an Old City New Tricks in Vienna
Vienna, Austria stands apart from other cities I have written about in a number of ways:
- It’s the first–although probably not the last–I’ve noted that existed well before being envisioned as a city of the future.
- It’s one of the most successful cities in the world. It is widely recognized both for its exceptional quality of life and, more recently, as one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.
However, such a community still faces problems. The Smart City Wien (literally, Smart City Vienna) initiative, created in 2011, lays out the issues of the modern city and Vienna’s commitment to solving them.