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
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
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
Authors Note: I’m taking a bit of a hiatus for January to get ahead on my researching and writing, as well as my classwork, but I didn’t want to leave nothing for a month. Here’s a little something about a book that I read last semester.
D.J. Waldie’s Holy Land describes a city that may not be of the future, per se, but was certainly a utopia to some. Waldie grew up and still lives in a tract home in Lakewood, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Built in the years after World War II, Lakewood was the second “new” suburb in the United States, following in the footsteps of Levittown, New York. The book itself is a lyrical examination of a life in a place, and a place through the lives in it.
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).
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.
Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities have inspired almost every aspect of modern urban planning. Most suburbs, and many cities, draw on bits and pieces of the design. There are a number who have actually aspired, at least in name, to be true garden cities. It is worth noting that very few have even attempted Howard’s drastic economic and social ideas, and those that did abandoned them not long after founding.
The full list and map of “official” garden cities according to the International Garden Cities Institute, can be found here, but here I’ll just be looking at a few I find interesting.
Ask anyone who’s studied urban planning to explain the field’s history and one of the first names you’ll hear is Ebenezer Howard.
Howard was an English shorthand typist in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. While working in Chicago, he saw the troubles of modern cities, such as rampant growth and housing shortages. He witnessed the struggle to resolve these issues in England after returning to London as a parliamentary reporter.
In his 1898 book, To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (reprinted in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow), Howard laid out his solution: the garden city. Just five years after the book’s release, the first of these communities was founded: Letchworth Garden City, in Hertfordshire County, north of London.