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.
Masdar City has a number of initiatives aimed at improving its environmental and economic sustainability. One of the largest, and perhaps most effective, are its building requirements: all are expected to reduce energy demand by 40 percent from average, water demand by 30 percent, and to achieve at least a 3 Pearl rating from the Estidama Pearl Rating System (roughly LEED Gold, an exceptional standard of efficiency). This, and the innovation culture inherent in Masdar, has resulted in a number of unique design choices. Read more
A 2010 brochure for Masdar City states, “One day, all cities will be built like this.” Unfortunately, this brochure doesn’t seem to be publicly available outside the Khalifa University Library, and apparently the slogan is disused. The sentiment is, however, is a constant in coverage of the Emirati eco-city, which broke ground in 2008 and is still partially under construction. Now generally described as either the first or the most sustainable city in the world, it was founded under the auspices of One Planet Living, an international framework for sustainable cities; and with backing from the World Wildlife Fund. Unfortunately, as it is now, Masdar City’s example may be a poor one to follow.