Come 2050 What Might Cities Look Like
There are lots of movies around that feature cities of the future as part of their central theme. It’s a popular concept with Hollywood and it shows we all like to imagine and dream about what our cities might look like 50 or so years into the future. Blade Runner is one interesting example.
First released in 1984 the movie was set in a future LA of 2017. We’ve reached that date and LA looks nothing like the movie imagined. Thankfully.
What this example does show is that as a society we are emotionally connected cities, they reflect every aspect of our society, cities reflect our hopes and our fears. And while the Blade Runner idea of a city has not materialised there’s still lots of changes always taking place. Cities represent constant change is part of what makes cities attractive and dynamic places.
You only need to walk through the centre of Sydney to see very dynamic change taking place, or look out of the window of any plane landing at Mascot to see an entire city evolving with new development.
The pace, quality and style of development that takes place in our cities sits at the foundation of our society, as places we live, work and grow as a community.
There are a huge number of factors that come into play. Many of the aspects of city living are very personal to us, because they will determine where we choose to live, the quality of our homes and the lifestyle we lead, the look and feel of our community, and that impacts the social fabric.
As cities continue to grow and house ever more of the population the reality of 2050 is fast approaching and there will be a need to accommodate the growth.
Cities Have a Long History
Cities have a long history, and they frequently come under pressure as services and infrastructure adopt and population density grows.
Population density has always been an issue. Given that the Romans had 10-storey apartment buildings, and the modern version has been around since the late 1940’s, with a rich history in between, you’d think that we might have solved all the issues related to high-density living by now.
Modern day events show that’s not the case, planning and building great cities remains a challenge. It’s a challenge that must be met on varied scales, city-wide, nationally but also at an individual level with apartment designs and buildings that work as desirable, and affordable homes.
Density is at the centre of this growth cycle, and just how does a city manage greater numbers of people. Most Australian cities have very low density, Sydney averages around 36 people per hectare, but that figure drops to 18 in Perth. Contrast that with other major urban areas like Singapore with 1120/ha, or London at 560/ha or Tokyo-Yokohama at 440/ha.
Cities are about creating places that deliver a quality of life that involves not only economic goals, but also addresses the arts and culture and importantly, environmental issues. If you have population densities like the few quoted, then planning is a very immediate and urgent issue.
Headline density numbers can be a very emotional issue, one that will almost always and perhaps understandably polarise opinion. Planning is key and Singapore is often sighted for its success which is partly built upon two levels of planning, a 10-year plan that looks after the immediate needs of today and a 50-year plan that takes a long-term view that also meets the inter-generational needs of the city.
Successful city planning is also being improved by the reduction of boundaries between the various professionals involved, so that for example health-care is linked to the environment, and architects, engineers and builders act together to deliver the best outcomes.
Co-operation in city planning might also benefit from a trend to crowdsourcing problem solving, which is a relatively new concept that opens problem solving to an almost unlimited resource and might just help unlock some great innovations.
With cities facing such pressures the delivery of services like energy, transport, schools and medical facilities is a big task, and we should not forget the importance of art and culture. One question we might ask is: are the political structures we have in place to manage cities up to the task, or do we need a new style of city management? Some would suggest we do.