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Old Posted May 26, 2016, 7:10 PM
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Story of cities future: what will our growing megacities really look like?

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While augmented reality creates a city individualised for every occupant, and developments in modular architecture and nanotechnology might result in rooms that change form and function at a whim, the problem lies in the unforeseen. The smart city will also be the surveillance city.

- For the moment, we remain largely wedded to superficial visual futures. The likelihood is that the prevailing chrome and chlorophyll vision of architects and urbanists will become as much an enticing, but outdated, fashion as the Raygun Gothic of The Jetsons or the cyberpunk of Blade Runner. Rather than a sudden leap into dazzling space age-style cityscapes, innovations will unfold in real-time – and so too will catastrophes. The very enormity of what cities face seems beyond the realms of believability, and encourages postponement and denial.

- “Cities and populations with generous resources and engineering capacity will likely simply take the defence strategy and build mega engineering structures to keep the water away – similar to the Delta Works in the Netherlands. For those with less cultural and economic investments in the water’s edge, we will likely see retreat as a strategy. However, I see retreat as both a horizontal and vertical operation. So, retreating does not just mean packing up and moving inland, but could also mean elevating above the water.”

- The population explosion and advances of the industrial age have produced unprecedented levels of waste into landfill, the sea and the sky. Countering measures, such as developing nanotechnology that would see buildings alleviate pollution at a molecular level, are still in their infancy. In the meantime, waste is as much a testament to civilisation as our urban skylines. Mcdowellespinosa proposes a shift in thinking: “Waste is just a material state,” McDowell says. “Since it tends to be unwanted, it is cheap.

- “The main issue to overcome in viewing waste as raw material is the energy required to transform the material from a state of refuse to a state of sophistication. There is also the perceptual challenge – how can waste be transformed to acceptable visual and performance standards? We’ve explored this idea in projects such as City of Blubber, which imagines converting Hong Kong’s food waste into a productive bioplastic material.”

- One day, cities may be forced to follow their inhabitants in becoming mobile. Ron Herron’s Walking City for Archigram may still suggest the outer reaches of science fiction, but the idea of moving a city has already happened: the Swedish town of Kiruna was relocated two miles away. And with developments in the assembling of buildings through drones, nanotechnology-enhanced materials and industrial 3D printing, dissembling and deploying them elsewhere could be much easier than at present.


Terreform One’s vision of New York as a smart city. Photograph: Mitchell Joachim/Terreform One

Terreform One’s Ecotarium project in the North Pole is based on the premise of massive human migration to the north to escape severe flooding and increased temperatures. Photograph: Mitchell Joachim/Terreform One

The City of Blubber imagines converting Hong Kong’s food waste into a productive bioplastic material. Photograph: Mcdowellespinosa

The Rapid Re(f)use project supposes an extended New York reconstituted from its own landfill material. Photograph: Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE

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