The Future City

Juanjo Ortega

How to imagine the cities of the future? This is one of the hardest questions for architects, designers, and urban planners, question that they must answer when more than half the world population lives in urban settlements. Compared to the situation of a century ago, when just a 10% of the population lived in the cities, we realize how complicated this issue is and how needed is to think about it.

We will analyze a new urban strategy, the hybrid urbanism, which offers an overlay of the programs to live, work, and thought for a hyper-mobile population. The new urban proposals must try to transform our life: projects should help to preserve the natural landscape with architecture and urban planning should have deep connections with the location, culture, and environment. Always from a sustainable city approach, key for the future of the city.

Step 1

Pollution and its concentration in big capitals of the world (like New Delhi or Madrid with its famous cloud) is a real problem that can get worse over the years. This is due to, in part, to the exponential increase in population and motor vehicles, increasing in a thousand cars per day. One possibility of how to confront this issue could be recycling old cars to reuse them as a new construction material for the structure of new buildings. Also, buildings should be designed as city lungs to clean the air of the polluted cities of the future through a series of green houses that will work as filters.

Another way to focus on the problem could be taking specific measures in the most contaminated cities of the world by acting directly from inside. The recycling of urban residues to be used as construction materials in a large scale, so large that they could even turn into a city themselves. We imagine an exoskeleton in the different ways of life and work or functional packages to be plugged in this skeleton. Each unit would be designed for a specific program.

Hundreds of terraces would be used for collecting rain water and for agriculture, while some specific locations would be used to bury organic residues in order to produce biogas, power and fertilizers.

Step 2

The city of the future must also rethink the roll of symbolic vertical architecture, so representative of occident: the skyscraper. The construction of sky scrapers has been an architectural solution in areas with a high urban density for its ability to combine height with a small vertical projection. Nowadays there is a constant competition between the large metropolis and between countries to build the tallest structure, but it has been shown that this typology sometimes is not appropriate for medium size cities. It is more a representation, a symbolic intention than a functional intention. Despite this specific element, the city is still thought from a two-dimension perspective. It would be more interesting to conceive the city as a three-dimension element, proposing three-dimension urban networks. The city is an infrastructure of a three-dimension network organized through horizontal and vertical streets offering shorter paths, with a larger urban density but a better local communication, less social isolation, and larger number of neighborhood interaction, trying to eliminate the dehumanization of the cities, which is possibly increasing. To create a hyper-rectangle, where residents could occupy a construction cluster with X, Y, and Z coordinates. The new city is designed to be able to expand by adding new infrastructure modules, through residential plug-ins which depend less on the specific conditions of the location as it happens today.

Step 3

In this line of new conception of the city as three-dimensional element, we could keep thinking about it from the point of view of sustainability.

The high density city of the future must focus in its three dimensions, allowing confronting issues linked to sustainability. As a possibility, it is conceived as a compact hybrid mass, where residents live and work in the same area, even included in the same unit along with schools, hospitals, and parks.
The city of the future must address the physical and financial problems of the different sectors, preserving the hybrid housing and the strong community links.

This new way of focusing on the city could make that we rethink on the urban system specific of the touristic areas, towards a development based on sustainability. The future urban fabric will have to eliminate the unplanned urban expansion and bring back ways of life nowadays forgotten. The main concept of planning consists on concentrating a network of effective infrastructures in small areas with mainly touristic buildings where visitors and workers share the resources and the facilities.
Nowadays, most hotels belong to large international corporations. With this concentrating strategy the owners would also benefit, because there would be less transportation, reducing the administration costs, betting both for a financial and urban sustainability.