The future of our cities

A mobile ‘think tank’ traveling the world to inspire ideas for urban life?  Who’d have thought!

The BMW Guggenheim Lab was launched in New York in October 2011 – its goal to inspire innovative ideas for urban design and new ways of thinking about urban life.

What do people talk about today when they discuss the future of cities?

Many things.   The Lab has identified its top 100 most talked-about trends in urban thinking – solutions for urban life, if you will.

Ten out of the one hundred follow.  We picked the ones we liked, of course!

But don’t worry, this isn’t us getting all hi-brow and intelligential – one of the urban ideas we picked is called NON-EXPERT which sums us up to a tee!

However, what is discussed in these forums does have an impact, some of it positive and some negative – the rise of NIMBYism, for example, looks far from finished…

1.  Activist citizen – they don’t rely on governments or institutions for change; they lead change and embrace active community involvement.

2.  Aging population – twenty percent of the population is older than sixty-five; in 2060 (note: this is based on a European model)every third person will have reached that age.  The effect of the aging population on the urban environment and on social services is one of the most significant global challenges and opportunities of the next fifty years.[sam id=37 codes=’true’]

3.  Bottom-up urban engagement – places the citizen at the root of urban change. This approach encourages social, cooperative models of city organization.

4.  City centre versus periphery – focus is often on the city centre and not the periphery when it comes to regeneration and gentrification processes, when both areas require attention.  With the development of megacities, the notion of centre versus periphery is a blurred one, as cities develop multiple centres and urban sprawl continues to expand urban surfaces beyond precise limits.

5.  Crowdfunding – a fundraising strategy that relies on the collective support of many individuals who contribute a small amount of money to support a cause.  It’s a strategy that relies primarily on the Internet to market needs and garner support.

6.  Connectivity – the ability to connect people in better, more efficient ways that allow them to thrive to the best of their capacity. The Lab itself functioned as a connective hub that facilitated an exchange of ideas.  In urban environments, citizens can connect through the proliferation of widespread technology, and just as importantly, through personal, narrative connections that reflect micro histories of place.

7.  Customisation – i.e. flexibility.  The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in products and services that are designed and built to user specifications. Customisation has the potential to transform the way we build and inhabit cities, making them ever more flexible, personalized, and liveable.

8.  Decentralisation – In urban planning, decentralization has been referred to as an alternative to cities’ central infrastructure and social systems. A dispersion of centres is seen as a way to avoid dependency on a centralized system whose malfunction could cause widespread disruption.

Here’s something we had to say about decentralisation, jobs and traffic congestion.

9.  Deregulation – the premise here is that decreased government regulation can lead to individual/institutional initiative and localised solutions.

10. Disneyfication – the transformation of the built environment to resemble the logic of a theme park – the issue being the creation of a simulated reality rather than the preservation of historical elements and cultural differences.  Here in Queensland, Clive Palmer’s golf course comes to mind. 



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Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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