Cities of the future will be dense, green and interconnected
par Elsa Sidawy | 07.19.11
Thirty years from now, almost 5 billion people will be living in about thirty megalopolises. This is why the city of the future represents everyone’s fears and raises legitimate questions. The prospective report “Cities of the future, future of cities”, made by Senator Jean-Pierre Sueur, questions tomorrow’s cities. Here is a quick introduction to Sueur’s report, which presents a summary of the challenges that we will have to take up in future and an outline of the envisaged solutions.
Cities are responsible for 80% of CO2 emissions
The report identifies no less than 15 challenges that cities are currently taking up or will take up in future and leads politicians to reflect, among other things, upon the use of water resources – which are becoming scarcer every year – means of transport or the problems raised by the greater social divides and the increasing dangers of industrial disasters, with the issue of the survival of humanity in cities that are becoming more and more dense and polluted as a backdrop. “One of the factors that have the greatest impact on the future evolution of cities is environment. And the shape of cities directly conditions mobility flows.”
Urban sprawl is a source of nuisance
Control over the urban sprawl remains the major challenge pointed at by the report. Indeed urban density is inversely proportional to energy consumption as to people’s journeys. In Wuxi, China, for instance, almost 900 km2 have been conquered by urbanisation within just a few years. “According to these figures, Wuxi is the anti-model of the compact city.” Conversely, Helsinki seems to have understood sustainable development’s principles, despite the fact that it is experiencing Europe’s greatest population growth (1.5%). The city known as “the natural city” is dense but its numerous green lungs enable inhabitants to enjoy their hobbies without having to take the car to go out of the city. Though the Finnish capital is favoured by its natural environment, it is the political authorities who decided how to control the urban sprawl through the implementation of a national scheme in 2003 to encourage urbanisation along the main public transport axes and protect wide agricultural and natural zones.
Networks of cities
In addition, the report suggests 25 lines of inquiry. Among these, there is the more than necessary organisation of networks of cities that would be interconnected and in which information and communication technologies would play a central part. Flimsy housing districts will have to be transformed into more liveable places, more in harmony with the rest of the city (the report predicts over 1.5 billion people living in shantytowns within 2025 versus 1 billion today). The emphasis is also put on the preferable construction techniques: positive-energy buildings must become the norm to reduce cities’ carbon emissions but also “compensate for the overconsumption due to existing buildings, the sustainable renovation of which will take decades.” Modern public means of transport are, according to the authors, “the only human, ecological and urban alternative to the embolisms generated by the all-car policy in city centres.” Finally, these suggestions do not imply the standardisation of cities, which must on the contrary become sources of urban, architectural and cultural diversity. To have the means to succeed, a central body is needed. This is what the authors of the report explicitly write when suggesting the creation of an operational agency under the aegis of the UNO.
- Download the report (in french)
Crédits photos : DR / NASA
Translated by Oona Bijasson