Tomorrow's World: What Sustainable Cities May Be Like
Arcosanti, as construction stands today.
CREDIT: The Arcosanti Project.
The world's population recently surpassed 7 billion people, with more than half of humanity expected to live in cities. By 2050, the United Nations projects that nearly 70 percent of people will live in urban areas.
To meet the needs of the population of tomorrow, people have long dreamed of what the city of the future will look like. Architects, visionaries and science fiction writers have long envisioned extremely dense three-dimensional cities that are incredibly sustainable, completely self-contained, extremely efficient and capable of supporting high-density populations.
[INFOGRAPHIC: Arcology- The City of Tomorrow]
Combining architecture and ecology, arcology is a concept coined and championed in the 1960s by Paolo Soleri, an Italian architect. High in the Arizona desert, a community called Arcosanti is teaching Soleri's principles through the construction of a model town.
Eco-friendly cities are also being planned in other countries. In Abu Dhabi, for example, Masdar City is designed to be a pedestrian-friendly, clean tech hub. In South Korea, the connected city of Sungdo is being billed as a connected, efficient city. Many of the concepts that make arcology possible, such as urban gardening, renewable energy and microgrids, are just becoming a reality in already existing cities.
We need both energy-efficient building and an energy-efficient city to achieve arcology. Recent public concern of these efficient building have helped to achieve quite a lot of improvement in terms of technology, said Young Soo Kim, an architect in the planning department at Arcosanti. But arcology is not just about energy-efficient buildings, but viewing the city more comprehensively.
Kim noted that a holistic view is one of the shortcomings of planned cities such as Korea's Sungdo and the failed Dongtan in China, which are delayed or on hold due to economic downturns in those countries. An energy sufficient city doesn't mean sustainable city if a sustainable economy cannot support it, Kim told InnovationNewsDaily.
Arcology is also centered around the concept of new cities, rather than putting a bandage on sprawling, inefficient cities that already exist, said to Andrea Speed, public relations coordinator for Arcosanti.
At Arcosanti, the project has been going for decades but it has been a slow and steady evolution because it is used to teach people through workshops and relies on the work done by those visiting the town, rather than high-profile partnerships or political plans as other cities.
Masdar City is one of the larger projects out there, although its primary focus is around clean technologies and renewable energy rather than reimagining how people will live together in new communities. It is operated by the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Development Company and counts the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Siemens amongst its partners. When completed, it will cover about 3 square miles (6 square kilometers) and will support 40,000 residents in a high-density development and hundreds of businesses, including a research university.
The concept of arcology, however, is not just about cherry-picking ideas such as energy efficiency or walkability for cities, but reimagining sustainability for human culture including having the types of jobs that people would want within the community. One efficient building can solve its own problem, but is very limited to solve the urban scale energy problems. We are at the beginning point to see the bigger picture, said Kim. You don't design and build a city just for technical reasons.
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