Jack Uldrich
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The Future of Urban Planning?

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Forbes has an interesting article discussing South Korea’s new $35 billion planned city, Songdo. The article attempts to portray the city as a vision of “future cities,” yet after reading the article I am less than convinced. I’m sure the main planners, Gale International, are doing a great many things which are not discussed in the article but it seems as though much of the technology discussed will soon be rendered obsolete by new technology. It was—and still is—unclear to me how the city planners are thinking about incorporating future technologies into the planning process.

Obviously, this is extremely tricky, since no one—and I mean no one—knows what such future technologies will be but, at a minimum, I would argue that “flexibility” must be an important principle. For example, how can buildings change function as the average age of the community grows older or new industries come into existence? Or how will hospitals change as the city’s emphasis on preventative medicine takes root or how will schools be transformed if virtual reality technologies become more prominent?

Furthermore, fuel cell buses and water canels are all fine and well but what happens if battery technologies grow exponentially better and electric vehicles become the norm? Alternatively how might the city’s energy infratsructure change if tidal power becomes more viable?

The bottomline, I guess, is this: future cities are likely to look much different than Songdo because, if for no other reason, cities and technologies are constantly changing. Beware of anyone who claims to know what the vision of “future” cities will look like.

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