Creating new Intelligent Cities is a grand plan that should be lauded but what if nobody wants to live in the cities you’ve created? Masdar, Curitiba, and Sogndo are all excellent examples of urban planners looking to create viable, sustainable environments but how do you plan for something as intangible as how a city ‘feels’?
New cities are just like new businesses, they need the dynamic individuals, the early-adopters to drive innovation and create an attractive place to live. The cities with the strongest hold on people have long been those with a strong aesthetic dimension.
Think of the world’s global cities: Paris, Tokyo, London, New York, Sydney. These places provoke an emotional attachment, a nostalgic memory or an aesthetic for people around the world. It makes them desirable places to live, regardless of how high the cost of living is. It is these intangible qualities that make them global cities. In a world where talented individuals can pick their place to live, the best aren’t going to settle for generic urban landscapes and bland global tastes. The planned communities of tomorrow have to tailor themselves to the talent that big businesses’ will want to employ.
The same is also true of the urban areas that have existed for hundreds of years. Looking to the future is a healthy exercise. Not just because it provides us with a glimpse of work-in-progress technology. But also because it allows us to see the flaws in our current urban landscape and how these can best be remedied. Companies go bust. Cities rarely do.
People’s strengths are magnified in cities because ideas spread more easily in dense environments. Companies that are located near the geographic centre of their industry are more productive (Silicon Valley, Hollywood, etc) and both wages and skills grow faster. These cities thrive because they are host to quality ideas, not because they build new conference centres.