Constructing a Vision for an ‘ideal’ Future City: a Conceptual Model for Transformative Urban Planning



Constructing a Vision for an ‘ideal’ Future City: a Conceptual Model for Transformative Urban Planning

Authors

Nick Tyler, University College London, Adriana Ortegon, University College London

Description

As part of the EPSRC programme grant Transforming the Engineering of Cities we are conducting research to use visioning as a tool to radically transform the way in which cities are engineered to move towards future sustainability

Abstract

Because of the increases in complexity of their functionality and the limitations imposed by the existing uncoordinated frameworks for designing and managing urban systems, cities are facing great challenges (e.g. resource scarcity, institutional barriers, narrow accounting frameworks, lock-in due to infrastructure, inequality, congestion, crime, diseases). A clear example of this is the unintended impacts that transport infrastructure provision has had in urban sprawl in cities in countries like the USA (UN HABITAT, 2013) and the implications of this for population’s accessibility to activities and the associated economic and environmental costs. This suggests that the ways in which cities have developed until now will not be appropriate for a sustainable future. As such, innovative tools for planning and engineering coordinated solutions to transform cities’ systems to address urban challenges is at the heart of sustainable living in the future.

As part of the EPSRC programme grant Transforming the Engineering of Cities we are conducting research to understand precisely how to radically transform the way in which cities are engineered to move towards future cities that address current challenges and promote long-term well-being for society and the planet. After reviewing evidence of urban transformations, we identified that, in most cases, the starting point for transformations was a high level vision and a strong participatory approach with the local communities to define goals - the main functions that the city had to provide- that underpinned all projects and policies.

Because of the importance of setting a vision for achieving transformations the initial task for our research was to define a way of developing a vision of a future sustainable city. The methodology used for defining the future city vision had to move beyond the all-too-common ‘political wish list’ and had to enable the vision to be defined as a result of a rigorous process. To develop this process we divided the work into two phases. The first phase included a series of work sessions held with transport sector authorities in Latin America, the UK and China. The second phase is an ongoing series of sectoral visioning workshops conducted in London and other UK cities in collaboration with researchers from Lancaster University.

The result of the first phase was an initial preferable future vision that serves the purpose of a concrete Utopia, as defined by Bloch, which simultaneously anticipates and influences the future. This preferable future vision, defined as the 5-cities model (Tyler, 2013), stands on a very high level in the city planning as a driver of processes towards the desired future. The 5-cities model constructs the future vision as a set of principles which are independent of the usual sectoral divisions that characterise city policy, design and operation. These principles provide non-sectoral aims and outcomes to which each and all of the city’s systems and sectors must contribute and take their share of the responsibility for delivery. The principles are set out as five characteristics for a city. 1) A Courteous city that stimulates positive social interactions and promotes behaviours that facilitate the functionality of the city. 2) An Active and inclusive city that ensures people’s fair access to opportunities to meet their needs and aspirations. 3) A City as public space in which all public spaces are designed as open and accessible to provide protection, safety and security and create a sense of belonging and ownership. 4) A Healthy city that is conceived to ensure the good health of people and the environment today and for future generations. 5) An Evolving City designed to be adaptable, flexible, innovative and responsive especially for its soft infrastructures (i.e. governance, policies, financing, economy, among others), and which learns and adapts dynamically accordingly to people’s behaviours.

For the second phase of the research, we aimed to complement the initial vision with a grounded basis. In this case, we gathered a group of experts within each of a number of sectors – Retail, Environment, Architecture, etc. – and obtained from them their view of a preferable future city vision from their perspective. This yields a set of ‘future city visions’ which are conceptualized independently, but coherently due to the context of the visioning exercise. Each workshop is analysed to identify the high level principles or functionalities defined for the future city. The results of sectoral workshops are combined by juxtaposing the terms and phrases from the different sectors to create a unified future vision and provide evidence of pressure points, barriers and triggers for change.

Publisher

Association for European Transport