GDR’s Managing Editor John O’Sullivan highlights five game-changing innovations that hint at the possibilities of smart cities.
The concept of the tech-powered smart city is something that has been talked about for decades, but the reality is now almost upon us. Rapid developments in myriad technologies, most notably 5G, automation and renewable energy production, mean that ideas previously reserved for science fiction are currently being rolled out at pace.
At the same time, the rise of ecommerce and, more recently, the effect of the pandemic, has radically altered the way we use our city and town centres. This means the existing city model has never been more ripe for disruption and change.
Around the world new smart city concepts are now breaking ground that fundamentally reimagine how urban spaces should be designed and lived in. In this article I highlight my five favourite recent examples that show how smarter logistics and more thoughtful, community-focused design will help make the cities of tomorrow more convenient, greener and pleasurable to live in.
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Toyota has begun construction of Woven City – a prototype city of the future located at the base of Mount Fuji. The new, 175-acre urban development in Higashi-Fuji will offer a fully connected ecosystem and be powered by clean energy produced through hydrogen fuel cells.
Toyota sees the development as a kind of living laboratory, where full-time residents and researchers will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment. The initial plan is for 2,000 people to live in Woven City.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has revealed plans earlier this year for a 100-mile linear city made up of small, ‘modular’ communities in which residents can walk to all the necessary public amenities within five minutes.
Dubbed ‘The Line’, the city will be powered entirely by renewable energy and will have no cars or streets. Residences will be built around local amenities within easy walking distance and transport across the city will take place underground.
Architects Guallart have been selected to build a ‘Covid-proof’ city of the future in Xiong’an, China. Guallart’s plans for the city include self-sufficiency to help it handle future lockdowns or outbreaks. Residences have their own energy systems and terraces that have been designed specifically with drone deliveries in mind.
Other elements of the plans focus on sustainability and changing behaviours. The economy will be driven by coworking spaces, while local food will be grown in urban vegetable gardens and sold at food markets.
Nissan has launched an exhibition space in Yokohoma, Japan, that reimagines how cities of the future may be powered. The Nissan Chaya Café at the 10,000-square-meter, zero-emission Nissan Pavilion is powered entirely by energy from visitors’ electric cars. In lieu of paying a parking fee, drivers can park in electric bays and “donate” a set amount of their energy to the cafe. This hints at a circular future where power stored in cars’ EV batteries could be used by other sources, including homes and businesses.
Chinese tech giant Tencent, best known globally as the owners of WeChat, has revealed its plans to develop a sustainable smart city in Shenzhen. The 320-acre city, which will be called Net City, is a work-life campus for employees that promises to “bring work, life and play closer together”.
Designed by the award-winning architect firm NBBJ, it aims to “re-envision the urban environment” and will have offices, residences, schools, retail, open spaces, and grass-covered rooftops. Its transport, entertainment and retail offerings will be open to the general public.
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