Liveable cities of the future
The world's megacities are full to bursting. By 2050, it is expected that 6.4 billion people will be living in the major urban areas - almost as many as the current total human population. According to estimates by the Asian Development Bank, in order to cope with the large scale of rural to urban migration, the large cities in Asia alone need to build 20,000 new homes, 250 km of road, and drinking water supply lines with a capacity for six million litres - every day. Such demand poses enormous challenges for city planners.
Involving residents in decision making
Intelligent solutions are needed to create cities of the future that do not only function as supply and transport networks, but also offer their residents a pleasant environment. Frauke Kraas, professor of Human Geography at the University of Cologne, is looking at ways of achieving this. She investigates megacities such as New Delhi, Dhaka and Hong Kong using a camera, GPS device and satellite images, taking stock of infrastructure such as water and sewerage mains. The experiences of urban residents are important for the planners. ‘We can’t look at these problems in isolation,’ says Kraas. ‘We have to make an effort to get people who live in the cities involved in the decision making processes.’
Professor Kraas is also chair of the Forum for Urban Future in South-East Asia, a group dedicated to promoting exchange of expertise. Yet, exporting German know-how is not enough in itself to solve the problems facing Asia’s cities. Indeed, many problems have arisen specifically because city planners have paid too little attention to particular regional and local factors. For a long time, for instance, Asian planners followed their European colleagues in building tower blocks connected by urban freeways. Traffic volumes have risen considerably as a result.
Masdar, the model city
How might this kind of harmony look? Surely not the way Roman architect Vitruv imagined successful city planning to be, some 2,000 years ago: an aesthetical model with gridiron streets and an expression of political and social utopian ideas. Rather, more like Masdar City, which is currently being built in the desert sands of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Planners of this eco-city for 50,000 people intend to implement the most sustainable possible use of energy and closed material cycles. Only electric cars are to be allowed, which have the additional function of storing excess energy generated in the thermal and photovoltaic solar power stations. Masdar – ‘the Source’ – should do full justice to its name, as a source of ideas for urban living in the future.
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