How to draw a new cityscape
As we speak, rapid urbanisation and renewed technological potential are meeting each other in a passionate tango. This is exciting as it means we’re met with countless new opportunities to make our cities, and conversely our entire global community a better place to exist in. Our societies become both more compact and modular. For leaders and entrepreneurs this is especially great news. It means that anything they implement will be more rigorous and cost-effective than ever before.
Now, with this in mind it’s tempting to only look at how this affects new state of the art projects. Measures like a new infrastructure for electric traffic, home generated solar power or the smart grid. However, our cities are not the same. Blanket recommendations would fall short in being comprehensive enough to matter.
The LA suburbs are doing cool things with their rooftops, Stockholm is flourishing after it solved its congestion, while Delhi is devoting itself to modernising its drinking water. Each city has its own personality, its own problems and its own next step towards a new stage in becoming more habitable. If there’s one universal issue every city needs to tackle then it would be their public confidence in change.
Sustainability is more than hoping that the next gadgets will improve prosperity statistics or figures on a governmental budget. These numbers are mostly exciting for NGO’s and policy makers.
And there’s the catch
Focusing on merely improving our city’s ratings is the engineer’s approach. Cold hard logic might be directly efficient but it will keep us from involving the citizens. Dry ratios in renewable energy usage or water efficiency may improve conditions, but the numbers themselves don’t really touch our collective psyche. All the while there’s nothing people care more about than the very place they live. The very place their children will grow up. We want to be part of the changing city rather than having the city changed for us.
Cities need their people’s interest. Nobody wants their place to just settle for what’s barely enough. People want to thrive and flourish rather than live just within acceptable margins. Any truly ambitious attempt at improving a society needs the people’s attention in order to fully succeed. Without this public passion we will underperform. Even with the resources, technology and political will readily available to us. As long as the public is not engaged, cynicism and apathy will keep finding away and the sustainable sweep will keep stalling.
People are waiting for a sustainable sweep as prestigious as the moon landings. That’s what will make a city truly fertile for innovation. Improving ratings and ratios is important, but only once new projects start direct involving us and seeking our engagement is when we start to truly care.
Sustainability is more than merely improving percentages. It’s way more than a politician’s hobby or a profitable enterprise. It’s something we all have our stake in and want to contribute to. The moment we realise that, no amount of effort will be too much asked.
This blog is featured on MASDAR Engage