Little Pier in New York - courtesy of M.Young, NY YIMBY
Images of empty, lifeless streets has prompted many to talk about the demise of the city.
However, as Carlo Ratti, a professor at MIT, simply put in the recent Bloomberg New Economy Forum, "Cities are labour markets. While some people have the luxury of moving in and out of cities, for the vast majority of people, cities are where the jobs are."
The reality is population and wealth will stay concentrated in our global cities for years to come.
In the next five years, McKinsey & Company predict that 65% of world GDP growth will come from just 600 cities.
So how are cities innovating to serve those who continue to work and live there, ensuring they remain the economic powerhouses they are projected to be?
REEF mobile kitchen - courtesy of The New York Times
At heart, a tech rather than real-estate business, REEF is transforming their network of urban parking lots to create 360 ‘neighbourhood hubs’.
Endorsed by a recent $700 million investment from Softbank and Mubadala Corp, REEF moves beyond the traditional real estate model to supply the staff and tech infrastructure required for businesses to run and scale.
While revenue comes mainly from the parking business, REEF co-founder and chief executive Ari Ojalvo believes newer services such as cloud-kitchens, last-mile delivery services, urban farms, pop-up clinics and even data-processing centres will be increasingly important revenue streams: "Data and infrastructure is a big part of our neighbourhood hub. It’s like electricity."
For physical urban spaces to thrive in the future, curating the brands and services most relevant to an area will be crucial.
Chengdu Future City - courtesy of ATCHAIN
Conventional urban planning prioritises floor area maximisation and road networks at the expense of local geography; as residents progressively seek green spaces as an antidote to urban life, successful cities will instead build upon the natural typology of an area and promote healthier living.
OMA’s winning masterplan for Chengdu’s Future Science and Technology City is modelled on clusters of traditional, car-free villages, that will blend into the hilly landscape. NEOM’s The Line also preserves nature through an invisible infrastructure that prioritises people and the environment. Closer to home, Marshall Blecher and Studio Fokstrot will be launching a new ‘parkipelago’ in Copenhagen harbour; a series of sustainably designed islands that will create lush havens in the city’s waterways.
Blending in with nature and enriching existing environments will be a design imperative as people seek local character and new outdoor spaces in their cities.