Will innovation in urban development change the face of our cities?
The return of high-rise living, homes built as part of working film sets, new public open spaces in reclaimed retail malls and a dramatic re-evaluation of the relative merits of slums and suburbia. These are just some of the challenging concepts now being canvassed among those developing new ideas about the future of our urban landscape.
It is a landscape where designers and planners take the advantages of modern technology as a given, where a city’s “smartness” is expected and where sustainability is built into the system, leaving only one big question: what will our future look like?
And it is not, according to most thinkers, a science fiction fantasy where everyone behaves like robots in eco-friendly but featureless buildings, despite the move towards these developments.
For some, it is a world where the latest technology, such as energy monitoring “smart meters”, is introduced in venerable urban buildings, sustainably reused, thus combining the best of old and new. “People want good quality of space – high ceilings, big windows, interesting architecture. I’m not a great fan of building over-insulated homes on eco-suburbs on greenfield sites, miles from anywhere,” said Tom Bloxham, of developers Urban Splash, who specialise in elegant urban conversions and regeneration projects in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham. “Sustainability is as much about re-using old buildings and working on brownfield sites.”
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