dan Urbanism Expert Ares Kalandides

The future of the city: Between utopia and dystopia
For a long time, we were sure that globalization would make the world look ever more similar: the remotest places in the world are already connected; webuy the same branded products in Asia, Africa, America or Europe; social media diffuse news (sometimes even fake news) in high speed across the globe. This homogeneity is deceptive: we now know that as more and more people move into big cities, some small towns and some rural areas are shrinking; the heavy metals of our smartphones turn whole regions into poisonous wastes. What is utopian for one becomes dystopia for another.
The city of human encounters
The forecasts of a rapidly aging society in Germany do not seem to come true – at least not in the previously assumed intensity. We even see some big cities get younger – while others are grow old. In addition, our society is becoming more colorful: different cultures and individualized lifestyles live together in a small space. New living and working concepts have to react to these developments: multi-generation living seem to be on the rise again; robots will change the lives of older people and may be seen on our streets in a few years’ time. We will be able to live on, above or below water; we will live in concrete deserts or in vertical gardens; each of us will be able to produce our own energy in small self-sufficient units.
Maybe there will be less work, but the work we have will certainly change radically: as the office becomes more homely the home turns into an office; virtual worlds will allow us to work in the same room – with people who are not there at all; through digital glasses, we will experience an environment that has been created on a computer.
Our mobility patterns are already changing. What does it mean if we stop commuting to work or for shopping at the same time each day? There will be no rush hours or maybe our daily travel will diminish altogether. But maybe we will become more globally mobile, if we can work from anywhere. We will be able to take work, play and shopping with us wherever we travel.
We will probably see fewer and fewer shops on our streets; few services that you cannot get online, such as a hairdresser or a nail salon will remain in the cities. Otherwise, it’s the places that invite people to meet that will survive: the cafés, the co-working spaces – and possibly hybrid uses that we can barely imagine today. The more isolating the technology, the more we long for closeness, warmth, and humanity. More than ever before, city planning must place human encounters at the center of all considerations.
What kind of future do we want?
What is our answer to technology? Who will produce, manage, exploit and, above all, possess the huge amounts of data? Which of that do we want and what not? Do we even have a choice? It is about shaping this future: making it more controllable, more democratic, safer, and fairer. But we cannot pretend it’s not coming.