Neighbourhoods for the Future

More than half the global population resides in cities nowadays due to a continuing process of urbanization, with cities becoming both larger and more economically prosperous. This will come at a cost. All these future urbanities need resources such as fossil fuels, food and water. Cities already account for three quarters of worldwide energy consumption and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, managing the urban expansion will necessitate innovative social arrangements dealing with labour, social cohesion and social interaction. Fortunately, cities are also a source of innovation and experiments that can provide the solutions to the vast challenges they pose. With our project - Neighbourhoods for the Future - we concur with scholarship emphasizing this innovative potential of urban areas. We argue, however, that the focus should lie on a management level just below the city: the neighbourhood.

Small yet big
The neighbourhood is small enough to be tangible for people such that they can be mobilized, yet big enough to implement policy schemes that can truly make a difference. While history teaches us that massive neighbourhood renewal is not necessarily successful, we have good reason to believe that this time, things might be different. The lessons of the flipsides of modernism have been learned; we are all very much aware of the importance of careful stakeholder-participation while simultaneously preventing endless town hall meetings since melting icecaps do not care about the timing of public deliberation. What we need is a new perspective on what the neighbourhood could be, an ambitious perspective on future districts that will inspire urbanites and that will give policymakers the instruments to realize the necessary change.

On display during Places of Hope
Neighbourhoods for the Future aims to deliver on this promise by developing an inspiring and academically grounded perspective of both the characteristics of our future neighbourhoods and the way in which we can help to realize them. As a first step, we have started developing a longlist that by now contains more than a hundred examples of neighborhoods of the future. Together with the urban designers of the Cloud Collective, 21 of these have been selected for presentation at the Places of Hope exhibition based on data availability and social and ecological sustainability. These neighborhoods are from Europe, North-America, and Japan, where the environmental and institutional context is comparable with that of our own. Together, they display a wide range of solutions for challenges which we have organized around five key themes, namely mobility, energy, water, inclusivity and circularity.

Great examples
Take for instance Hunziker Areal in Zürich, where having a private car is prohibited, causing a drastic reduction in the climate impact of the inhabitants. Or have a look at West Don Lands in Toronto, where all rain is buffered and purified in an underground treatment facility in order to prevent flooding of the nearby river and pollution of the neighborhood’s streets. In the book, these best-practices will be described and evaluated. In addition, we have gathered key statistics such as the density, the functional mix, and the availability of public transportation for all 21 neighborhoods to also allow for a quantitative comparison. Our work on the Neighborhood of the Future is a work in progress, however, and we are looking forward to deepen our analysis in the coming year. Stay tuned!

Interested to know more? Please contact our project lead, Peter Pelzer.

The research work for on the database of Neighborhoods for the Future was conducted by Isabel Liedtke and Chris ten Dam.