Urban Tomorrows is a research about future cites — visions and counter-visions, dreams, expectations, today’s fears and disbeliefs, and potentials for urban design and gestalt of conurbatons. It is about imaginaries, ideas and concepts of urbanization and built environments; about the associations we make to and engender in the places we live in. The work discusses visions of future cities — past and present — and their influence on discourses, agendas, urban design proposals; hence the urban ecologies imagined for tomorrows and their laboring over time. It reflects on challenges for cities, on methods and tools of research and design that seek to mediate urban transformation, and debates possible future developments. It explores what today’s visions could mean for cities, how some ideas could be useful to research and design practice, and aspects that threaten processes of innovation, negotiation, implementation, and evolution through time. It critically reflects on contemporary visions, opportunities, problems, agendas and actors propagating those. Along the process the work asserts the postulate that even with thorough analysis and articulate projection tools the future will remain uncertain, and hence argues that urban tomorrows need to embrace their plurality and that of their makers. Mundane struggles, contestations and the grafting of the urban — not only visions, theories, philosophies and agendas — is what in the end determines the design and gestalt of our cities.
The thesis commences by providing an overview on issues relating to future city research: current state, gaps, and methodologies that target understanding and projecting urban tomorrows. It discusses existing strategies and evaluates alternatives that assess the future of cities using trans-disciplinary approaches and methods including unorthodox ones such as those of futurology. To scale and contextualize the work an outline of historic city imaginaries is presented, recapitulating how visions in the past were labored and communicated, and from a retrospective perspective, what effects they eventually had on cities. Thereupon, this work discusses expectations for 2030 (and further) through triangulating literature, third-party findings, and empirical data obtained from interviews with experts, outcomes of a symposium with urban scholars, and a wider array of ideas collected through a crowdsourcing platform. Following a qualitative approach it conceptualizes on potential urban futures through discussing visions and counter-visions along four lines of thought: environmental, economic, societal, and technological which are later incorporated into a comprehensive assessment of today’s projections.
Urban Tomorrows agrees that visions are of paramount significance as references, goals and communication tools in a rapidly changing urban world; and therein, that we need a practice that is less fearful of a presupposed chaos of questioning codes, regulations and hierarchies, and more daring in regards to socializing the joy of envisioning the future and discussing its potentials. Reflecting on five years of teaching urban design students on bachelors and masters levels, this research also discusses the need for a new kind of urban professionals that are able to incorporate historically walled disciplines into holistic approaches to tackle urban complexities and orient the city of the future. Advocating for an open and democratic production (not only consumption) of future cities, it calls for a new urban science that incorporates both research and design, that is anticipatory rather than reactive, and one that employs imagination as tool in maneuvering through forthcoming local and global needs and crises of cities and life within them.