The future is always in the making, and so are cities. Constant re-imagining and re-making by citizens and the continuous reconfiguration of the built environment make the urban spaces we inhabit a palimpsest of multiple re-imaginations and alternatives. An important part of urban design and planning – though we might perhaps forget about it on the day-to-day basis – is future studies and strategic foresight. The active envisioning of futures for the built environment that will surround us tomorrow is a core topic of urban design and planning. As Marc Augé puts it in his book, The Future, ‘The future is essentially obvious, while we are in perpetual doubt over what is to come’ (Augé, 2014).
We proposed this themed issue because we are curious to know more about today’s visions for the futures of our cities. We wanted to know: what visions of future cities exist today? What alternative scenarios or ideas are there, and/or should be inves- tigated? What are theoretical underpinnings to be explored related to future cities? How does urban envisioning work? Are there new forms of projecting and crafting urban futures?
Urban Design and Planning (UDP) received a great number of reflective and thought-provoking contributions covering mul- tiple areas of planning. They showed an interdisciplinary field of research and action, as our authors have backgrounds in civil engineering, environmental engineering, urban planning, urban policy, art and design. This themed issue took less than a year between the release of the call for papers and writing up this editorial text; a fact that, in our opinion, shows the timeli- ness and urgency to discuss the futures of our cities and related new approaches in urban planning and design. Hence, over- whelmed with the feedback to this call and the amount of con- tributions we received for review, we decided to have another issue of UDP on ‘Visions for future cities’.
In this first release you will find the following.
- Pollastri et al. (2018) explore how envisioning urban futures can be designed as conversations among different actors (in place of presenting end-product solutions), that engage participants and articulate complexity and criticalities.
- Kwami and Cosgrave (2018) search for points of departure for visionary thinking and approaches to projecting and crafting urban futures from a civil engineering and urban policy perspective.
- Toland and Kilbane (2018) explore retrospectively how physical models have played an important role as envisioning tools for city makers and discuss the potentials of mega-models of Asian cities as tangible tools in today’s planning and design practice.
- Powell et al. (2018) showcase a decision-theatre research methodology to reveal how people engage with the built environment and discuss how this could be used to understand future aspirations and desires of urbanites while challenging unrealistic expectations that undermine the viability of new engineering initiatives.
Yet, before all this great research is presented in this issue, we want to briefly fill and inspire your reading with three more thoughts.