The world feels on the cusp of a major turning point right now, as the stark realities of climate change become more alarming every year. Fire, floods, and droughts hit the headlines around the globe on an increasingly regular basis. Meanwhile, we continue to reel from the effects of pandemics, wars, and a growing housing crisis.
All this has led to some serious questions about how we will live in the future. Advances in architectural design and technology mean that the traditional structure and layout of cities no longer has to be the default model. Nor is it any longer fit for purpose, especially in countries with high population growth, or those bearing the brunt of climate change.
There are already plans for at least 10 ambitious and futuristic new cities around the world, as Dezeen magazine reports. One of the most eye opening ideas is ‘The Line’, recently unveiled by the government of Saudi Arabia. The plans involve a 170km long linear city through the desert, that will be just 200 metres wide, and 500 metres tall.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman explained the decisions behind the design: "At The Line’s launch last year, we committed to a civilizational revolution that puts humans first based on a radical change in urban planning."
He added: "The designs revealed today for the city's vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability. The Line will tackle the challenges facing humanity in urban life today and will shine a light on alternative ways to live."
The city will be connected by a transport system which takes just 20 minutes to travel from end to end. It is envisaged that 9 million people will live in the city, which will contain all the amenities that they need, such as schools, parks, shops, and leisure centres.
The whole city will be enclosed between two 500 metre walls with outer glass facades, which will stretch into the Red Sea. It’s certainly an ambitious idea, but it does raise the question of just how suited humans will be to living in what will surely feel like very strange and unnatural conditions, and how some of the technical aspects of the design will play out.
Another forward-thinking idea has been proposed by the Malaysian government. They have unveiled plans for the ‘BiodiversCity’. This involves building three artificial islands off the shore of Penang Island, which will be interconnected. The islands will be shaped in a lily pad formation, and feature accessible beaches, plus 242 hectares of parks.
The buildings will all be constructed from sustainable materials, including bamboo, locally sourced timbers, and concrete made from recycled aggregates. The islands will be car -free zones, and will largely be supported by renewable energy sources. Up to 18,000 people are expected to live on each island.
Danish architects BIG designed the proposals, and were the winning entry a competition held by the Penang State Government, which is engaging in a land reclamation project. They described the winning proposals as "family-focused, green and smart".
In a statement, BIG said: "Our masterplan proposal, BiodiverCity, supports the Penang2030 vision with a clear focus on livability, on stimulating a socially and economically inclusive development, and on environmental sustainability for future generations."
They continued: "BiodiverCity will be a new sustainable global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature coexist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island."
Another interesting and pioneering project has been created by the Italian architect Stefano Boeri. His envisages a ‘forested smart city’ near Cancun in Mexico. The 557-hectare site will prioritise green planting on rooftops, parks, and gardens, in order to offset the carbon footprint of the city.
Boeri said: "Smart Forest City Cancun is a Botanical Garden, within a contemporary city, based on Mayan heritage and in its relationship with the natural and sacred world "An urban ecosystem where nature and city are intertwined and act as one organism."
He added: "Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint."
Maybe not all of these innovative and exciting new ideas will come to fruition, but it is certainly inspiring to consider how future generations will find new ways to live in harmony with the planet.