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Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD

This is a summary of three global scenarios for the future of cities, completed at the University of Oxford’s "Future of Cities" program.

I worked extensively on these scenarios and then presented an early draft of them at the Harvard Graduate School of Design last year.

This presentation is only a draft and may not reflect the final versions of the completed project. 

More detail on the project can be found at the official website, here:

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Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD

  1. The Future of Cities: Three scenarios for urban futures A project by the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities Presented by: Noah Raford, DUSP, MIT
  2. 2.1 billion more in cities
  3. Mostly young
  4. Most in slums
  5. Increasing complexity
  6. Decreasing resources
  7. + Uncertainty The future Complexity Risk Future 2 Past trends Future 3 Certainty - Rate of change + Past Present Future Scenarios: planning for change
  8. 23 interviews world wide • Architecture • Commercial tenants • Entrepreneurship • Environment • Governance • Infrastructure • Non-governmental organisations • Planning • Real estate • Technology
  9. Drivers of change Growing income inequality Lack of capital availability Role of centralized governance Infrastructure decay Lifestyle change & value shifts Resource shortages
  10. Economic • Increased division of wealth between rich and poor • The world’s poor are an increasingly powerful force in urban development • Current urban development models not t for their emergent needs • Global warming will disproportionately effect the poor • International nance will become more important, domestic capital less • International nance will become more selective, comparing between cities • Taxation will continue to be a strong determinant of capital ows • New ecological accounting mechanisms will play an increasing role in real estate nance and development • Building obsolescence will become an increasingly important factor
  11. Political • Most city governments will lack the resources to meet increasing citizens demands • Weaken central government and open room for other players • Civil society and community based organisations will be the rst to ll this role • Bottom-up participatory approaches to development and management will become important • Local government will need to shift from regulation to enabling and facilitating • Boundaries of where city authorities ends will blur, administrative implications are unclear • Grassroots' innovation could lead to transformational change • Insecurity more important factor, with high unemployment and economic, political and environmental migration
  12. Cultural • Need for new types of education / consciousness change • Increased social fragmentation as people cling to their identities • Increasing fragmentation of commercial and social services • The youth will play a powerful role in urban governance • Need to strike a balance between short term pro t and growth and long term needs • Increasing complexity calls for new kinds of leadership
  13. Environmental • Water will become an ever increasing problem • Droughts in rural areas will drive people to urban areas • Global warming and extreme weather will impact urban development • Most cities have very poor emergency preparedness for environmental disasters and will be blindsided by change • Disease return to rst world cities • May have to consider abandoning cities
  14. Technological • ICT will enable acceleration of social dynamics already in place • Could have signi cant destabilising effects through asymmetric warfare, etc. • May allow for breakthroughs in decentralised infrastructure and governance • ICT enables relocation of activities, such as public administration • ICT will enable more social surveillance and government control
  15. Workshop Learning journey Driver identi cation Sorting key drivers Scenario snippets Fleshing out and exploring implications Systems mapping Deeping scenarios
  16. Gulliver’s Massive socio- Triumph of the World technical revolution Triads
  17. Scenario 1: Gulliver’s World
  18. Two worlds in one
  19. A core of new eco-prosperity
  20. A fringe of stagnation & struggle
  21. Smarter cities & transport
  22. But persistent basic challenges
  23. Broader global leadership
  24. But increasing fragmentation
  25. Higher quality of life for some
  26. But increasing exclusion for most
  27. Scenario 2: Massive socio-technical revolution
  28. A decade of decline
  29. Producing social tension
  30. Followed by a devastating blow
  31. Leading to a youth uprising
  32. And a new generation of leaders
  33. Who push through new agreements
  34. Creating global climate stabilization
  35. And smarter, greener cities
  36. With local food economies
  37. Increased “soft wealth”
  38. And greater quality-of-life for all
  39. Scenario 3: Triumph of the Triad’s
  40. Rapid, distruptive climate change
  41. Market failures multiply
  42. International aid falters
  43. Con ict and migration ensues
  44. Breakdown of critical infrastructure
  45. Leads a harsh return to self-suf ciency
  46. Urban tribalism increases
  47. Leading to new “family values”
  48. Warlord tax collectors provide service
  49. For a global age of muddling through
  50. For more information visit: The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities cities.aspx