The future of urban living is an increasingly critical issue given population trends which show more and more people becoming urban dwellers. Cities and their inhabitants are becoming one of the most influential factors shaping the future of the planet. On the current trajectory, by 2050 the urban population is estimated to be 6.3 billion (66% of the world’s projected population). Currently 54% of the global population already live in cities. With a further three million people per week moving to urban centres, the future of urban living is an issue we need to explore in depth and prepare for creatively and pragmatically.
The trend towards urbanisation is the result of a number of factors. However, deeper analysis is required to determine the causality and direct correlation between urbanisation drivers and population projections. These drivers differ due to the unique geographic and cultural nuances across the globe, including levels of development and economic maturity. However, the global trend towards urbanisation is not disputed.
Managed correctly, urbanisation and city living could have many benefits. A balanced approach comprising economic, social and ecological perspectives is needed to adapt and transform cities if the necessary infrastructures are to be developed to meet the needs of city inhabitants. It is pertinent and timely to examine thoroughly how the future of urban living will impact on the global population and planet.
Among the significant questions relevant to the future of urban living are:
- What are the implications of climate change for the urban environment? How might these challenges be met? Coastal cities face the threat of rising sea levels, all cities are faced with rapidly changing weather patterns. What steps need to be taken to address the impact of climate change?
- With the majority of the global population living in cities how will the practical needs of the individual be met with regards to housing, transportation and work? How will the urban environment be redesigned so that it is a ‘liveable’ space? What does this mean for urban planning and architecture?
- From a sociological perspective, how will a predominantly urban environment impact on social inclusion, cohesion and social order? What will be the impact on the rural environments and aging populations who have been left behind? How will urban living feed the soul?
- These are some of the crucial issues cities need to address in light of seemingly irreversible urbanisation.
If the future of cities cannot be one of unsustainable expansion, it should rather be one of tireless innovation. Innovative solutions need to be scalable, replicable and capable of being adapted in a variety of specific urban environments. Some solutions will only be possible due to new technologies while other solutions will apply technology to ideas that are as old as the city itself.
The consultation offered an opportunity to explore these topics.