Cities of the Future: Challenges of Architecture and Design

Cities of the Future: Challenges of Architecture and Design

Posted on March 23, 2018 by content

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The urban population is expected to double in the next 40 years, forcing cities to undertake a holistic and sustainable transformation of their model. According to Martha Thorne, Dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design and Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the great challenge of architecture has to do with its capacity to create denser metropolises that have high urban quality and offer residents a better quality of life.


More than half of the world’s population already lives in urban areas, where architecture dovetails with design to make great contributions through urban services, the environment, and public spaces. Is this why the transformation of cities is getting so much attention now?

Cities are very important, not just for the world of architecture and urbanism but also for the economy and politics. In addition, the urban population is expected to double over the next 40 years, bringing about a rapid, large-scale change that has no precedent in human history. Whatever the reasons behind it, this growth pressure is having an impact on the functioning of cities, on their governance, and on quality of life. In light of this, we must ensure that cities remain spaces for innovation, culture, and well-being.


What do you think are the key factors that will allow cities to adapt to the future?

Architectural and economic aspects are important. But beyond that, challenges and solutions need to be addressed comprehensively and viewed holistically in the new city model. Reducing inequality and achieving sustainability are two objectives that should be pursued, but the challenges will vary depending on each city and its degree of development.

In European metropolises, the situation may not be as dramatic as it is in emerging countries, but this could change as a result of various factors, such as the aging of the population, the influx of refugees of war or natural disasters, and unemployment. Therefore, a key aim in Europe is to ensure that large cities are engines of sustainable economic growth where particular population segments—such as young people—can find work, whereas the goal in developing countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and India is to provide housing and basic services for all social classes. This aspect is very important not only from the standpoint of housing but also for governance and city strategy.

Reducing inequality and achieving sustainability are two objectives that should be pursued, but the challenges will vary depending on each city and its degree of development.


Will cities remain centers of innovation, culture, and well-being?

One of the great challenges we face is creating quality spaces in dense cities. Generally speaking, cities with larger populations are more efficient and better equipped to provide urban services, mobility, energy, education, and healthcare. The downside is when rapid population overgrowth produces imbalances that make the city stop working. Cities normally achieve quality of life and efficiency through the mixture of spaces, functions, and services that are accessible to the population. Another aspect to consider is that innovation and new ideas emerge in cities when there is a diversity of people, combined with substantial economic and educational activity.

I believe that architecture can contribute very directly to a city’s objectives as a center of innovation, culture, and well-being. We must change the view that architecture is an addition or a luxury to be enjoyed in boom times, and instead understand it as a reflection of our society and our values. Good architecture makes cities comfortable, accessible, etc. We live in architecture, while at the same time architecture helps to shape our collective memory. Of course, to evaluate a work of architecture, you have to consider its function, whether it’s appropriate for the particular place and time, and whether it attempts to advance some aspect of the discipline or ideas of sustainability. If you don’t take into account the economic, cultural, geographical, and topographical reality, you can’t make good, bold architecture that people will appreciate.


How has the concept of public space evolved?

It has changed and I hope it continues to evolve. In the 2