Creating a smart city in a green field

Master City, designed from scratch by Norman Foster, on the outskirt of Abu Dhabi.

An interesting question is if with the technology we have available today we would be able to create the “perfect” city. Often we hear administrators saying that their problem is in the integration of new technology, that would potentially provide more effective infrastructures, with existing infrastructures. If we only were able to build a city from scratch everything would be fine.

There are a (very) few cases of cities being designed from scratch to be smart. They are built in a greenfield. Cities like Masdar and Songdu are the most recent ones. So far they are more tech labs than really livable cities. They miss a soul and that is something you cannot build. It takes decades, often centuries, to become the expression of a city and as you walk along those high tech streets you feel that something is missing.


Any trail leading towards a smarter city is rooted in the past, it is affected by the “soul” of that particular city, that is why every city has its own way of designing and creating its future. If you don't recognize this you are bound to fail. You might end up decreasing the city pollution or needs for energy but you are not increasing the well being, happiness, of its citizens. This applies to cities like Brasilia a Putrayaya. It will take decades before these cities will become a living integrated organisms. A city without citizen that recognize that city are their roots is nothing but an assembling of roads and buildings.


Hence it is wrong to copycat other solutions. You can use another city experience to learn from it, and this expanded knowledge will surely help in designing the “smartification” path for your city. Just remember that cut and paste simply does not work for cities.


Author - Roberto Saracco

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