Urban Tomor­rows is a rese­arch about future cites — visions and counter-visions, dreams, expec­ta­tions, today’s fears and disbe­liefs, and poten­tials for urban design and gestalt of conur­ba­tons. It is about imagi­na­ries, ideas and concepts of urba­ni­za­tion and built envi­ron­ments; about the asso­cia­tions we make to and engender in the places we live in. The work discusses visions of future cities — past and present — and their influ­ence on discourses, agendas, urban design propo­sals; hence the urban ecolo­gies imagined for tomor­rows and their labo­ring over time. It reflects on chal­lenges for cities, on methods and tools of rese­arch and design that seek to mediate urban trans­for­ma­tion, and debates possible future deve­lop­ments. It explores what today’s visions could mean for cities, how some ideas could be useful to rese­arch and design prac­tice, and aspects that threaten processes of inno­va­tion, nego­tia­tion, imple­men­ta­tion, and evolu­tion through time. It criti­cally reflects on contem­porary visions, oppor­tu­nities, problems, agendas and actors propa­ga­ting those. Along the process the work asserts the postu­late that even with thorough analysis and arti­cu­late projec­tion tools the future will remain uncer­tain, and hence argues that urban tomor­rows need to embrace their plura­lity and that of their makers. Mundane strug­gles, conte­sta­tions and the graf­ting of the urban — not only visions, theo­ries, philo­so­phies and agendas — is what in the end deter­mines the design and gestalt of our cities.

The thesis commences by provi­ding an over­view on issues rela­ting to future city rese­arch: current state, gaps, and metho­do­lo­gies that target under­stan­ding and projec­ting urban tomor­rows. It discusses exis­ting stra­te­gies and evaluates alter­na­tives that assess the future of cities using trans-disci­pli­nary approa­ches and methods inclu­ding unor­thodox ones such as those of futu­ro­logy. To scale and contex­tua­lize the work an outline of historic city imagi­na­ries is presented, reca­pi­tu­la­ting how visions in the past were labored and commu­ni­cated, and from a retro­s­pec­tive perspec­tive, what effects they even­tually had on cities. Ther­eupon, this work discusses expec­ta­tions for 2030 (and further) through trian­gu­la­ting lite­ra­ture, third-party findings, and empi­rical data obtained from inter­views with experts, outcomes of a sympo­sium with urban scho­lars, and a wider array of ideas collected through a crowd­sour­cing plat­form. Follo­wing a quali­ta­tive approach it concep­tua­lizes on poten­tial urban futures through discus­sing visions and counter-visions along four lines of thought: envi­ron­mental, economic, societal, and tech­no­lo­gical which are later incor­po­rated into a compre­hen­sive assess­ment of today’s projec­tions.

Urban Tomor­rows agrees that visions are of para­mount signi­fi­cance as refe­rences, goals and commu­ni­ca­tion tools in a rapidly chan­ging urban world; and therein, that we need a prac­tice that is less fearful of a presup­posed chaos of ques­tio­ning codes, regu­la­tions and hier­ar­chies, and more daring in regards to socia­li­zing the joy of envi­sio­ning the future and discus­sing its poten­tials. Reflec­ting on five years of teaching urban design students on bache­lors and masters levels, this rese­arch also discusses the need for a new kind of urban profes­sio­nals that are able to incor­po­rate histo­ri­cally walled disci­plines into holistic approa­ches to tackle urban comple­xi­ties and orient the city of the future. Advo­ca­ting for an open and demo­cratic produc­tion (not only consump­tion) of future cities, it calls for a new urban science that incor­po­rates both rese­arch and design, that is anti­ci­patory rather than reac­tive, and one that employs imagi­na­tion as tool in maneu­vering through forth­co­ming local and global needs and crises of cities and life within them.


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