If you take a moment to think about the city of the future you might picture some Flash Gordon fantasy, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or the Jetsons. Or Blade Runner-era LA.

They’re good settings for nightmares, the Cities of Tomorrow, from Brasilia to Metropolis to Corbusier’s slabs.

Corbusier’s dream            Redevelopment


But it’s hard enough to picture the city of today, much less tomorrow’s.

For most people in cities, it’s not like the romantic favorites of New York, Paris, or London or even the golden oldies of Jerusalem, Rome or Cairo.

For many of these new urbanists, the reality looks more like this, a town of shacks, called favelas, in Sao Paulo, Brasil.

It’s worthwhile to wonder about the City of Tomorrow because by 2030 60% of the world – almost 5 billion people – will live in cities – double what it is today. At the beginning of the 20th century, 220 million people lived in cities. At the end of the century 2.8 billion did.

(These figures are from the United Nations)

Here are some of the biggest cities in the world. I picked these because I’d never heard of any of them:

Dalian, China Population: 6.5 million

Dhaka, Bangladesh Population: 11 million

Fortaleza, Brazil Population: 3 million

Kano, Nigeria Population: 2.8 million

Belo Horizonte, Brazil Population: 4.16 million

Faisalabad, Pakistan Population: 3.2 million

Turns out the City of Tomorrow is probably in Korea. It’s Songdo:

  • Its 1500 acres are 40% parks and canals and it has a residential density of Manhattan.
  • The City will have the carbon footprint of a city a third of its size.
  • Water and waste are recycled: rainwater and grey water are collected for cooling and irrigation, solid waste is burned for heat and electricity.
  • The goal is to use 30% less water than a city its size and to save 75% of the trash from landfill.
  • Of course the buildings have solar panels on the roof, and sod too. The windows are of special glass and the concrete uses 20% less cement.
  • Thanks to Cisco it is the most wired city in the world.
  • When the first 2,200 apartments went on the market in 2005 there were 170,000 applications.

The developer has plans for 20 more versions of Songdo in China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Here are an article and a video about Songdo.

(I began thinking about these questions after I moderated a conversation with Greg Lindsay, author of Aerotropolis, at the World Affairs Council. The conversation was called “Rethinking the Future of Cities” and you can listen to the podcast here: http://wacsf.vportal.net/). You can buy his book at Amazon.)