The agility of cities: a flexible approach to land use

 

 World Economic Forum Agile Cities: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Report 2018

 

Nowadays, cities typically designate a single purpose for a piece of land, for instance, the areas designated for infrastructure or lots to build a house.

As said on a report released in the World Economic Forum, it seems that cities will have to embrace “agility” to adapt land use to the flexible needs that new technological innovations will require. According to the aforementioned report, an agile approach would allow to use land differently.

In the last 30 years, the city of Melbourne has seized on this opportunity turning more than 90 hectares of pavement into parks and pedestrian plazas. The architect Carlos Ratti, co-chair of the World Economic Forum Council on Cities and Urbanisation (which produced the report), said that “it is crucial for cities to be agile to promptly respond to the new scenarios”.

“Soon, we might imagine the case of a street for autonomous vehicles that creates an extra car lane during rush hour, but then turns it into a pedestrian-only plaza in the evening,” expressed Ratti.

According to him, roads make up 80 percent of the average city’s public space, which make them ripe for multiple uses.

This report also exemplifies Singapore as another city on the leading edge of “agile” planning.

Its new Punggol Digital District (PDD), a burgeoning commercial hub for Singapore’s tech industry, has a district-level zoning plan to guide overall development, but the developer has the freedom to alter the use of individual parcels of land.

Ratti said that the new approach was necessary because technology would continue to bring disruptions to cities. He cited the software behind ride hailing app Uber, which has changed how people move around cities and forced authorities to respond by introducing new regulations.

As cited on the report, cities would have to be agile in many fields, including IT and governance. But Ratti said a flexible approach to land use was key, as technological advances allowed even greater levels of automation, transforming the global economy in profound ways.

“Land use is possibly the underlying element that allows most of the other phenomena to unfold,” he said.

 

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