What would we design a good neighborhood of the future? How can we look at the role of architects and designers in building up the new urban planning discipline of the fourth industrial revolution? Lastly, is there a formula or a methodology of work that allow us to envision the evolution of our cities?
Where do we start?
The problem is that even if architects gather and try to respond to the great 20th century challenges, in the dramatic way that urbanism is changing today, there is not enough knowledge about what makes a good neighborhood in relation to a bad one. Furthermore, depending on best design practices is not sufficient as it was in the past. In fact, architectural reasoning seems not to be the only answer in these immense transformations. Lastly, guidelines do not seem to be very coherent with what city actors and developers really currently need. On the opposite, it seems that there is a disconnection between visions, plans, actions, and reality.
Urban data for multidisciplinary communication
The study of urbanism refers back to disciplines like urban planning and sociology. Briefly, it investigates the way people live in densely populated urban areas, how people interact with the built environment and critically reflects on urban life and culture. It can be understood as placemaking or better as the creation of place identity at a citywide level. Lastly, it is a component of urban planning and talks about the future of the urban planning itself.
At the same moment, the smart city uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to acquire local information. These are later used to manage assets and resources efficiently. In this way, cities look at their challenges in governance in relation to the urban transformation by using data and technology.
In other words, it seems that urban data can bring closer those dealing with the physical space with the real qualities of the urban. Consequently, the smart city might help in the fight against the disconnection that exists between the work of policy teams, operation people, regeneration design groups and architects. It can be a tool to build legitimacy with city councils and show them if their visions are resilient, or if the real urban processes will eventually make these visions real.
The design of the smart city
Real-time information and technology allow challenges to reveal and new patterns of urban livings to come out. Urban data can inform stakeholders about social behaviors, preferences, and lifestyles allowing new information about the urban processes to emerge. All this is knowledge, extremely difficult to acquire, connects local urban trends, actors and stakeholders. Above all, all this is a knowledge that architects can use.
Using technology, of course, doesn’t mean that we will invent some new architectural typology or that the smart neighborhoods are more elegant. The distinctive element is that in smart neighborhoods we can acquire immediate knowledge about the challenges of an area, about the citizens’ behaviors, and plans of stakeholders, developers, and governors. In this way, our architectural reasoning could acquire a different role. Our drawings now could reflect a sort of partnership among all interesting parts and could be based on the actual real knowledge of the locality. In other ways, there is a thread linking knowledge infrastructure with the design of the city.
All these processes help us work in a multi-scalar approach and not to look anymore at plans from a distance. In this way, we can now see the architecture of an area as a possibility to create more links. This means to look at buildings from the inside out and understand how they are interesting as future typological possibilities in terms of new patterns of associations and partnerships that emerged.