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What if...small cities understand people better than big cities?

Story: TCDC


Global economic growth each year plays a part in bringing 60 million people from rural communities to cities. The estimation that by 2050 the majority (6.4 billion people) of the world population will live in urban area has prompted us to raise a question, “What if cities have to bear the burden of increased population, what should we do?” This question has inspired many thinkers and designers to apply science and technology into designing service centers in the city. MIT Media Lab is one of many groups of researchers aiming to solve this problem. The lab has launched a research network called City Science Initiative as a channel for researchers from various fields to join hands in designing and developing urban environment. The effort is made to stop the pattern of megacity that accelerates consumption and multiplies pollutions and to change it to a human scale city under the “Cellular City” concept.

Cellular City

Urban development was once responsible by city planners and engineers focusing on distributing resources from the city center, urban management to accommodate personal vehicle, and land allocation according to usage in order to improve productivity. Such concept has become outdated today when living, working, and balancing of environment all seem to be blended as one. Cellular City has become a target for the future city which is small and walkable yet diversified and livable. It would employ an integrated management that includes water, food, education, transportation and energy. For example, they aim to invent an electric car that everyone can share, working and residential areas with interactions between man and equipment which are flexible enough to adjust to new economic and social changes. In order to achieve an effective Cellular city, MIT Media Lab has conducted research and implemented interdisciplinary pilot projects in 6 major areas:

Urban Analytics and Modeling: Management and collecting data about economic, social, and consumption behaviors in order to analyze and design the transportation systems, buildings, and facilities that go in line with small city development.
Incentives and Governance: Urban development based on data analysis in order to allocate infrastructure more suitable for the target group as well as to promote the sharing of vehicle, energy, and use of space.
Mobility Networks: Development of engine for new type of transportation such as electric car, driverless vehicle that can interact with pedestrians and technology that enhances shared transportation.
Places of Living and Work: Development of sensor system to play a role in controlling the operation of home facilities, such as lighting, in order to save energy. Besides, residential areas can be transformed into healthy farmland that reduces the volume of transportation.
Electronic and Social Networks: Development of electronic network starting from the level of human body to the city level, leading to new ways of learning, relaxing, and production. This area would concern management of personal data which is not only extremely large but also requires excellent privacy protection.
Energy Networks: Development of the power system that meets human behaviors. The system should be of the size suitable for small city and rechargeable residences.

Cellular City

Cellular City

MIT Media Lab is merely a part of the global society who is trying to deal with the big problem our planet is facing. A great number of thinkers and designers are working to find the possible solutions to the coming challenges, which is the theme of TCDC’s annual symposium CU 2014 “IF… Defining the Future” this August. Each might come up with a different result, but everyone has the one goal; to play a part in creating a sustainable life quality for the future.

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  • Published Date: 2014-06-20
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