What the city of the future should be like?

Urban exodus. A trend of recent years. Indirectly caused by the pandemic, directly by the spread of remote working opportunities. Have we made our habitat so unliveable that we flee as soon as we have the chance? How do we reclaim and make our cities more liveable?
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To answer this question, first we need to be clear about what we expect from urban life. What gives its true flavour, that we love about it? Is it the inspiring hustle and bustle, the unpredictable chaos and the little surprises around the corners, or the highly advanced technology and infrastructure like in Tokyo, where the bus and train arrive at the exact second, we need them?  

Sou Fujimoto, Japanese star architect and designer of this year's festival venue, the House of Music, was a guest of Brain Bar last year. Together with his interlocutors Roman Sysel, regional manager of Bolt; Lasma Ivaska, head of innovation at MOME and Attila Steiner, ITM's state secretary for circular economy development, energy and climate policy, they started to dream up the city of the future.  

Urban development dates back to antiquity. The first step on the road to make cities smart was perhaps the construction of the sewerage network. Today it is not clear what should come next.  A hundred years ago, it was thought that cities would be interwoven with wide highways and that people would be almost non-existent outside their cars. In comparison, we are now working to reclaim the space from transport to life. Do we want people-centred or technologically advanced settlements? Do we have to choose, or are the two not mutually exclusive at all? 

Do you want to know more? Watch the whole video here:

The smart city is watching you

It seems like we are making the environment smarter and smarter until it will be able to keep us under constant surveillance. In the light of some undesirable international examples, it is understandable that people are afraid of the possible impact it will have on their lives and privacy. As a post-communist country, we Hungarians are perhaps particularly repulsed by the idea of an artificial intelligence constantly transmitting information about us to someone with greater power than we have. Looking at the other side of the coin, however, it is also clear that having a lot of data about urban life could bring almost unimaginable improvements and make our everyday lives significantly more comfortable. 

"This is the international urban dilemma. Innovation versus privacy." 

Lasma Ivaska noted that the development of Toronto had to be stopped even in the smartest neighbourhoods because residents protested against the installation of sensors in their living spaces that can tell how many people are in their homes, or when, how and where they are going. The ideal city of the future must harness the benefits of big data in a way that makes people feel safe. In the UK, there are already private data management companies that cooperate with city governments to manage people's personal information in an ethical and collaborative way, so that residents are not at the mercy of politicians.

People of the former communist bloc countries know full well that surveillance can be quite effective even without the latest camera networks, adds Roman Sysel, Bolt's regional manager. Technology is just a tool in our hands that opens countless opportunities. It can be a weapon and a control, but if used wisely it can significantly improve people's quality of life. 

The rush hours in the future 

In many ways, transport is at the heart of urban development. Transport needs to be convenient; it has to occupy the least space possible, and it should not harm the Earth. Roman Sysel believes in total carbon neutrality. He believes that cities should reduce the number of private cars and focus on public transport and car-sharing services. This will reduce congestion and make room for parked cars. Twenty per cent of Hungary's carbon dioxide emissions come from transport," added Attila Steiner. Buses also contribute to this. The State Secretary sees the solution in the spread of electric buses and in the research and development of hydrogen-powered transport. Ivaska Lasma stressed that the renewal of public transport is a development that would benefit all residents. This is an important aspect, given the extreme social inequalities that exist in cities. 

Fujimoto would seek to restore the balance between the artificial and natural environment in the city of the future. If there is no harmony and the supply of advanced technology does not meet the real needs of life, then the result will be the crazy mix of order and bustle that he experiences in Tokyo. 

Train stuffing Tokyo

Balance keeps unpredictability, until it doesn’t get uncomfortable but inspiring; and order, as long as it does not bind. Traffic jams, for example, are undoubtedly not exactly the surprise we want on a Monday morning, but that doesn't mean you have to write off chaos completely. It's the diversity and messiness of cities that Sou likes. He also highlighted that Budapest has a certain human touch, and that he likes how you can sense the past, present and future all at once. There are small buildings and, on the scale of Budapest, monumental ones, and for the star architect, it is the combination of these that makes the city so lovable.

"Nature itself communicates, it operates a system," Fujimoto stresses. We make our systems constantly compete with the living world when it would be much better to cooperate with it. Sou wants to use architecture and technological advances to create harmony between nature and artefacts. He is aware of the responsibility that architecture can control the movement and feeling of people in some ways, and he wishes to design buildings which inspire, liberate and open space for people. You only just need to look at the House of Music to understand what he means. "Under a floating leaf, a transparent auditorium in the middle of the forest." This is how he describes the innovative building, where the creation of the human hand and nature finally communicate with each other.

On the 29th and 30th of September, under the floating leaf of the House of Music the future will meet the present. We can’t wait to see you at Brain Bar 2022! As a student or teacher, you can register for free tickets here, or get your early bird tickets here

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