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The city of the future

4/20/2015 | Words: Petra Kaminsky | Pictures: Fraunhofer IBP

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Factories coming back into the cities. Electrical equipment being recycled. Tomatoes instead of tulips growing in parks – for everyone to pick. The future of the city also has a little of the countryside about it. A lot of what we can expect to see in the next ten to 20 years is already in evidence in our towns and cities. Other aspects are still imaginary visions.

Driverless cars, new factories inside the city limits and the recycling of construction materials – according to researchers, the everyday life of many city dwellers will continue to change. Problems such as traffic jams, noise and exhaust fumes had increased to such a degree that new solutions were required in many instances. Car-sharing schemes in which vehicles are collectively used and hired instead of being individually owned have boomed in recent times. Electric transport is a much discussed topic.

Alternative car technology
"However, the future is not in car-free cities but rather in driverless cars that are both quiet and clean," believes architect Andreas Klok Pedersen. His idea is an intelligent road surface containing programmable sensors. The technology would help to guide driverless cars. At the same time, the surface will change from a car lane to a pedestrian footway – by changing color, for instance. Professor Hans-Jörg Bullinger of the Fraunhofer Society expects that the first step will be for cars to park themselves in car parks. In eight to ten years, predicts futurologist Sven Gabor Janszky, driverless
cars would then initially replace taxis in large conurbations. In the intervening period there will be time to make networked robotic cars even safer than the experimental vehicles so far produced by Google and many of the established car makers.

But cities are not merely capable of consuming vast quantities of raw materials. Another trend in urban areas is the increased recycling of valuable materials from electrical devices to steel girders. Bullinger calls cities "raw material mines". "We want to get back the valuable materials, such as from cars. And that will be done close to the consumers and close to the cities," Bullinger states. He also believes that towns have to facilitate different changeovers between work and leisure time. One contribution towards that could be the return of factories into urban areas in his opinion. "In the past, we said that factories had to be moved out of the town because they were noisy, dirty and polluted the environment. Today, many of our factories
make no noise and produce no harmful emissions." So then people would
"figuratively speaking, go to work and back in their house slippers," Bullinger
envisages.

Pick your own
"Tomatoes instead of tulips in public green spaces" – that is a model that has made the town of Andernach in Germany's Rhineland Palatinate a model for others since 2010. The townspeople can help themselves free of charge not only to tomatoes but also potatoes, berries and fruit grown in municipal amenities. A website now lists several dozen "edible towns".

Alternative building
Even if many cities seem to be positively sprouting with green space,many experts identify high-rise building as a trend in large conurbations. "Overcrowding and growth are becoming major issues. Our guess is that the consequence will be much more high-rise building. At the same time, the arguments over open spaces will become more strident," predict Wolfram Putz and Thomas Willemeit, two directors of the Graft architectural practice in Berlin.

Alternative production
Fish to the left, vegetables on the right. Nicolas Leschke walks through the greenhouse in hiking boots. Tomatoes, lettuce and paprika are to be farmed here under the same roof as perch. The 36-year-old speaks of electronically controlled systems for heat and water. Computer technology is to help combine the cultivation of organic vegetables and perch in such a way that produce can be farmed in the smallest possible space using as little water as possible and no soil. "We are not revolutionizing food production but we will offer something that can complement traditional agriculture," prophesies the co-founder of the urban farm ECF. In a backyard in Berlin, the founders of Infarm are developing concepts for growing miniature vegetables and herbs in extremely limited spaces in urban buildings, be that in restaurants or even shower cubicles. Their model does without soil too. Other trendsetters in the urban farming movement use roof areas and disused land.

Basis for almost everything
"In the city of the future, everyday life without intelligent information and communication technologies is inconceivable," emphasizes the Fraunhofer study. At the same time, many city dwellers value not only the lifestyle advantages of digital devices and online shopping but also a sort of villagestyle tranquility. "On the one hand, people want access to ultra-modern technology and progress but, on the other, want the micro-divisibility of a village within the big city," point out the Graft architects.

The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

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