- Published: 15 September 2022
For nearly as long as there have been cities, there have been efforts to create ideal cities. The Italian Renaissance saw the birth of places like Pienza and Palmanova, exquisitely planned centers that were monuments to humanistic thinking. In the 20th century, Brazil's Brasilia and India's Chandigarh fused political goals with avant-garde architecture. The dream seems ever constant: to fashion that fresh start, to build a living prototype that will inspire the world.
The desire endures. In the current moment, there are any number of plans afoot to create model metropolises. One of the most ambitious is Neom, an almost statelike entity that will occupy a Belgium-size swath of land in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, bisected by a streetless “linear city,” with access to 250 miles of Red Sea shoreline. For now, Neom, which seems to meld the can-do tech brio of Elon Musk with the big-picture utopianism of Buckminster Fuller, is mostly a series of renderings. But the implication is that it can overcome, via smart planning and technological advances, some of the traditional contradictions that plague cities: It will be dense, but with access to nature; walkable without congestion. And the city is making high-stakes bets, like the large-scale desalination of water using only renewable energy, that could, if successful, pay off globally.
Neom—the name is a portmanteau of the Greek neos (“new”) and the Arabic mustaqbal (“future”)—is perhaps the grandest of all the “gigaprojects” of the Saudi Kingdom's Public Investment Fund. Another, the “entertainment city” called Qiddiya, with a Six Flags park, was master-planned by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels's firm BIG. The cities are intended, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has described, to diversify Saudi Arabia's oil-dependent economy. The $500 billion Neom plan is composed of three regions: The Line, a 105-mile linear city, which will be built along a hyperspeed train line framed by homes and businesses, with no trip longer than 20 minutes and most clocking in at 5; Trojena, a tourism complex featuring a man-made lake and year-round skiing; and Oxagon, a floating industrial complex—also the work of BIG—boasting 100 percent clean energy and an automated port.
Neom is hardly the first project to propose buoyant urbanism as a response to climate-change scenarios. South Korea, working with Oceanix, has been planning what it calls “the world's first prototype of a resilient and sustainable floating community,” off the coast of Busan, a port city of more than 3 million. The design (BIG again, along with Samsung's Samoo) envisions a honeycomb-like array of low-slung modular and interconnected islands, each built on concrete platforms, with the weight of the buildings above counteracted by air in the hollow volumes below.
In the Maldives, meanwhile, Dutch Docklands, working with the Maldivian government, is creating Maldives Floating City, designed to be a 20,000-person enclave. Given current projections for sea-level rise, it makes sense that floating cities have surged into the city-building consciousness.
More earthbound but no less ambitious is Egypt's New Administrative Capital, across the Red Sea from Neom, where work has been under way since 2015. The huge entity—no official name yet—will replace Cairo as the country's governmental center. The project includes Africa's tallest tower and the 22-mile-long Green River, a park incorporating bodies of recycled water that is envisioned as an homage to the Nile.
Might any of these projects live up to the outsize dreams of their creators? The jury is out. “What makes a successful city is that it possesses a level of social and economic complexity,” says Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at MIT's Future Urban Collectives Lab. “Most of the city builders I've worked with still struggle with understanding how to build that.” The desire to create iconic architecture and high-tech infrastructure often overlooks all those bottom-up, unsexy things that make a city tick.
And yet perhaps the impact of ideal cities can be measured in other ways. “These projects are often aspirational and function as important examples for other places, even if they don't succeed,” says architect and author Stefan Al. Take the smart city that Google's Sidewalk Labs envisioned for Toronto's waterfront, a more sustainable and affordable community resulting from tech and urban-design innovations. “It wasn't built,” Al notes, “but the company has been planning to commercialize some of its innovations, like automated waste management and mass timber modular buildings, and architects and urban planners have been inspired by their vision.”
Ideal cities are like grand experiments, built on hypotheses as much as on bedrock; how the subjects of those experiments will respond is often impossible to predict. That we keep trying to fashion new and better ways to live collectively speaks to our hubris but even more so to our perennial optimism.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Tom Vanderbilt
Quelle/Source: msn, 07.09.2022