Design democracy and technology mean our cities will be shaped by citizens rather than authorities in the future, thus they will be less ordered and more like giant works of art. Come on, embrace the mess.
Visions of the future of the city have been disseminated through the media of literature and film and through the communications of futurologists, utopians and dystopians of every variety and of each epoch. In these visions, technology and the future of the city are always intertwined and that is a necessity if the city is to become a concrete reality.
But what is missing from all these visions and is emerging today is a central and co-creator of the city – the empowered citizen. I’m not talking about individuals who admirably work towards a more sustainable building or a greener city, but of a democratic commitment and openness in which the tools of design give each citizen a stake in actual decision- and form-making of the city. The city, therefore, will no longer be one with an “authoritative centre” but it will have a structure as “messy” as democracy itself.
The city will no longer be simply linear and causal, but will have a communicative structure shaped by differences, individualities and irrationalities. The city will change from within rather than from a plan imposed from above. The form may very well appear to be a distortion, a wrenching and twisting away from what is already there.
The information and communications technology so different from the mechanical models of the 20th century will dissolve uniformity and apparent order in terms of spatial geometry. Technical and rational thinking will become so advanced that it will incorporate the unknown quantity – the emotional.
In the future the city will be seen as a work of art, and like art it will appear as a chaos of overlapping and competing visions, where liberty will replace the old western and Eurocentric models of order.
This article originally appeared in Monocle’s What next? series of essays. Monocle asked 25 leading thinkers, authors, taxi drivers and monarchs to look at the world just over the horizon. From the joys of national dress to the need for a new religion, this is what they saw.