With these cities currently under construction, a climate-friendly future isn’t quite as far as it may seem!
When you imagine the future what does it look like? Does everything look shiny and metallic? Are there flying cars or remote-controlled dog walkers like in the 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future II? Given the abundance of sci-fi films about future worlds out there, chances are most of us imagine the same things when we think about the future.
While most films focus on the fun aspects of the future, like flying cars and hoverboards, the cities we are imagining for the future now are meant to tackle the world’s biggest problems, like climate change and overpopulation. If you are curious about what the future has in store for us. Here is a list of some of the most futuristic cities being built across the globe.
The Line—Saudi Arabia
One of the future city concepts that has been taking the media by storm is “The Line”, which is being built in Saudi Arabia. In 2021, his Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia announced his plans to build a linear city in the middle of the desert. A part of Saudi Arabia’s new future construction program NEOM, this city will be 170 kilometers long, 200 meters wide and 500 meters tall, covering 34 square kilometers of area and will be entirely run-on renewable energy.
Buildings inside The Line would be built on top of each other in layers. Instead of using cars, residents would be connected via high-speed public transit, thereby ensuring zero carbon emissions. The city would be able to house nine million people and would begin welcoming residents by 2024.
In 2015, Malaysia announced its plans to build three artificial islands off the coast of Penang, a state on the northwest coast of the country. Designed by the international group of architects at BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), in collaboration with Denmark-based consultancy company Ramboll and local architect Hijjas Bin Kasturi, the islands would resemble lily pads and house up to 18,000 people each.
As the name suggests, these islands would be replete with biodiversity, with urban wetlands and forests connected by a web of ecological corridors to allow the peaceful coexistence of animals and human beings.
In 2021, the project faced backlash from the fisherman community who were concerned that it would occupy the country’s richest fishing pool. Nevertheless, the project is still happening and is expected to begin this year and be completed by 2030.
Masdar City—United Arab Emirates (UAE)
If you travel two hours away from Abu Dabhi, you will reach the futuristic city of Masdar. Planned in 2006, the city is the brainchild of the British architectural firm Foster + Partners and is the world’s first carbon-neutral and zero-waste city project. Occupying an area of 1,483 acres, it will house a population of 45,000 people and 1,500 environmentally friendly businesses.
Masdar is meant to be extremely walkable, with narrow streets of less than 70 meters long that only receive 30-45 minutes of direct sunlight daily. As of 2022, phase one of the Masdar City project has been completed, and the city currently houses 1,300 people. The project was originally supposed to be ready by 2016, but the completion date has been pushed back to 2030.
In 2021, the Netherlands-based architectural studio Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and German architecture company Gerkan, Marg & Partners (GMP) emerged as the winners of the Chengdu Future Science and Technology City Masterplan and Design competition in China. They are now set to design the first phase of the master plan for the city around the airport east of Chengdu. An area of 4.6 square kilometers has been allocated to the project, which is meant to house universities, laboratories and office buildings.
The city will contain six clusters, each having its own specific function. The buildings within these clusters will be within a 10-minute walking distance from each other, eliminating the need for cars. The clusters would be connected using a smart mobility network of autonomous vehicles.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this city is being developed by the American singer Akon. The singer announced his plans to create a US$6 billion city under his name in 2020.
Akon city will occupy an area of 2,000 acres near the Atlantic Ocean village of Mbodiene, Senegal. The singer has designed the buildings (which appear to be twisting in on themselves) in the city to resemble the African sculptures made in villages. The self-powered and environmentally friendly city will contain luxury condos, resorts, a university and a hospital—all built with locally-sourced materials.
Akon mentions that the city is meant to provide job opportunities to the Senegalese people and serve as a haven for African-Americans facing racial discrimination. People would pay for things within Akon city using the singer’s cryptocurrency Akoin. The project was originally supposed to be completed by 2030, but it has since been pushed back to 2036.
According to the World Bank, 56% of the world’s population lives in cities today. It is expected that by 2050, seven in ten people will reside in urban areas. To meet the demand for urban housing, cities need to be planned in new and innovative ways, similar to what we are seeing in the entries on this list. Since these cities are still under construction, it is yet to be seen whether these cities will end up being the urban utopias they claim to be.
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