The world will be an immense city
Let us look at the figures: Tokyo has 38 million inhabitants and is the most populated metropolis in the world. This is followed by New Delhi with 27 million, Seoul with 25, Shanghai with 24, Bombay with 23, Mexico City with 22, São Paulo and Beijing with 21, and then Osaka and New York with 20 million inhabitants. These are the largest cities on Earth. Looking at more figures: in 2015 there were 28 major cities in the world with more than 10 million residents, 16 of which are located in Asia. In Hong Kong more than 6 million skyscrapers over 20 floors high have been built, with the Bionic Tower being over one thousand meters high. In Mexico City, more than 5 million vehicles circulate the roads every day, Berlin has a density of 3,837 inhabitants per square kilometer whilst Bombay’s is 23,989. In cities in the United States there are 30 million garage spaces and the record for building a 57 floor skyscraper is registered in China, where it only took 19 days for it to be completely built.
When added together, the results of these figures are as revolutionary as they are curious. In just three decades, 70 percent of the world’s population (6,400 million) will live in urban environments and rural areas will be emptied. These large, unoccupied spaces will only be used as farms for the cities, based on a technical and intensive system of agriculture. The city is already the great political and technological actor of the 21st century, and it will be even more so in coming years. Therefore, the power will be where the large demographic concentrations are. The cities will become the State’s great interlocutors. They will boost the digital-collaborative economyandthere will be even more hedge cities and smart cities than there are today. They will completely concentrate on cultural manifestations and they will foster new employment (specialists in robotics, cyber-security analysts, scientists in the field of artificial intelligence, platform engineers, cloud architects, experts in urban innovation and technicians in 3D printing, amongst others).
The transformations will be–as they are starting to be–truly revolutionary. Mobility is one of the great problems of the present day. The demonization of the private vehicle will settle the problem, which will lead the way for above ground hybrid and electric private and public transport and larger subway and tram networks. The use of the bicycle will continue to grow, thanks to its cleanliness and speed. Also because of its health needs, as it is a way of overcoming sedentary lifestyles and their associated illnesses. Pedestrianization will make cities and avenues for people to walk rather than to drive along. These will be cities with universal Wi-Fi connections where you will be able to work in the street because large urban areas will be covered to protect them from the rain, and heating will be installed to combat low temperatures. Everything will be cleaner, because these megacities will have to be sustainable. To achieve this, a robotization technique will be used to an extent that, perhaps, we are not even aware of yet.
The cities will become the State’s great interlocutors. They will boost the digital-collaborative economy and there will be even more hedge cities and smart cities than there are today. They will completely concentrate on cultural manifestations and they will foster new employment
According to the conclusions of the Norman Foster Foundation opening forum, held in Madrid in May this year, cities will need to be built for more than a billion people in the next 25 years, especially in Africa and Asia, where there are places that right now lack safe water and sewerage. In both continents, fifty people move from the countryside to the city every hour. Far from considering this great migration a tragedy, architects, sociologists and scientists are approaching this as a great challenge and are using technology and new management tools. The city structure is an environment in which all group and individual capacities can develop, from sophisticated employability to an extraordinary lengthening of life expectancy, thanks to healthcare and medical equipment. Cities in decline will recover as Colombian cities Medellin and Bogota have done. Both are examples of new sustainability with the building of cycle paths, clean and fast transit systems, libraries, schools and hospitals.
Cities will need to be built for more than a billion people in the next 25 years, especially in Africa and Asia, where there are places that right now lack safe water and sewerage. In both continents, fifty people move from the countryside to the city every hour
This transformation will not just take place in declining, sprawling Latin American and Asian conurbations. Rather, European cities have set out extraordinary plans to reshape their development. In London, King’s Cross will be the largest communication hub in the British capital, Canary Warf has regenerated the harbor area and Nine Elms will soon be a financial, residential and commercial district within the city, turning a decaying part of the city into a first class one. In Paris, La Défense has extended the Champs-Élysées and has created a business center of more than 300 million square feet. Amsterdam has also redeveloped Zuidas into an area with more than 16 million square feet for offices and housing; Milan has achieved a great feat in Porta Nuova by linking three previously blocked off neighborhoods together, converting them into a new district with a range of uses. Railways no longer dominate Mission Bay in San Francisco, and it has achieved this through the university, the biotechnology laboratories and oncology centers. In New York, Hudson Yards is the biggest private real estate project in the history of the city, which will convert an old industrial area of Manhattan. There are similar projects in Melbourne and Sidney; and Berlin, with Potsdamer Platz, has turned one of the emblems of the city into an example of urban recreation design.
According to architects Richard Roger and Simon Smithson–who have designed the master plan of the Castellana Norte District in Madrid “will tell the world it is back.” The city will redevelop an area of over 300 million square feet in the north of the city. This will be a compact and dense, more functional and inexpensive development. However, it will also humane with facilities, green spaces, and high-rise offices and housing, both priced in the open market controlled by the Administration. It will be a green lung for the Spanish capital, a large extension of the Paseo de la Castellana. This will create an incredible space with a range of uses and services with the ability to provide the city with what it currently lacks and, above all, provide a boost of enthusiasm about the city, as was the case in Barcelona with the Olympic Games in 1992 and in London in 2012.
So is everything rosy then? Certainly not. When reading Sergio del Molino’s essay The Empty Spain; or Juanma Aguelle’s The Destruction of the City; or The City of the 21st Century. Conversing with Bernardo Secchi; The Spain of the Cities. The State Versus Urban Societies, by Jose Maria Marti Font; Smart cities. A Vision for Citizens, by Marieta del Rivero; or Cities for a Small Planet, by Richard Rogers and Philip Guuchdjian, one cannot shy away from big, serious social problems. These social problems refer to the need to humanize life in dense and complex areas and the need to remove those potentially destructive negative energies. The ideological issues are even more serious. The left wing aims to limit urbanization and to constrain free trade as cities encourage “liberal and neo-capitalist logic.” On the other hand, the political behavior of city dwellers is different to that of rural citizens. In Great Britain, 60 percent of London citizens voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union, while the rest of the country voted leave and swung the referendum. In the United States, it is also clear that liberalism is extraordinarily strong in large cities. Donald Trump did not win in any city with more than a million inhabitants: in Manhattan he only won 10 percent of the vote and in Washington only 4.1 percent. In Paris, Emmanuel Macron swept the competition whilst Marine Le Pen has never won more than 10 percent of the vote in the French capital.
The left wing aims to limit urbanization and constrain free trade as cities encourage ‘liberal and neo-capitalist logic.’ On the other hand, the political behavior of city dwellers is different to that of rural citizens
The world tends to be a huge, great city. The challenge lies in managing it, without forgetting rural areas, by modernizing them and providing them with services and drastically reducing the cultural distance and ideological confrontation. The difficulties of history cannot be stopped. Just as the author of The Empty Spain so correctly wrote: “The world these days is urban, not just in terms of demographics and political geography, but also in its concept.”