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Constructing a Vision for an ?Ideal? Future City: A Conceptual Model for Transformative Urban Planning

Adriana Ortegon-Sanchez    
Nick Tyler    


Nearly 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas and this is set to grow over 2.5 billion people by 2050 (United Nations, 2014). In this context, the question is how to make cities contribute positively to the wellbeing of all their inhabitants and with economic, social and environmental sustainability. Due to increased complexity of their functionality and limitations imposed by the existing uncoordinated frameworks for designing and managing urban systems, cities are already facing great challenges such as resource scarcity, institutional barriers, narrow accounting frameworks, lock-in due to infrastructure, inequality, congestion, crime and diseases, which will only worsen with increased urbanization. As such, innovative tools for planning and engineering coordinated solutions to transform cities? systems are at the heart of sustainable living in the future. As part of the EPSRC programme grant Transforming the Engineering of Cities we are conducting research to understand precisely how to radically transform the way in which cities are engineered to move towards future cities that address current challenges and promote long-term well-being for society and the planet. After reviewing evidence of urban transformations, we identified that, in most cases, their starting point was a high level vision, usually defined by political leadership based on strong participatory processes, which constructed imaginaries that defined the main urban functions to be provided by the city and that underpinned all projects and policies in the short and long term. Because of the importance of setting such a vision our research aims to define a way of developing a vision of a future ideal city. Our approach identifies a methodology for defining the future city vision that is able to move beyond the all-too-common ?political wish list? and that enabled the vision to be defined as a result of a rigorous process. To develop this process we divided the work into two phases. The first phase included empirical work in Latin America, the UK and China and literature review of exemplary urban transformations. As a result, an initial preferable future vision, conceptualized as the 5-cities model was defined. The second phase included a series of 8 sectoral visioning workshops conducted over a period of 2 years in London and other UK cities. Each workshop is analysed to identify the high level principles for the preferable future city. This research findings underscore that transformative planning only can take place when social norms, people's behaviors and people's attitudes change. Urban life is created by everyone in cities, the municipality, citizens, owners, businesses, experts, individuals, communities; therefore, urban life can only be transformed through the right tools to engage and involve them, and it is precisely what the process of defining a high level principles vision and the vision itself should do.

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