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February 25, 2015
by James Way
Speakers of "Smart Cities: Delivering Sustainable Urbanism."Credit: Center for Architecture
David Klingberg, CEO, David Lock AssociatesCredit: Center for Architecture

Each city uniquely defines what “smart” means depending on its own characteristics. David Klingberg, CEO of David Lock Associates, presented six guiding aspects: governance, economy, people, environment, living, and mobility. Klingberg and Ian Stott, principal consultant of Integrated Transportation Planning, addressed issues and challenges of planning for “better cities using a smart cities framework.”

Cities will house six billion people by 2050, and at least 26 will contain 10 million or more inhabitants. Klingberg argued that this demands new smart cities that reduce the drain on financial and energy resources, engage citizens, and can respond quickly to changes, whether in transportation, population growth, or emergencies. Access to knowledge, communication, social infrastructure, and technology is paramount in achieving this. However, in the broadest sense, planning requires overlaying the smart city aspects in relation to a city’s requirements and amenities, and balancing that with real possibilities and resources. Klingberg showed an example in Guiyang, China, part of an accessible global network with sustainable local transportation, including bus rapid transit and pedestrian and cycling networks, to support the city as a destination for leisure and eco-tourism – and a population of half-a-million residents.

Efficient transportation networks are Stott’s expertise. He develops open source platforms for mapping existing transportation routes, both formal municipal systems and informal “ghost” routes and micro-buses (in New York City, think of the buses that flow between the city’s ethnic centers). The tools provide “intelligent mobility” to shorten transit times and alert people to accidents, functioning as a precautionary measure to enhance safety by easing congestion and reducing near collisions.

The main hurdles for implementing these strategies are lack of demand and technological skill, and the existence of currently underdeveloped systems. Strong visions that are technically feasible and pragmatic have a greater possibility for implementation, especially when coordinated with government agencies and relevant interests. Jonathan Marvel, FAIA, commented that planners usually have a more inclusive bottom-up approach with client agencies insisting on extensive research and outreach, while designer- and architect-oriented projects typically have a top-down directive from the client that could impede widespread implementation

Jeffrey Raven, FAIA, questioned the balance between democratic, people-centric planning and the control required to administer smart cities, noting that some of the more enjoyable public spaces are “dumb.” When asked for examples of smart cities, Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, answered, “Google Helsinki. You’ll find an array [of features] that is staggering.” Tokyo and Singapore are other examples, but the panel conceded that, while there isn’t one scale to measure “smart,” indices of livability are fairly encompassing. Klingberg noted that “’smart cities’ is a term and an idea to make better spaces,” and we have to be careful about “what we measure and what we can expect.”

Despite the flexible terminology and place-specific adaptability, the drive for more sustainable, networked cities depends on fostering an entrepreneurial approach to capturing and interpreting data, addressing civic problems, and implementing responsive systems. By increasing education and opportunity, our cities will become smarter too.

James Way, Assoc. AIA, frequently contributes to eOculus

Event: Smart Cities: Delivering Sustainable Urbanism
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.11.15
Speakers: David Klingberg, CEO, David Lock Associates; Ian Stott, Principal Consultant, Integrated Transportation Planning; Ernie Hutton, Assoc. AIA, Principal, Hutton Associates, Inc. (moderator); Jeffrey Raven, FAIA, LEED BD+C, Founder, Raven A+U; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA, Immediate Past President, AIANY; Jonathan Marvel, FAIA, Principal and Founder, Marvel Architects
Organizers: AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee, David Lock Associates, and the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU)

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