The City Of The Future Will Depend On Reimagining Our Lifestyles

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The Beam

By Anna Siwecka

The ability to build more sustainably requires us to understand the current built environment. While urban designers and architects have a role to play in planning the cities of the future, all of us are invited to re-think and re-imagine the ways in which we live in and interact with the city landscape.

Dubai, UAE – © Anna Siwecka

Listen to the full interview with Carola Hein on The Beam Podcast, Episode 2: How to Build Sustainable Cities of The Future.

Carola Hein has a record of re-imaging city landscapes. Together with city planners and architects from her courses at Delft University of Technology, where she teaches, she strives to design post-carbon cities, to strip global urban areas of their petroleum layers. Her work often focuses on re-shaping the cities which were built specifically for and with oil, and where oil is intertwined with every layer of people’s lifestyle.

The move beyond oil in city planning, architecture, and design will not happen instantly. It is a long, effort- and cooperation-demanding process. To support this transition we need to look at oil within its global context, while championing changes within the local, more familiar landscapes like cities and countries.

How can we truly transition beyond oil in design and architecture? How should a sustainable city of the future look like? Carola Hein answers these questions in the latest episode of The Beam Podcast – How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future. Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

What should we do to profoundly understand the current system and how we can move beyond it?

Carola Hein: I think a really informed conversation taking into account both sides – what can the individual do? What can the nation states do? What can we do at a global level and what do we have to do at a global level? – so that the change doesn’t only occur in Europe and gets worse in the rest of the world. That is, if we can inspire people to think about it and that kind of a systemic way, that is where I think that we have the biggest chance of making a transition. 

We are seeing some changes already, for example in the energy landscape, people are changing their attitudes. What transition strategies are already visible in the fields of design and architecture when we think about those changes? 

Carola Hein: Someone said, I forget the name right now, but someone said, “We didn’t end the stone age because we ran out of stones.” So, I think it’s much more important to think about transition strategies and just leave the oil in the ground as much as we can. Or to use it for those purposes where it’s absolutely necessary. I mean there are medicines, there’s health, there are other things where we will always need oil and I think it’s important not to forget that oil has always been a product that we’ve used. It bubbled naturally out of the ground, historically. So, then it gets into the point “Where do we actually need it?” and “How can we design it into the places that we only really need it?” And there’s also, I think, where design comes into the conversation. 

In your opinion, what should a city of the future that is a sustainable city look like? 

Carola Hein: It’s important to think about circularity, short processes, where goods are produced locally and where waste is recycled and becomes part of the system. Circularity is particularly broken at the waste level. So, rather than producing a waste that is the foundation for other products. We send our waste to other parts of the world; the plastic goes somewhere. So, we use the most durable products like plastic for the most short-term usages like drinking water bottles. So, how could a city of the future look like if it’s sustainable? We have to rethink mobility patterns. We have to rethink our lifestyles and that means we have to, in some ways, work against or rethink the current built environment to make it possible to have more circular lifestyles and more engagement of people with the direct environment.

So, I think in some ways we have to find a larger strategy to empower the individuals. And I think that means also rethinking how we use things whether we buy things, whether we rent things. What kind of practices do we have? Can we imagine ways of more communal living? Can we see the water, for example, as one of the commons? As it was defined in the past where everybody has the shared interests in, and the shared benefit from so that people will then go back to respecting the elements of our direct environment in much bigger ways. 

The city of the future in many ways will depend on reimagining our lifestyles and the role of the individual therein and giving people much more of an opportunity to take care of their surrounds and make that part of a larger whole that can then be translated into a building practice. 

In How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future we also talk with the Co-founder and CEO of Civocracy, Chloé Pahud, about the ways in which we can become engaged citizens and start changing the cities we live in. Last by not least, our guest is Daniel Ringelstein, Director of Urban Design and Planning at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), with whom we open the topic of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Tune in. Listen to The Beam Podcast, Episode 2: How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future.

The Beam Podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts.

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The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

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