Cities of the future: Asia Pacific


Last of three parts

ENVISIONING the future of our cities is an exciting, fulfilling, and equally grueling endeavor. The cities we live-in are a part of us. Our cities shape us, and we shape our cities. The most important thing that we need to remember is cities are built for people and it is for them to prosper. While it is tempting to dream of things that are relevant and a necessity to us, taking the bigger picture into consideration entails rigorous research, discipline, and collaboration.

In my past two articles I have shared ideas discussed during the 19th FIABCI Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat Summit, held here in Manila. The 21st century will be the emergence of the Asian Century and will be known as the century of cities. World population by 2050 will increase three billion more and the Philippines will add 50 million more Filipinos. Within our lifetime 200 new cities will emerge in the Philippines, and globally thousands more will rise. I have also shared the consensus of the speakers on how important it is to develop new regional growth centers to ease up traffic congestion and unprecedented population migration to a central city. NEDA and JICA presented a long-term development transportation and infrastructure plan dubbed as the “Dream Plan” in paving the way in creating smart cities and regional growth centers.

The renaissance of city planning
In the ’70s I was privileged to help design the future city of Dubai which is now a reality as an Aerotropolis. A new urban form placing airports in the center with cities growing around them, connecting workers, suppliers, executives, and goods to the global marketplace, as John D. Kasarda explains.

Changing times means changing needs, but it does not mean the evolution of our cities are detached from earlier forms. As a matter of fact, renaissance is the unearthing of basic principles which inspired the whole of human history. In the early 1900’s Urban Planner Le Corbusier, saw the need for higher buildings to accommodate population density. It was a planning concept to accommodate what we now know as the Megalopolis – a city with a population of over 10 million people and a collection of a number of metropolitan cities.

In the latter part of the 20th century, a great movement occurred in the city of New York. A journalist by the name of Jane Jacobs saw that the economic boom resulted in a car-oriented or free-way oriented city which displaced people who love to walk and bike. It even came to a point where city neighborhoods are demolished to give way to freeways and highways. The death and life of great American cities was written as a reminder of what a city truly stands for– integral human development, an avenue where social interaction and mobility flourishes.

Today another global problem is haunting society: food security. Food would have traveled hundreds of miles before it gets on our plate. As a matter of fact, certain fruits such as mangoes, bananas and pineapples are shipped thousands of miles to other countries. The concept of an Agropolis or also known as an Urban Farm emerged. Presently, New York City is trying to adapt certain concepts by encouraging the conversion of building rooftops into edible plant gardens.

With the continuous improvements in technology, more progressive nations elsewhere in the world are developing their cities to be smarter. The term “Smart City” emerged around 2004 from the Smart Growth movement of the late 1990s and became an indicator of different characteristics to measure the performance of cities towards smart mobility, smart environment, smart economy, smart governance, smart living and smart people. Smart Cities are now widely viewed as the sound solution toward inclusive growth. If we are to develop smart cities in our country, good connectivity is crucial—how we can live, work, shop, dine, learn, worship, with healthcare, wellness centers and 24-hour cycle activity centers as closely as possible to each other. We must improve the mobility and connectivity in our cities and our country by creating smart urban developments.

In the Philippines, more than ever, we are also seeing the impact of climate change on our cities. Every year we experience flooding and have seen the loss of lives and properties resulting from floods. Adding to that the threats of earthquakes, storm surges, tsunamis, and landslides, our country is among the most vulnerable to hazards. As such, we must also look at our cities and take the necessary measures to make them more resilient. Resilient cities, taking from the definition of the Urban Land Institute, have “the ability not only to bounce back but to bounce forward – to recover and at the same time to enhance the capacities of the community or organization to better withstand future stresses.” This entails being less vulnerable to disasters, recovering more quickly after catastrophes, and having a long-term plan in addressing future challenges.

The concepts Megalopolis, Aerotropolis, Agropolis, Smart City, and Resilient City are worth seriously considering when we plan our cities. Collaboration, not confrontation, is the key to progress. Society is inherently rich in culture, in life, in profession, in passionate human endeavors and human sentiment. All these are reasons why society should be planned as a society. With a rigorous private-public partnership, we can lift it towards re-planning, remaking, and rebuilding our cities into globally competitive cities of the future.


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  1. The future is atomised cities – decentralised but connected via high speed infrastructure – physical and digital.
    Le Corbusier’s ideas were adapted well in places like Milton Keynes in UK, which was also forward thinking in house design, and is a great place to live and work.
    There are optimum sizes for cities, and whilst the trend may be towards mega-cities that does not mean it is correct or desirable.
    Historically corporations also needed to physically collect the best workers in one place. They no longer need to do that, and wage the talent war across boundaries.
    The changing nature of work will be the key driver in the shape of the cities of the future, and also which cities attract talent and investment. No executive wants to be based in Manila, and prefers to commute from Singapore.