Masterplanning expert: Smart cities risk ignoring the human dimension / by Chris White

Bandar Malysia

The continued rise of the global city and the rise of the so-called ‘smart city’ was the key topic at the World Islamic Economic Forum, held on 29th and 31st October, with the potential of new developments in ‘smart’ technology discussed in terms of helping to deliver improved quality of life, economic productivity and international collaboration.

October also saw the creation of a new smart cities forum in the UK, which will include ministers, executives and academics and is designed to help the UK capitalise on the potential of the global market (predicted to be worth $400bn by 2020) for intelligent technologies that promise to make cities greener, more efficient and cheaper to run.

Ed Baker, Director of Masterplanning at global architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan, and who is leading several smart city projects globally, said: “Some smart city proposals read more like manuals for laptops rather than strategies to create places where people will live and work.

“Too often the smart city debate is laden with technological references and futuristic images of Blade Runner-type cityscapes. Technology can be the means, but there should be more focus on the people who live in the cities and the design of better places, whether that’s improved learning environments, better designed open spaces or promoting access to the arts.

“On Bandar Malaysia, for example, our expert global masterplanning team is exploring the relationship between better-connected environments and the creative industries as an economic driver. The solution may be a technological one, but equally it could be the creation of more and better-designed physical spaces for networking and interaction.

“This includes a diverse range of design ideas from interactive art and playgrounds, digital culture centres to educate and develop digital skills, and the creation of a crowd sourcing website for urban agriculture to coordinate growing distribution and delivery to local shops and restaurants.

“We are actively partnering with clients to demystify the concept of smart cities and believe in a softer, human-focused approach, to enhance and sustain built, natural and social environments, create vibrant, integrated and mixed-use communities with social and economic purpose and foster creativity and innovation – with technology a critical but single factor.”

Broadway Malyan is the lead global partner delivering the 196-hectare Bandar Malaysia scheme for client 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), having won the concept masterplan competition to transform Kuala Lumpur into one of the world’s best global cities and a benchmark for sustainability, liveability and affordable urban housing in Asia.

Recent masterplans delivered by Broadway Malyan include visions for new cities in Abu Dhabi including a 680 hectare waterfront community of up to 55,000 inhabitants on Yas Island and Al Maryah Island (formerly Sowwah Island) which covers over 3.5 million sqm of mixed-use development.

The practice has also recently delivered plans for new cities in Brazil (Convida Suape – a new city involving the transformation of a 470 hectare area for 100,000 inhabitants) and Iraq (the ‘10×10’ project involving a 17km² extension of Sadr City, Baghdad, and the creation of New Sadr City).

Distinguished by its global reach with 16 studios across world centres, unrivalled diversity with over 450 sector experts and distinctive client focus with over 85% income from repeat business, Broadway Malyan creates world-class and fully-integrated cities, places and buildings to unlock lasting value and deliver a ‘return on design’.

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