The ‘Smart Cities & Urban Innovation’ (UTS | MArch | Spring 2016) studio sought to propose data-driven strategies and interventions for city planning. The studio explored both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches to technology and its adoption. Beginning with bottom-up methodologies, students focused on citizens and how they can use innovative technologies, such as social media, mobile applications and open data to create solutions to issues that matter to them and enable behaviour change. Students were then encouraged to research what has already been produced and look to find gaps in the research which to focus their attention.
Next, the studio explored top-down approaches which focused on master planning and the integration of data from different systems into a consolidated framework. Using Paramatericism and Smart Cities as a point of departure, the studio speculated on visionary architectural outcomes for the White Bay precinct through the use of parametric software and big-data to generate a performance-driven masterplan. As such, the studio was less concerned with the leading edge of architecture than it was with the future of cities.
Throughout history, architects have been at the centre of imagining and creating cities. The Twentieth Century gave rise to a whole host of theories, some realised, others not. Numerous seminal books emerged, such as ‘The image of the city’ (Kevin Lynch), ‘The death and life of great American cities’ (Jane Jacobs), and ‘Collage City’ (Colin Rowe & Fred Koetter), which for many years, where the default approach to urban planning. However, for many years now, architects and urban planners have operated without any substantial theories with which to guide cities.
By 2050, it is predicted that 70% of the world’s population will be urban. Characterised by climate change, an increasing number of natural disasters, scarcity of resources, unprecedented population growth and greater inequality among people around the world, cities are trying to adapt and reinvent themselves. Cities are beginning to embrace technology and open data in an attempt to develop innovative solutions to these urban challenges and changing citizens’ needs. These cities have been coined many names, including ‘smart city’, ‘future city’, ‘sustainable city’ or ‘digital city’. Regardless of the term adopted, these cities have several commonalities in that they consider the use of smart technologies and data as the means to solve economic, social and environmental issues.