” I imagine that the Millennium Development Goals Report’s statistic that “1 in 3 urban dwellers lives in slum conditions” will not be given proportional representation in eco-cities anytime soon. These from-scratch developments have the luxury of running away from some of the complex social problems that are prevalent in older cities, and by excluding the poor from plans, social and spatial division is encouraged. Images of Elysium spring to mind…”
by alex garkavenko
Not only are many cities bursting at the seams from urban overcrowding; they are also increasingly starting to bear the strains of climate change. Although there are numerous solutions to either challenge, the building up of new “eco-cities” tries to kill the two birds with one stone (or rather, tries to bring back the birds,Silent Spring-style.)
But what is the role, really, of these master-planned communities in our sustainable futures?
The concept of an isolated, ecologically minded community is by no means a new one. The ever forward-thinking Buckminster Fuller was talking about idyllic “domed communities” in the early 1960s, and in 1975 writer Ernest Callenbach published his seminal novel Ecotopia, greatly influencing the green movements that would quickly follow.
Although a number of eco-communities, villages, and communes popped up in the following years (like Davis, California), it is only recently that an “eco” model has included so much technology and been practically expanded to the scale of entire cities.
While smaller versions may have grown more organically, contemporary Eco-Cities are often top-down master plans designed by big-name firms, like Foster + Partners’ Masdar City or Perkins + Will‘sDockside Green Development. Since many of these Eco-Cities are still under development, we can only speculate about their future performance and whether they will be flexible enough to function as a “real city.” Not all functions can be predetermined, and to act like the grown-up-cities they must be prepared for unexpected urban surprises and to react to feedback and complaints.