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Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD
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Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD



This is a summary of three global scenarios for the future of cities, completed at the University of Oxford’s "Future of Cities" program. ...

This is a summary of three global scenarios for the future of cities, completed at the University of Oxford’s "Future of Cities" program.

I worked extensively on these scenarios and then presented an early draft of them at the Harvard Graduate School of Design last year.

This presentation is only a draft and may not reflect the final versions of the completed project. 

More detail on the project can be found at the official website, here:




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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • May I ask for a copy of this excellent presentation?
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    Karl Rose
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Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD Oxford "Future of Cities" @ the Harvard GSD Presentation Transcript

  • The Future of Cities: Three scenarios for urban futures A project by the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities Presented by: Noah Raford, DUSP, MIT nraford@mit.edu
  • 2.1 billion more in cities
  • Mostly young
  • Most in slums
  • Increasing complexity
  • Decreasing resources
  • + Uncertainty The future Complexity Risk Future 2 Past trends Future 3 Certainty - Rate of change + Past Present Future Scenarios: planning for change
  • 23 interviews world wide • Architecture • Commercial tenants • Entrepreneurship • Environment • Governance • Infrastructure • Non-governmental organisations • Planning • Real estate • Technology
  • Drivers of change Growing income inequality Lack of capital availability Role of centralized governance Infrastructure decay Lifestyle change & value shifts Resource shortages
  • Economic • Increased division of wealth between rich and poor • The world’s poor are an increasingly powerful force in urban development • Current urban development models not t for their emergent needs • Global warming will disproportionately effect the poor • International nance will become more important, domestic capital less • International nance will become more selective, comparing between cities • Taxation will continue to be a strong determinant of capital ows • New ecological accounting mechanisms will play an increasing role in real estate nance and development • Building obsolescence will become an increasingly important factor
  • Political • Most city governments will lack the resources to meet increasing citizens demands • Weaken central government and open room for other players • Civil society and community based organisations will be the rst to ll this role • Bottom-up participatory approaches to development and management will become important • Local government will need to shift from regulation to enabling and facilitating • Boundaries of where city authorities ends will blur, administrative implications are unclear • Grassroots' innovation could lead to transformational change • Insecurity more important factor, with high unemployment and economic, political and environmental migration
  • Cultural • Need for new types of education / consciousness change • Increased social fragmentation as people cling to their identities • Increasing fragmentation of commercial and social services • The youth will play a powerful role in urban governance • Need to strike a balance between short term pro t and growth and long term needs • Increasing complexity calls for new kinds of leadership
  • Environmental • Water will become an ever increasing problem • Droughts in rural areas will drive people to urban areas • Global warming and extreme weather will impact urban development • Most cities have very poor emergency preparedness for environmental disasters and will be blindsided by change • Disease return to rst world cities • May have to consider abandoning cities
  • Technological • ICT will enable acceleration of social dynamics already in place • Could have signi cant destabilising effects through asymmetric warfare, etc. • May allow for breakthroughs in decentralised infrastructure and governance • ICT enables relocation of activities, such as public administration • ICT will enable more social surveillance and government control
  • Workshop Learning journey Driver identi cation Sorting key drivers Scenario snippets Fleshing out and exploring implications Systems mapping Deeping scenarios
  • Gulliver’s Massive socio- Triumph of the World technical revolution Triads
  • Scenario 1: Gulliver’s World
  • Two worlds in one
  • A core of new eco-prosperity
  • A fringe of stagnation & struggle
  • Smarter cities & transport
  • But persistent basic challenges
  • Broader global leadership
  • But increasing fragmentation
  • Higher quality of life for some
  • But increasing exclusion for most
  • Scenario 2: Massive socio-technical revolution
  • A decade of decline
  • Producing social tension
  • Followed by a devastating blow
  • Leading to a youth uprising
  • And a new generation of leaders
  • Who push through new agreements
  • Creating global climate stabilization
  • And smarter, greener cities
  • With local food economies
  • Increased “soft wealth”
  • And greater quality-of-life for all
  • Scenario 3: Triumph of the Triad’s
  • Rapid, distruptive climate change
  • Market failures multiply
  • International aid falters
  • Con ict and migration ensues
  • Breakdown of critical infrastructure
  • Leads a harsh return to self-suf ciency
  • Urban tribalism increases
  • Leading to new “family values”
  • Warlord tax collectors provide service
  • For a global age of muddling through
  • For more information visit: The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/centres/insis/research/Pages/future- cities.aspx