Issue 20: The Science of Cities

Urban Solutions Issue 20
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In This Issue

Message from the Executive Director

An Evolving Toolbox for the Urban Future

The world is seeing an unprecedented growth in the digitalisation of cities even as they grapple with old and new urban challenges linked to the rapid growth of the urban population. Once regarded as an inorganic entity, the city can now be seen as more of a complex organic system. This has created the impetus for a more deliberate approach towards understanding the city and its challenges, representing a new “science of cities”. Not surprisingly, cities have come to value data as a central resource, to understand the movements of the city, both its inhabitants and its processes, and to improve the daily lived experience for city-dwellers.

The new science of cities as the platform for better urban living.

Michael Batty and Peter Ho expound on the need for the science of cities in their essays. With increasingly complex urban systems found within cities, the interactions of these systems with one another and their emergent outcomes have become the focal point for productive solutions to urban challenges of today. Chng Kai Fong explains why a science of cities approach is essential for cities today and the role of governments in enabling this.

Data and digitalisation become pivotal in understanding the city.

In the wake of COVID-19, Prof Stephen Cairns explains why urban density remains valuable, and how it can be better designed. Prof Sing Tien Foo shares how future office space will evolve alongside changing needs and technology. Prof Greg Clark predicts the rise of blended “physical-digital” cities with greater flexibility in where and how people live, work and play, and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat shares how Singapore is charting a new path through the Singapore Green Plan.

A green and inclusive future is key.

As Eleri Jones and Tim Stonor assert in their essay, technology is an important facilitator for urban solutions. By mapping human patterns and lifestyles, we can attempt to understand how the city could shape or be shaped by these experiences. As the city is about its people, digital tools and solutions have to adopt a people-centric approach, taking into account the irrationality of human choices, behaviours and patterns as highlighted in the interview with Carlo Ratti. However, data alone is just one part of the equation: Josef Hargrave shares insight on how urban planners and policymakers can leverage scientific knowledge and imagination to holistically craft a city that is resilient to the urban challenges of the future.

The new science of cities paves the way for the future city.

The new science of cities can be daunting for planners and designers alike, yet they can be encouraged by the blueprints of successful cities. Cities such as Shenzhen have shown the fruits of a robust, data-centric planning approach to rapidly develop into a bustling, sustainable, and smart metropolitan city. Large-scale digitalisation initiatives involving both the public and private sector have facilitated the refinement of onceold master planning approaches and broadened avenues for inter-disciplinary collaboration, enhancing city living in Singapore and Melbourne.

As the approaches towards understanding the city have evolved across the last century, so too have the challenges of the modern urban society. We see in Thailand that some problems have origins and solutions that cross city boundaries, and that understanding the underlying complexity is essential in tackling them. This Urban Solutions issue seeks to illustrate that the science of cities is an approach integral to the future of cities. As the world ventures into an increasingly connected, vulnerable and complex state, cities have to remain as stalwarts of better living for all.

Hugh Lim
Executive Director
Centre for Liveable Cities


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