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.
Centre for Liveable Cities