The future of the future city ? The new urban sciences and a PEAK Urban interdisciplinary disposition

PEAK Briefing

Exponential demographic growth driving global urbanization, particularly in China, India and Africa, generates commercial opportunities, ethical dilemmas and ecological challenges in equal measure.  And while the importance of the city is recognised in the United Nations’ explicitly urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 11), all the SDGs will succeed or fail in and through the future configuration of cities that will be the sites where most of the globe’s future will dwell. 

A growing academic subdiscipline claims to theorise, explain and predict the shape of the future city. We argue that situating cities as drivers of sustainable development is usefully captured by an augmented systems-based logic.

With others we move from understanding the city as a system to a ‘system of systems’ that recognises cities as open rather than closed systems. An open system, or the parts of a whole, interacts with its environment by exchanging energy, materials, and information, changing the structure of the constitutive parts of the system itself.

However, our interpretation of how urban science or systems thinking might be configured elucidates both how forms of scientific knowledge ‘know’ the city but also reorganise the way the city is seen and organised -how science lands in cities and how scholarship might promote ethically sensitive and contextually nuanced urban transformations. 

Michael Keith
City Governance
Sustainable Cities