‘Tomorrow is Now!’
The theme of this edition of the WLPS Festival is ‘Tomorrow is Now!’. We will discuss those developments that are crucial for the future design and use of public space; the growing influence of technology (Smart City), the need for creative solutions for the climate-resilient city and the crucial role of public space as a meeting place. How do city makers deal with these trends? Which methods and strategies do they develop and use to achieve their goals?
The Smart City
The reason “Tomorrow is Now!” has been chosen as the motto for this year’s edition is the growing public awareness of the Smart City’s arrival. It is not a futuristic scenario, but is already here, in action, and it is here to stay.
Smart objects in public space collect and transmit data, not just about their own functionality but also data about their immediate environment. Techniques such as WiFi tracking are used by corporations and governments to collect data on the use of public space and the behavior of citizens in the public domain. This is justified with the argument that we need smart technology to keep cities livable, but it is at odds with the privacy of citizens.
Do we want to be in an environment where every movement is picked up, stored and analyzed? A place where algorithms try to influence our behavior, without giving us the possibility to opt out? Who owns this data; citizens or the companies that harvest it? What should the rules be for the use of big data?
Meeting in Public Space
It is widely acknowledged that dynamic and thriving public spaces are essential for the economy. Furthermore, the social quality of public space is essential for the functioning of society in general. The public domain is the place where people with different social backgrounds meet, thus stimulating the exchange of diverse ideas and views.
Commercialization – both visible and invisible – threatens this open character of the public domain. Developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and (mobile) technology are changing the way we use and experience the city, both in positive, but also in negative ways.
That is why public space as a social platform – as a meeting place – is of crucial importance, not only now but also in the future.
Public urban space functions as the physical counterpart to the virtual meeting space that is the internet. Since mobile technology allows us to do anything, anywhere, anytime, it no longer matters where we shop, play or work. This makes high-quality urban space even more important. If we can do everything everywhere, where do we want to be? In places where we feel comfortable. We do not have to be anywhere anymore, so we choose to be in spaces with added value, where we can have meaningful experiences and interactions with others.
The climate-adaptive city
Another future challenge is the need to develop innovative strategies to deal with the consequences of climate change. Public space is the place where climate-change related problems are manifest; flooding and heat stress are affecting city life more and more. In many cities the construction of green roofs and façades is encouraged, in order to reduce heat stress. And the construction of rain gardens and water squares contributes to the storage of surplus water.
These and other small-scale solutions are indeed valuable and contribute to the citizens’ awareness of the climate-adaptative challenge. But to make the city truly resilient, it is necessary to develop more innovative strategies that can also be applied on a larger scale. How can the design, layout and management of public space contribute to the reduction of the effects of climate change?
How can the design and quality of public space contribute to the economic, social, and climatic challenges of tomorrow? How do city makers deal with these challenges and what strategies do they use to achieve their goals?