Yesterday's Business Day published an opinion editorial by futurist Guy Lundy simply entitled "Cities", addressing the power shift from nations to urban centres, and how to plan for our increasingly urban future. Guy now adds to these thoughts to explain why design professionals should be at city decision-making tables:
Our future is increasingly urban
"In 2007, for the first time since cities first appeared about 5 000 years ago, the world's population tipped over from being predominantly rural to more than 50% urban. This urbanisation has taken place rapidly, as only 29% of the world's population was urban in 1950. And it is expected to continue at pace, with the United Nations estimating that 7 out of 10 of us will live in cities by 2050. It is estimated that there are 70-million new residents in cities every year, mostly in emerging markets, with 5-million people a month moving to cities in the developing world. South Africa is already largely city-based, with more than 60% of us living in urban areas and urbanisation still taking place on a large scale. What this urbanisation is leading to is the rise of megacities that could, in their own right, be stand-alone countries. Tokyo, the world's most productive metropolitan area, is home to about 35-million people, more than the population of Canada. By 2025, there will be 36 such megacities, with populations of more than 10-million each."
Our urban future poses significant challenges
"Around the world, governments are struggling to manage service delivery to these rapidly growing urban populations. Many have tried, and failed, to stop or reverse the trend of urban migration. But no matter how much governments may focus on rural development as a way of keeping people in the countryside, urban migration will continue. Over the past five years, according to Statistics South Africa, about 500 000 people have migrated from South Africa's poorest provinces, headed primarily to Gauteng and Cape Town. And yet, cities are not always nice places to be. Slums around the world are now home to about 800-million people and are growing by about 16 000 people a day. Nevertheless, people still choose to live in them because they believe the economic opportunities presented by cities are significantly greater than those in the rural areas they have left."
Our urban future can also be part of the solution
"People tend to look at cities in a binary way: either as fantastical, futuristic utopias, or as horrific spectres of gridlock and decay. The reality lies in between. What is clear is that many of the solutions to South Africa's challenges lie in its cities. If they are well managed by local authorities and well supported by the central government, they will be the drivers of economic growth and development for the coming decades. They will become the destinations of choice for visitors from around the world and will attract talent and investment, providing a sustainable, vibrant environment in which their inhabitants can live, work and play. Cities are the greatest drivers of innovation and economic growth. Because of the concentration of people, talent is easier to find, markets are easier to access, populations become increasingly sophisticated, educational institutions are better able to connect to communities and business, and innovative companies thrive more easily. Economies of scale make the roll-out of new technologies financially viable. Action by the private sector and the government leads to the rise of the 'intelligent city', in which the application of technology improves lives."
Designers must be at the decision-making table
"To ensure that our cities are part of the solution to growing urbanisation, design is key. Informed city officials and smart city decisions are the product of multiple advisors - and design professionals should be part of that advisory group. Designers should inform our city strategy, ensuring our plans and projects are more sustainable and enduring, more with the end users - the community - in mind. As such, World Design Capital 2014 in Cape Town presents an incredible opportunity to educate ourselves, our elected officials, and our friends and family about the value of design - so that we know how to engage effectively and meaningfully with design professionals when we meet them at the decision-making table. And ultimately to ensure that we always make a point of inviting them to our tables."