My last two articles (‘Where is society going’ and ‘Do you want to live in the highrise cities of the future’ on the cities of the future) concentrated on speculating where things were going based on what we see happening today. I would now like to take it a stage further, perhaps a bit more into the realm of science fiction.
Last time I mentioned an article on vertical gardens etc. At the time I sort of dismissed it as a nice idea, but perhaps peripheral to the many problems ever growing cities might present for society. But now from my science fiction point of view I’m not so sure. I think people who live in the urban environments value their gardens and green spaces even more than those who have the countryside on their doorstep. They represent an escape, a place of relaxation away from the concrete grey’s and sharp corners of city life. The slow growth and changing of seasons providing something of an antidote to the fast moving world we live in.
In New York you already have the Highline garden. In London they are planning a pedestrian bridge that will be lined with vegetation, a garden over the river. I wonder how far we can take that. I imagine as buildings get taller and there are more of them to accommodate that ever growing city population we will have walkways and transport links suspended between them. Take on the example of the Highline and plan for those to be planted.
Let’s go even further, how much could you merge the city with the countryside. In my mind they might resemble those ancient South American civilisations where the cities have been swallowed by the jungle, except this will be planned, cultivated and maintained. Those vertical gardens and farms of the article merging with endless garden spaces at street level and above. If we start to take the private car out of the picture, as we surely must, and have an automated, fully integrated and flexible transport system (Yes, this is still science fiction), below ground, at street level, and above street level, how much more space could be devoted to the greening of the city? Where we tear up those paved squares and roadways, replacing them with trees bushes and grasses. Where ground cars, busses, bicycles and pedestrians pass between trees shrubs and greenery. Perhaps as by-products of bringing nature into the city, putting people closer to the rest of the living world, we might respect our environment and take more interest in what we as a species are doing to it. I can but hope.
Even the maintenance of all this planting could be part of the solution to the pressures of city living . You might have fulltime city farmers, growing that edible produce. You might also have an allotment type system where local communities, businesses and corporations tend small patches.
In many ways this is not such a new idea. They built ‘garden cities’ in the early part of the twentieth century. I guess what I’m proposing is taking it a stage further, into what will become the mega cities of the future. Perhaps the new London bridge and the New York Highline are just the start. With a little imagination who knows how far it could go. For me it’s a more acceptable vision that soulless concrete, picture so often depicted in science fiction.