Shaping the cities of tomorrow


Future communities: The IoT will connect various elements of urban life. – 123rf.com

Built environment education stands at the threshold of transformation.

As cities continue to evolve in the face of unprecedented issues, from climate change to social inequities, so too must educational institutions as we seek to design programmes that prepare graduates for the challenges ahead.

Today, it is a necessity to incorporate data analysis, simulation technology, parametric design tools, virtual reality and artificial intelligence in architecture and urban design education as the Internet of things (IoT) will connect various elements of urban life.

There is a need for the graduates of tomorrow to be well-versed in using technology to model, simulate and visualise design scenarios, allowing them not only to make informed decisions, but also to facilitate collaborative design processes when urbanising our world as the future of education will witness a significant shift towards collaborative planning and design.

Architects and urban designers of today and tomorrow must embrace interdisciplinary perspectives and collaborate closely with ecologists, sociologists, engineers and psychologists to design holistic spaces and create solutions that are responsive to the evolving needs of the community.

Climate adaptation is one of the keywords in creating a sustainable world. It is necessary to design and plan cities that are flexible and adaptable to unforeseen environmental, social and economic changes and disruptions.

Hence, built environment education must equip graduates with the mindset and skills to anticipate future challenges, design adaptable spaces, and develop strategies that ensure cities remain resilient in the face of unexpected events.

Indeed, the pressing environmental challenges of the 21st century will require graduates who are skilful in tackling problems through the principles of circular economy, adaptive design, waste minimisation, resource efficiency maximisation, and regenerative design.

Additionally, understanding ecological and nature principles will equip graduates to create spaces that ensure biodiversity thrives within cities. This in turn will not only support urban ecosystems, but also provide urban residents with natural retreats.

While embracing modernity, architects and urban designers should also celebrate tangible and intangible cultural heritage identity in their works. Their education should highlight the role of culture and traditional knowledge in understanding the full range of heritage values of a place.

In addressing climate issues, traditional knowledge and practices concerning nature and traditional craftsmanship can often strengthen the new technology in our built environment.

Design and planning should leave no one behind. Sustainability is about the environment, the economy and the people. This calls for the need to train students to address social inequities by not only creating inclusive spaces that cater to people of all ages, abilities, races and cultures, but also by allowing the community to participate in the design and planning process.

The social benefits arising from inclusive development should be shared equitably with community members, which would enhance a sense of ownership and encourage stewardship within communities.

To this end, architects and urban designers play a pivotal role in shaping our future cities. Built environment education must not only encompass new technologies, but also embody a profound commitment to environment and social stewardship.

This demands educational institutions to produce graduates who are ready to shape a sustainable future and who are able to make an impact on communities and industries. The journey towards the cities of tomorrow begins with the innovative and caring individuals of today.

Assoc Prof Dr Camelia May Li Kusumo is Taylor’s University Masters of Architecture programme director at the School of Architecture, Building and Design, Faculty of Innovation and Technology. Her expertise is in sustainable urban design and architecture, three-dimensional printing, biomimicry, social housing and urban heritage. Camelia is the leader of the research group “Affordable and Livable Asian Cities” and a member of the Centre for Research and Innovation in Tourism at the varsity. She is also an editorial board member of the Journal of Advances in Civil Engineering and Sustainable Architecture and the Al-Quds Journal for Academic Research – Humanities and Social Sciences.​ The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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