The Design of Cities in the Year 2039

Sourced from Architectural Digest

More than half the world's population already lives in urban centers, and in two decades that number will be more than 60 percent. By 2039, our world will be home to at least 43 megacities—urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants. How will the cities of the future deal with such an influx of people? With good design, of course. Architects, engineers, and urban planners of today are already thinking about the cities of tomorrow. First and foremost, most seem to agree, our future cities must be places designed for people—not vehicles, buildings, and businesses. Creating vibrant communities, connections, and relevance between people and place is paramount.

No one-size-fits-all solutions exist across geographic locations, as urban planning will increasingly be rooted in local culture. But cities must also be capable of sustaining transformation and addressing larger issues, including public health, climate change, and energy generation. “To thrive in the future,” says Rae Smith, a senior urban designer based in HOK’s San Francisco office, “we need to maximize the value of our built environment and leverage it to solve multiple problems at once.”

“What will be common, I think, is that all cities will have much more densely populated city centers with 24/7 programming,” says David Gianotten, managing partner-architect of OMA. “The time of the suburb and commuting to work is over. People will want to live close to their work and have all of the services they need close to the place they live. How to achieve this desired density, combined with new modes of transport, will be one of the most challenging elements of planning cities in the future—and planning future-proof cities.”


To create flourishing cities of the future, designers will address issues like public health and community building. Creating vibrant downtown districts, mixed-use spaces, human-powered and intermodal transit systems, and green spaces are all critical to this goal.

Vibrant cities have great air quality, clean water, and healthy citizens. When we build cities for humans—not buildings and cars—we can achieve those things. “[People] want to be able to walk to great restaurants, entertainment, and shopping,” says Dave Williams, executive vice president of architecture at Caruso, the real estate development company that built Palisades Village, a high-end retail and mixed-use space in Los Angeles designed around the idea that a community should be authentic, highly curated, easily accessible, and green.

That kind of cityscape encourages walking and biking as well as microcommunities where people live, work, and play in the same vicinity. “We are looking to combine people-focused design with cutting-edge technology to enhance livability with a greener, more connected public realm and new levels of sustainability,” says Brian Jencek, director of planning at HOK in San Francisco.

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