This Must Be The Place: Critical Design and Urban Futurity - Tomorrows Exhibition Catalogue
This short essay by Strange Telemetry for the Tomorrows exhibition examines critical approaches to futurity in the city, particularly critiquing the smart city vision as a site of inevitability in power.
By 2050, half the world’s population will live in cities
— Ancient Proverb
You have, surely, seen or heard the above statement before—in newspaper articles, possibly, or government documents; perhaps as wall-text at an art exhibition; perhaps whispered into your ear by an anonymous commuter.
Words summon action. Describing a near-future in which half of
the global populace will inevitably—definitely!—live in cities is not
a value-neutral offering but an invocation to act. This proverb drives policy development for the United Nations, forms the opening gambit of a great many foresight reports and acts as the backbone of the property development industry. It is a compelling pitch for businesses and govern- ments looking to shore up certainty in an age of instability and volatility, framing half the world’s population as a captive audience for policy, surveillance and sales.
Positioning the city as the nexus of mass human experience for
the foreseeable future sets up a land-grab for who gets to define what these cities will look like. And what is being imagined often seems to be terribly similar, both in terms of what these cities look like, how they are controlled and what forms of technological systems will thread through them.
It is these apparently inescapable future-metropolitan visions that critical approaches to design, architecture and urbanism seek to challenge.