The age of the city

The age of the city

It’s the age of the city. Big cities, green cities, eco-friendly cities, accessible cities, cyber-secure cities, visitor-friendly cities, transport efficient cities, exercise agreeable cities. Life for millions of people whose families have, in the past, lived in the country, is destined to be spent in a city from now on. From Smart City to Heart City we are learning to make cities the new villages of the planet. We still have many lessons to learn.

Size, transport, noise abatement, health, good food distribution, the role (and definition) of the restaurant, neighbours. What are the requirements of a good city and does Singapore, as one example, have them? How does city life affect ageing populations in many countries? What is the effect on interactive social life? Can a city be family friendly?

Let’s consider size first. A city needs to be big enough to generate sufficient money to provide all the attributes mentioned above. There is no exact figure you can apply to this but if you want to be a city that can cut it with the rest of the world you probably need to have a population of about 10 Million or more. A city that size will have enough resources to cope with visitors and short-term employees, a feature of today’s businesses. Singapore’s population is about 5.5 Million.

Security next. Your city needs to be as nearly crime-free as possible. The old village had it’s crime but it was usually poaching and petty theft with the odd drunken murder thrown in. People knew each other, understood who could be trusted and who could not. Small, isolated communities are not crime free but they are more aware than big cities and tower blocks of apartments. Today, security must be more vigilant and extend to the Internet. When you can take and exercise run at 3am and draw cash en route without looking over your shoulder, you have a safe city. Singapore fully qualifies on this score.

Cyber security will increasingly become a municipal responsibility as new methods of protecting the internet locally become possible. I see local servers for housing blocks, communities and post-codes as a way of ensuring greater safety in future. It will also help create more secure digital journeys. As city populations get older the internet will play a bigger part in providing protection and contacts. Smart cities like Singapore win this one.

A river or waterway running through is important. Look at all the big cities that flourish and you will find plenty of water. When clean and free from chemicals it can irrigate the greenery that is so important to make the air breathable. Almost half of Singapore is green and even in the densely populated parts of the city there is lush foliage to make for breathable air and agreeable vistas. Singapore, surrounded by water, has no real waterway running through it.

When unemployment comes to rural areas people get busy growing their chickens and planting their carrots. Increasingly rooftop and redundant car-park space will be used to produce supplies that must be expensively shipped from some way off. Productivity, always a need for city-dwelling, will be especially sought after where there is rural substitution. With the sunshine record and precipitation of Singapore there should be room for much greater expansion of these facilities.

There must be greater cooperation between neighbours to build cities of hybrid ownership like the 1,000 sq kilometer Neon megacity between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and (later) Jordan – an experiment to watch. Singapore is short of land; nearby neighbours are not. It is a cooperation waiting to happen.

Cities are here for our convenience. In the battle over changing and unpredictable climate, the city can be a shelter, a haven.

Now we need to turn it into a home.