Urban design trends develop not least because of a global pandemic. Lorcan Sirr, lecturer at the TU Dublin, explains some of the things to keep in mind.
Centers for Creativity
Many people move to the cities every year. They are centers of creativity, but also places where really desperate people go. I am thinking of Africa here. Cities are where the action is and will be. Businesses don’t want to be based in rural areas – cities develop a dynamic around them, which is why we have Facebook and Twitter close together and do things like employee sharing.
They are the places the creative industries want to set up, especially in Ireland. The days when we could set up factories in cities across the country in Ireland are dying out. A lot of the companies we want to attract want to go to cities. They want the bright young people, and these people want expensive city cappuccinos and public transportation. In cities there are more opportunities for well-paid or not-well-paid jobs.
Data analysis is becoming very important – who does what, where, how are the emissions, who uses which service. All of this information will be vital to managing cities, and cities will become more difficult to operate. We don’t do it very well in Dublin. We’re not collecting enough data. For example, in Zaragoza, Spain, they have a roadside counter that can be used to count cars. We’re not there yet, but all of the data collection helps manage cities better. Data should and will be open source.
In cities around the world, this is seen as a seamless service that eliminates the need for users to use multiple tickets, apps, maps, etc. Users don’t care if they’re using Uber, Irish Rail or the dart – it’s an app, a ticket, a card, etc. Again, data is important. Freiburg and London do well. We’re so late in the cities and never had an industrial revolution. That is why we have never developed an urban ethos when it comes to managing cities. We still have a persistent approach to technical solutions and we don’t have the lord mayor’s culture or a meaningful city administration in our cities.
Housing construction is increasingly being financed. This means we will see more engagement from private funds buying properties to rent out to city dwellers. There will be less living space to buy. In a country like Ireland you cannot rent for life, it is based on ownership of property. For a public sector worker like me, my salary will drop 40 percent upon retirement, but the idea is that I don’t have a mortgage to pay. There is a cohort of tenants but this saves problems. Homeownership is a buffer for the state – it means they have fewer retired people to support because they have their own houses but no mortgages.
We will see an increase in rents in the urban area. The upshot of this will also be the decision of a sizeable cohort to prioritize quality of life over urban life and therefore head for the mountains to work remotely, or do things like brew beer, open coffee shops or conduct online consultations for each business you will decide they no longer want to live in a city. For example, you can still be a journalist but live in Co Clare and work remotely. Working from home in cities means you need more space, but houses are not pandemic-proof buildings and you won’t find the space cities need.