Throughout history, architects and reformers have wondered about the future of cities. Numerous master plans have been created for future cities to envision the same such as Palmonova, a Venetian city model to Frank Llyod Wright‘s Broadacre City. These plans are called Utopias, a term coined by Thomas Moore, referring to a good place’. In 2018, the Dutch government and various knowledge institutions initiated a design study, known as ” 2050 City of Future”.
The study was dedicated to tackling issues for future cities like climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. This article compares the vision and principles of Le Corbusier in his visionary Ville Radieuse, an extension of conceptual cities he was previously working on, Plan Voisin and Ville Contemporaine, with some modern proposals.
The masterplan of Ville Radieuse, published in 1933, contained pre-fabricated, identical skyscrapers, densely arranged in a cartesian grid, across a vast green area. The strategy was to create vertical architecture with plenty of shared open space.
Le Corbusier put forward the idea of ample roof gardens to recoup the sunlit space lost beneath the skyscrapers. He suggested building elevated auto-ports and highways. He leads a radical perspective of high-density housing and efficient mode of transportation, with ordered geometry and mechanical standardization. The city is almost designed like a “living machine”, suffering from many environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emission and global warming.
The model aids in arriving at the fundamental principles of town planning. The central business district was plotted with 24 identical glass skyscrapers, in a 400-yard rectangular grid with a parking space between them, with low-rise prefabricated housing towers surrounding it. The rooftops would serve as kindergartens and playgrounds. These apartments would have access to shared public spaces.
The masterplan rules out leisure welcome peace, negates the significance of the street, yet brings in air, nature and sunlight. The plan promises the collective participation of people, employed under various programs. In his vision, the modern man is liberated and gifted with the simple pleasures of life.
Olympic Aquatics Centre Paris 2024, a research project designed by VenhoevenCS, takes a new sustainable approach towards urban greening.
For example, by reducing hard surfaces like pavements and roads, one could improve the percolation of water, thereby creating an efficient rain and groundwater harvesting system. An increase in green cover present in cities absorbs CO2 and reduces the urban heat island phenomenon, while also improving biodiversity in flora and creating healthy living environments.
In their Wenzhou Ouhai South new city concept planning, VenhoevenCS takes community farming (including high-rise indoor farming) and zoning effects of the ecosystem into consideration. They promote self-sustaining ecosystems, focusing on wetland regeneration and reforestation in the countryside.
Mixed-use zoning can also break the monotony of single-function zoning and improve proximity. Therefore, this approach transforms a linear economy into a circular and predominantly biobased economy.
In terms of transportation, Le Corbusier encouraged car supremacy, suggesting every block to be connected by cars. In the absence of streets, roadside taverns and free markets would not flourish. This was his idea of a clean and organized life. Today, cars are not the only form of mobility, and buildings today require increased public access and transparency.
Connectivity and walkability to public facilities are key design criteria for contemporary society. The same is observed in the Het Platform, where cyclable and walkable car-free neighbourhoods; combining mobility and logistic hubs with circular economy centres and update them into attractive urban centres.
Le Corbusier encouraged family life, where services such as kindergartens, parks and schools, are connected to residential units with a public service centre, which would adopt a collective business model for purchasing daily essentials. This collective communal living today is happening globally, considering co-living as the future living trend. Restaurants and shops provide meticulous daily activities for residents of the community.
In the Park More project, architects elaborated on Le Corbusier’s idea further, developing socially-inclusive urban villages. Walking distances are considered a significant design index, to make sure residents live within practicable distance from daily activities to reduce traffic.
Le Corbusier’s functionalist and radical ideas faced rejection and never achieved universality, even though he envisioned a utopian city. His vision seems to disregard liveability and human nature, in contrast to what architects envision today. Making self-sufficient neighbourhoods that produce their green energy, reuse and recycle resources. Residents grow their food and harvest rainwater. All the processes are based on the principles of a sustainable circular economy.
For the megacities, build in 2050, driven by data and tech, there is a missing link between ambitious goals and existing initiatives. Public spaces are turned into concrete jungles for decades to come. We can expect densely-packed cities, localized communities and urban hubs to reverse urban sprawl. Today, megacities like Singapore and Copenhagen lead the way for redesigning and refocusing cities to be more sustainable and diverse, defining human existence.