If you asked Vicente Guallart, former Chief Architect of Barcelona City Council, what his favourite city in the world was in the 90s, he would have said Barcelona. In the 00s he preferred Colombia’s Medellín.
As he works to invent the city of the future using the principles of global connectivity and local self-sufficiency, we challenged the director of Guallart Architects and co-founder and director of IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) to name his top ten future-focused cities today – and their standout projects.
His number one choice has a socially active mayor who is changing attitudes towards technology in South Asia. That is the only clue we’re going to give you.
10. Melbourne, Australia
“Why to go to Mars if you can go to Australia? Melbourne has the best lifestyle of any city in the world. The reinvention of its downtown is a great model for places like Atlanta or Houston, demonstrating how to bring housing, cafes and public transportation to the city centre. Queen Victoria Market is a great project. It’s the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere.”
9. Beijing, China
“Beijing is a huge city that has been affected by contamination, traffic jams and a lack of urban diversity. But this makes the city extremely interesting, as we can watch it reinvent itself. The Forbidden City in its centre is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
8. Los Angeles, USA
“Los Angeles reinvents urbanity with new companies like Tesla or Hyperloop, but my favourite project is the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. It addresses the environment and economy to move toward a truly sustainable future. LA is also home to schools like SCI-Arc and UCLA, which are permanently trying to reinvent architecture education.”
7. Nairobi, Kenya
“Nairobi was recently ranked ‘The most innovative city in Africa, Middle East’ ahead of mega-cities like Shenzhen, Tokyo, Hyderabad and Seoul. Africa could be the greatest continent of the 21st century if peace-building efforts can end the region’s longest-running conflicts and stability and growth can reach more regions.”
6. New York, United States
“New York is always seen as ‘THE city’, a paradigm of urbanity, diversity and capacity of reinvention. But there are more projects beyond the High Line – like the Lowline, Ellis Island and the reinvention of Brooklyn and Queens. New York is also the headquarters of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which represents the potential of global urban innovation, beyond government.”
5. New Delhi, India
“New Delhi’s India Smart Cities Challenge national plan for urban regeneration is another competition for municipal leaders and partners to promote economic opportunity in the capital of emerging India, improving governance and achieving better results for residents.”
4. Moscow, Russia
“Moscow is a great capital city full of super-innovative people hidden behind the ruins of dictatorship. Transformational projects involve pedestrianised embankments that will run along a transformed riverfront, high-speed water transport, plans for Zaryadye Park and cycling infrastructure. The Higher School of Economics is launching new urban programmes there.”
3. Quito, Ecuador
“This October Quito is home to Habitat III, the major global summit formally known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Follow Germanico Pinto on Twitter. The electronics engineer is involved in major infrastructure projects, particularly those related to Smart Cities and the Cities of Good Living (Buen Vivir).”
2. Tehran, Iran
“Tehran is the capital of Persian civilisation – and as with all the old civilisations it has an incredible capacity to reinvent itself. New diplomatic negotiations are transforming Tehran into a great city to get to know (paying attention to potential visa problems when travelling to the US). Built in the foot of Alborz Monutains and surrounded by the desert, the short ride to Isfahan is one of the most interesting examples of parametric architectures, made 400 years ago.”
1. Bandung, Indonesia
“I’m choosing Bandung as my favourite city, not just because of its excellent food, but because it has a great mayor who is helping the city’s urban regeneration within a huge country. (There is a reason why it is called Indonesia’s Silicon Valley.) As the incumbent Mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil is a social activist and architect who has made significant changes in terms of government attitude towards the use of technology, with five ‘smart city’ milestones: tech infrastructure, tech-oriented governance, open governance, empowerment and a ‘teknopolis’. He’s very popular on Twitter with 1.3 million followers.”