Pocket Zones: How to Build Livable Megacities

The key to smarter cities will not be technology, but the existence of dense walkable zones made for easy living.
The MIT Tech Review speculates that in the coming decades, much of the population growth will happen in cities. By 2050, some 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to be living in them. What will make cities click is an ease of life—where daily living is the focus, says Kent Larson, an architect who directs the MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places Group. “If you design for living, you’re going to get the good stuff: the eco-friendly, green, low-carbon city,” and more innovation will spring out of the interactions of the people living and working there, Larson argues.
Cities have sprung up to serve many purposes, such as commerce and manufacturing, but the key to making them more innovative could be simply to make them more livable and walkable.


Larson believes that a few features will make highly dense, but livable cities possible:
1. Urban farming, which might involve adding a lightweight “skin” to buildings where crops can grow in a process that is 100 times more land-efficient than conventional farming, and also uses much less water and produces much less carbon dioxide. In China alone, “you have 250 million people moving to cities, mostly farmers, and they’ll need jobs, so it’s a no-brainer,” says Larson.
2. Rethinking transportation. Larson envisions micro-scale cars that can be shared, allowing for a 50-fold benefit in how much land is actually needed to accommodate parking, he said.
3. Micro housing. Look for a rise in micro-scale housing units, such as 200-square-foot apartments with various sliding units so that beds, dining room tables, and even bathrooms can expand and collapse.

The intersection of livability and sustainability is a hot spot that we continue to watch. As we trundle through the streets of Chicago, we see eco-friendly projects popping up everywhere.  Stay tuned as we share more trends and consumer behaviors that will accelerate this next wave of livable, sustainable growth.