London think-tank imagines City of the future

As the lockdown eases in England and thoughts turn to the new normal in the post-pandemic world, London-based think-tank Chatham House has unveiled a future-gazing project aimed at reimagining tomorrow's cities.

Released to mark the think-tank’s 100-year anniversary, Futurescape London uses a 3D digital model to follow a family of Londoners through three generations, and imagines four future date points in the life of a world-famous London landmark:

Piccadilly Circus 2035 depicts an urban environment adapted to meet emission reduction goals and to serve people rather than commerce and cars. Storytelling benches use augmented reality to make new human connections, while aspects of a well-being economy have taken root.

Piccadilly Circus 2060 imagines a city adapting to rising sea levels, bisected by new canals that support water transport and floating venues. Powered by efficient renewable energy, it’s a world transformed culturally as much as physically, with insect-based snacks on sale and an economy evolved around principles of upcycling, upgrading and exchange.

Piccadilly Circus 2090 is an environment shaped by vertical farms, giant energy and lighting structures, new religious identities and flying ‘sky barge’ homes.

Piccadilly Circus 2121 is part of a world positively transformed by artificial intelligence, where low gravity marketing pods simulate Lunar and Martian lifestyles, buildings shapeshift to accommodate varying use, and pedestrians traverse the space in highly adaptive and expressive AI clothing.

Bernice Lee, Futurescape’s director said: “Chatham House researchers develop positive solutions to global challenges, working with governments, charities, businesses and society to build a better future.

“We wanted to use that expertise to show that urban spaces can be a refuge rather than an obstacle course, a human space rather than a traffic flow. Furthermore, our model shows that the methods we use to deliver that future can coexist with climate measures to reduce emissions and provide better quality air.

Rose Abdollahzadeh, managing director of research partnerships at Chatham House added:
“Work on Futurescape began in January 2020 with the transition to sustainability at the heart of our ambitions, but as the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic became more apparent, our focus expanded to include physical and mental health, well-being, community and culture.

“Everything featured in the Futurescape time periods either already exists, or is in development. In that sense, all of it is highly achievable and plausible if society wants to make it happen. The pandemic has also significantly accelerated certain changes. For example, ‘VR holidays’ which appear in 2060 in Futurescape, are already being rolled out today as a reaction to the restrictions on travel.

“Our aim with Futurescape is to encourage a discussion around driving positive development in our cities. If we can’t imagine a positive future we want, we have no chance of getting there. We would love to hear what aspects members of the public like, and what they don’t like about the model. Would you be happy living in our imagined future? We hope people will share their thoughts on Futurescape on social media, and tell us their own hopes and vision for our towns and cities over the next 100 years.”

Futurescape was developed with agency Platform Group and the School of International Futures, London Futurescape was created following consultation with a group of scientists, architects, designers and sustainability experts.

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