A ‘smart city’ is widely understood to be technologically advanced, with wifi on every corner and lighting that turns itself off. But there is another side to ‘smart’, the human side. What really connects a city is the creation of a tangible relationship between inhabitants and their environment. In turn, this urban humanisation connects city dwellers themselves.
This insight emerged earlier this week during an event held at The City Centre, A Smarter City. Just as the fast-paced development and evolution of Midtown is throwing up opportunities to better connect the businesses and people who reside here, the neighbouring City of London is facing similar challenges.
Many of the initiatives outlined by shortlisted companies in the Smart Green Spaces competition echo the work we carry out. The Edible Bus Stop Studio’s unique installations and community projects focus entirely on connecting local and business communities, bringing underused spaces to life.
The Studio’s concept for ‘green kiosks’ to amalgamate the thousands of personal deliveries that choke up the City’s streets echo BEE’s Personal Delivery Service. Not only would green kiosks act as a hub for deliveries, they would provide a place to relax and have lunch with other locals. A solution turned into an opportunity.
Phil Bonds of consultancy Broadway Malyan rightly said that the city needs to open up and loosen up to connect people. We need to encourage people to ditch the tube in favour of short walking distances by physically enhancing the spaces around us. BEE’s walking tours do just that, by connecting walkers with the history and very fabric of the area.
Landscaping and ‘humanised’ design can allow Londoners to engage with public realms, to expand their viewpoints from their offices to the spaces surrounding them. Brookfield Properties’ Carlin Fier spoke of the company’s efforts to create spaces that function as thoroughfares or open green spaces, such as the acre of public realm at Midtown’s 1 London Wall that will open in September.
It might sound impossible to change the world one public bench at a time, but bringing diverse communities together through planning is increasingly necessary for our urban environment to flourish. Make unnoticed spaces noticeable, and people will open their eyes.