The metropolises of tomorrow: healthy cities

In the future, cities will be an integral part of the social system: urban structure and architecture promote the residents’ health and wellbeing.

The overall health approach that is practiced in today’s society poses new challenges for future cities. Today’s individual no longer wants to be healthy – in the sense of “not sick” – and fit and full of vital energy. This requirement has a lasting effect on living space. Because cities worth living in are no longer defined only by an efficient infrastructure. Still, they offer incentives and stimulation as well as relaxation and retreat in equal measure. In the global competition between cities and regions for residents, these factors become essential criteria for success. The city of tomorrow is changing from a pure supply environment to a place that actively promotes and influences health and wellbeing: from a cure city to a caring city.


The century of the cities

The forecasts speak for themselves: cities are the living space of the future. At the beginning of the 21st century, over 50 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, the United Nations predicts, almost 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urbanized areas.

The metropolises of the industrialized nations differ from the developing countries. While the urbanization process is slowing down in the western countries, in the third and emerging countries, cities are increasing into metropolises of millions – and are therefore still faced with the challenge of an efficient infrastructure and The cities of the western world have never been as green, healthy and clean as they are today Establish supply. On the other hand, the Western world cities are under enormous pressure to grow. They are now increasingly concentrating improvement and renewal from within “withdrawal” of industry and manufacturing. The change from an industrial to a service and knowledge society also improved cities’ quality of life. The Western world cities have never been as green, healthy, and clean as they are today.

Cities yesterday and today

A brief look into the past of the cities at the beginning of the 19th century would show smoking chimneys, dirty streets, miserable living conditions, and an overloaded sewerage system – if there were one at all. 50 years ago, people in the Ruhr area were fighting with polluted air and poisoned rivers. “Something green” might have been found in the allotment garden – unless a cloud of coal dust was trickling down. Today the Ruhr area is an essential regional green connection, with numerous parks, forests, and a dense network of cycle paths.

But it is the images of the past that shape the image of cities. With “yes” and “more or less yes,” 68 percent of those questioned agreed with the question, “Do you think that life in the city is detrimental to your health compared to life in the country?” And the feeling doesn’t seem to be deceiving. Even if the health impacts of environmental pollution have declined, today’s cities are still the “hotspots” of chronic diseases. Obesity and diabetes are just as bad for city dwellers as are stress and depression. Cities are of absolute relevance for social progress. “Nobel prizes,” said Ricky Burdett, head of the LSE Cities Program, “are not won in villages.”

And the renaissance of the cities clearly shows that more and more people want to live in cities, despite all the burdens. It makes the quality of life factor all the more important for economically prosperous and socially stable cities. But what are the soft, hidden factors that make the quality of life measurable?

Which factors shape the city of the future?

The consulting company Mercer publishes the “Quality of Living Survey” every year. The study measures the quality of life in several hundred cities around the world. Hong Kong ranks 70th in this ranking; in the “City Infrastructure ranking”, which is also published annually by the same consulting company, the metropolis ranks sixth. Because efficient city systems do not always show a high quality of life;

it can be seen in the example of Hong Kong, a city that is often seen as a role model for urban planners. Hong Kong has a highly efficient transport network. 93 percent of the population use public transport. On average, every resident reaches his or her workplace in eleven minutes. Hong Kong offers sufficient local recreation areas, an excellent educational landscape, and medical care in the immediate vicinity. Air pollution is lower than in Los Angeles. So it could all be wonderful if it weren’t for a few neighborhoods on the outskirts, where suicide rates and depression are 30 percent higher than in London or New York. Ricky Burdett cited social isolation, extreme population density, and tiny living space as reasons for this at the LSE Cities Conference in Hong Kong 2011. Life in Hong Kong is a stress factor, especially for the population in a precarious situation. They cannot afford any more quality of life in the cities. The city of Frankfurt shows that good infrastructure and quality of life are not mutually exclusive. It achieved seventh place in the quality of life ranking and second place in the infrastructure ranking.

So what defines a liveable city of the future? How can the quality of life factors be deciphered when efficiency and a good infrastructure alone make the residents neither healthy nor happy? Mercer uses 39 for quality of life assessment. Good infrastructure and quality of life do not have to be mutually exclusive Indicators in ten categories, such as political, legal, social stability, economic framework conditions, educational offers, health standards, cultural and leisure opportunities, consumer and service offers, housing situation, and environmental factors. But will these factors also be relevant in the future? And how does the demand for quality of life change the future shape of our cities? All of this leads to the most critical question: How do we want to live in the future?

Neuro-urbanism: brain research and urban planning

The difference between city and country-dwellers is often provoked: the hip cosmopolitan versus the trampling country bumpkin. The studies by PD Dr. med. Mazda Adli from the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Charité Berlin and Prof. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg from the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim. The two scientists investigate the influence of the built space on the human psyche and the stress levels in cities. In the future, these findings will make it possible to build urban spaces in which people feel comfortable and which do not increase the individual stress level. The researchers call this form of urban planning neuro-urbanism. Instead of permanently fighting against the stress level in yoga courses, the urban environment should contribute to better stress management.

The study by Prof. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg shows that this higher level of stress also changes people’s physical structure. In 2011 Meyer-Lindenberg proved that a specific brain region, the almond kernel, differs in size between people who live or grew up in cities and people who live in rural regions. The almond kernel, also known as the amygdala, is a brain structure whose activation has to do with fear and plays a role in depression and anxiety disorders. It’s a kind of hazard sensor. This brain region was significantly more active in city dwellers than in people who live in small towns or the country. “We found a clear connection between the specific brain region and the size of the current urban environment”, says Meyer-Lindenberg. The activity of the test subjects’ almond kernel increased with the size of the villages.

Risks and side effects of city life

“The risk of schizophrenia in city dwellers is twice as high as in rural dwellers,” says Prof. Adli from Berlin. “The risk of developing depression is about 1.4 times as high.” Further studies have also shown that developing anxiety disorders in cities is 21 percent higher than in rural areas. So do cities make them psychotic and depressive? Adli justifies this higher risk of getting mentally ill with the higher stress level. As “social stress,” he names this form of stress a combination of socially Cleverly configured urban spaces. The healthy citizens and social isolation benchmark are too many people in a small space who have no connection to each other. But what does that mean for urban spaces?

Urban recreational areas and greenery may reduce personal stress, but not the social stress in densely built-up areas. The researcher Elizabeth Burton, Institute for Health at the University of Warwick, describes in her studies of the research cluster “Wellbeing in Sustainable Environments” (WISE) that it is not the structural density, in general, that is the cause of increased stress, but the shape of the urban density. Urban spaces configured to allow social interaction and the private retreat will become a benchmark for tomorrow’s healthy city.

Against social stress

The Moriyama House in Tokyo offers its residents a new variety of different room configurations: meeting rooms for social interaction and individual retreats. Its polycentric spatial structure consisting of ten individual structures does not form a center and does not draw a boundary. The client just wanted an apartment for himself and another unit to rent out. But the architect Ryue Nishizawa built him a miniature city. The buildings house communal areas, kitchens, and bathrooms, as well as privately used rooms. The garden of the Moriyama House connects the individual living cubes. It is the active link between the houses and a central component of the collaborative living concept.

Each resident has a clearly defined area, which, unlike separate apartment buildings, offers more opportunities to get together. Because only a few rooms use, such as the kitchen and bathrooms, are specified. How to use the remaining rooms can be decided depending on the situation as required. The house offers enough space for different lifestyles and phases and always room for social integration.

The growing number of one-person households, the proportion of which is increasing particularly in the metropolises, represents a challenge for cities given the associated social stress, as Prof. Adli describes it. The high rental costs increase the need for small residential units. But that does not mean that the individual takes up less space. Instead, new forms of living and collaborative spaces will emerge in cities. New forms of living and collaborative spaces will establish themselves in cities establish. A lack of development opportunities in one’s own living space is compensated for in the urban space and through service offers. If the home office is too uncommunicative for you, you can rent a table in the co-working space. If you want to invite me to dinner but don’t have space, you can book a kitchen.

Strategies such as sharing, i.e., using resources together instead of owning them, also influence new house typologies and usage concepts. In the high-rise by Riken Yamamoto, the apartments’ loggias become village squares and thus places of exchange. In the “Yokohama Apartment” project, the architecture firm On design has brought together four tiny apartments in the form of mini-houses under one roof. The communal, covered open space in the center has no precise usage specifications. It is also a kitchen, playground, workplace, garden, and relaxation area for everyone. Privacy and community life are not either/or questions but can be individually and daily redesigned. These new building blocks in the city will also make togetherness in urban density less stressful and thus more worth living in.

Silver Cities

In the coming years, the population’s average age will get higher and higher, even in the cities. In fact, in New York City, seniors living in one-person households are among the fastest-growing populations. The aging of society impacts urban structures, mobility, the service sector, and architecture.

The structures of the cities of tomorrow must adapt to demographic developments. Research teams have been working for years to use new technologies to make life in the city easier for the increasingly aging part of society. The MIT Age Lab has developed a suit that makes it possible to simulate the physical constitution such as strength, flexibility, and motor skills of a 75-year-old person. With AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System), the optimal design for everyday things and places in the city can be researched.

New city ideas for an aging society

Especially in Germany – globally the second oldest country after Japan – everyday life will change drastically. According to the scenario of the Federal Statistical Office, the total number of people over 55 years of age in Germany will increase from 24.24 million people in 2000 to 32.25 million in 2030, only to decrease slightly to 31.48 million by 2050 (to Reason for a less numerous advancing age cohort). It has consequences: Age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s dementia lead to an urgent need for alternative living concepts. The findings of neuro-urbanism can help establish an integrative urban structure. The age group over 80 plays a unique role in dementia, as dementia is becoming increasingly common. The number of 80- to 84-year-olds will almost triple from 1.47 million in 2000 to 4.04 million in 2050 – the fastest-growing age group by 2050. it will also increase the number of dementia patients dramatically. Municipalities and municipalities are already trying different ways to deal with this coming wave in urban planning. The findings of neuro-urbanism can help to establish an integrative urban structure.

Elizabeth Burton from the University of Warwick has investigated the impact of road layouts on the needs of seniors in her studies: A distorted grid, in which T-junctions arise, helps people living with dementia best with orientation, while rigid road grids with uniform intersections, which are common in American Cities are standard, and dead-end road systems often found in suburban settlements lead to disorientation. If the grids are distorted, the orientation points increase; lines of sight are shortened and repeatedly interrupted. Distinctive features at the intersections help to remember paths and places. But this type of road layout is not only helpful for people with dementia; children also benefit from this system. So in the future, it will be about the development of new solutions,

The townspeople on the move

The animated film WALL-E paints a dystopian picture of a human race that has dedicated itself to immobility: Obese people float on sleek TV armchairs through an environment that resembles a holiday resort. Robots ensure the perfect well-being of people. People don’t have to worry about anything; they need to make themselves comfortable and be entertained. Even the meals are given in the liquid form: in the practical to-go or, in this case, “to-hover” cup – given by attentive robots.

The present shows a similar development to some extent. As the mobilization gets out of hand, the people’s body size has also increased except that our starship resort suburbs. The car takes us from A to B; the last few meters in the house are covered with an elevator. The to-go mentality has turned eating into an everyday activity that can be done non-stop. With the result that we eat significantly more than necessary;

Bicycle cult and urban health games

But the status of the two-wheeler has not only changed in Copenhagen. In the last year and a half, a true cult around the bike has developed. New bike brands and types are establishing themselves, and the chic accessories industry is booming. Because the same applies to cycling: The New location-based fitness games turn the city into a great game backdrop. Your individuality can be underlined by the corresponding stylish bike equipment (more information on the “Cycle Chic” trend in Trend Update 10/12).

Digital urban health games offer even more incentives to exercise. The trend towards self-metering, i.e., measuring one’s performance, will intensify in the years to come. But just competing with oneself doesn’t get everyone off the sofa and into the city. The play instinct helps: New location-based fitness games turn the city into a large play setting and offer an attractive market for the health and fitness industry. Simultaneously, these games also offer data that is of particular interest for urban development: Where do people particularly like to be? Which rooms are avoided? Where do you meet? The city’s analysis with digital data will help city planners, architects, and investors in the planning and implementation of projects in the future.

New urban landscapes

An active city implies completely new elements and strategies of urban design. Individual measures that are thought to be sub-complex will not be permanent. Because a city is a multi-layered structure: one measure always influences other aspects as well. A “walkable city” and attractive residential areas are just individual building blocks for the healthy cities of tomorrow. Only the skillful addition and networking of different measures can turn a healthy city into a livable city. New forms of urban landscapes, consisting of a wide range of leisure activities, different green spaces, and mixed-use urban districts, play a crucial role in technical innovations and holistic building solutions. City quarters that offer a diverse range of housing types within short distances, New offers make work and leisure just as consistent as city versus nature. Providing supply facilities and relaxation zones are the cornerstone on which the Urban Health Environment is built.

New urban landscapes weave effortlessly into the flexible everyday life of urban individualists. The “outside” and “in the green,” i.e., places outside the four walls, will offer entirely new offers. Far away from the romanticism of supposedly pristine nature and accurate parks, an enormous variety of leisure and recreational opportunities is currently emerging that make work and leisure just as consistent as city versus nature. Urban gardening creates new oases of calm on former wastelands and roofs. The urban gardens are not just recreational areas; they are also increasingly assuming a vital position in reducing social stress and making contact with the neighborhood: They contribute to a socially stable urban quarter.

Indoor gardening and urban beaches

Indoor gardens will replace the lack of urban gardens. The trend towards indoor gardening is spreading rapidly, and increasingly intelligent systems even enable vegetables to be grown in your own four walls (comprehensive details on the “indoor gardening” trend in Trend Update 06/12). The merging of nature and living is an important trend in architecture. The “Vertical Garden House” in Tokyo offers space for two apartments. The transitions between inside and outside are fluid. Green zones define the living spaces; curtains separate the loggias from the street if necessary.

But not every green is beneficial for health. In a society where a large proportion of people suffer from allergies, some greenery can reduce the quality of life. Thomas Leo Ogren, the horticultural artist, and pioneer of allergy-free greening, describes in his book “Allergy-Free Gardening” how negatively a single, highly allergenic tree can influence the air quality. Ogren wants to raise awareness of allergy-free greening in cities. As lush vegetation is increasingly linked to urban architecture, this awareness will be elementary in the future. In addition to urban greenery, the need for “urban blue” is also increasing: dwindling industry, innovative technologies, and a changed image of nature offer modern municipalities the opportunity to play the water factor in a completely new way. Urban city beaches offer that 24-hour instant holiday feeling. Swimming pools offer bathing fun but are not suitable for everyday use. Pack your bags, pay admission, chlorinated water – none of that is needed at Copenhagen Harbor Bath, for example. There you can plunge into the cool water in the middle of the city, right after a shopping tour (the “Urban Waters” trend is discussed in detail in Trend Update 06/12).

Hybrid Spaces: The symbiosis of nature and technology

The development of the Urban Health Environment comprises two strategies that change the complex system ‘city’. On the one hand, the sensitive transformation of the existing urban structure through the implementation of new city modules and technical innovations; is precisely here that new market opportunities are opening up for the construction industry. An important field of activity will be the improvement of the urban climate. Because in the summer months, cities turn into hot concrete deserts, the floor coverings and facades of which store the heat. Ventilation corridors are often missing so that even at night, there is hardly any cooling down to be expected. More innovative solutions are needed in an aging society that is often unable to respond well to climatic extremes.

The researchers at Lawrence Berkeley “Cooling” road surfaces improve the average temperature. The air quality Lab investigates the effects of colored street surfaces on the heat development of a city. The new surfaces should emit 30 to 50 percent of the solar energy. For comparison: conventional asphalt only emits five percent of this energy. With the new coatings, roads would be up to 4.5 degrees Celsius cooler. If more than a third of the streets are covered with these “cooling” surfaces, this would reduce the average temperature in the city and improve the air quality. Especially when you combine the coverings with vegetation;

Not only does the horizontal vegetation play an important role, but also those in the vertical. Green facades, as developed by the botanist and horticultural artist Patrick Blanc, are accurate multifunctional facades: They filter pollutants from the air, influence humidity and heat, and at the same time have a stress-relieving effect.

New architectural typologies

With the gradual transformation of urban spaces through many different creative ideas, new architectural typologies are emerging that respond to the changing needs of city dwellers. These buildings are intelligent hybrids of different Landscapes and nature merged into new techno-nature use and combining different healthy cities with innovative technologies. The focus here is not on the technological performance but the additional benefit for the residents. With this in mind, the Danish architecture firm BIG developed a new building typology for waste incineration plants. Your design is not just a building block in the Copenhagen waste disposal chain but also a new place for leisure: a ski slope. The shape of the building offers a sweeping descent with a view of the Danish capital. Instead of simply blowing the combustion’s energy into the atmosphere, it is used to cool the runway.

The “Gardens by the Bay” in Singapore are a similar hybrid concept. Artificial, multifunctional trees made of steel regulate the climate of the greenhouses in the botanical garden. At the same time, these science-fiction trees are planted and serve as fantastic viewing platforms. Landscape and nature merge here into a new artificial techno-nature approach. They will change the general understanding of the “climate space” of the city. The French architecture firm SOA is thinking about the trend of urban gardening and is taking it to a new level: In the “La Tour Vivante” project, a kind of super-building hybrid, they combine urban agriculture, living, leisure, and work in a high-rise building that is in is a self-sufficient supply and energy system.

The transformation process has only just begun.

These examples speak a new, pragmatic, and yet sensual urban language. The innovative building typologies symbolize a new understanding of the city: a city that enables and promotes a healthy, urban life full of quality of life despite its high social density. In a city that is actively designed and animated by its residents; Research on the relationship between health environment will go into greater detail in the future. The knowledge gained offers new, exciting markets for the construction industry and cities, and the healthcare market. Because even if the developments towards an urban health environment in the industrialized nations are only just beginning to show their first signs – in the foreseeable future, the megacities of the emerging and third world countries will also begin this transformation process.

Healthy Discomfort Concepts

The study “Adult Health in Germany” (DEGs) by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), published in 2012, shows: The total proportion of overweight adults in Germany is 67 percent for men and 53 percent for women. The good news is that the total share is just as significant as it was in the late 1990s. However, a shift towards higher weight classes can be observed within this group, so obesity is common today. “Especially among young men and women under 35 years of age, the proportion of obese people has grown disproportionately,” observes RKI expert Gert Mensink.

Implementing the physical challenge back into everyday life plays a central role in a healthy society. “Burn Calories – Not Electricity” is written on a poster, Walkability “is becoming an important catchphrase for the urban design of tomorrow that can be found in the public buildings of New York City, and that should encourage the decision to climb stairs rather than use the elevator. The mayor of the metropolis, Michael Bloomberg, points to studies that show that almost two-thirds of New Yorkers are overweight or even obese. “Walkability”, in other words, the city that can be walked on, is becoming an important catchphrase for the urban design of tomorrow. Bloomberg’s Active Design Guidelines want to give architects and planners a tool to help them configure a green and vibrant city. But what do the terms “green” and “active” imply for urban planning? How do you change a form of everyday comfort developed over decades and in which there are hardly any movement sports units?

New Design for moving spaces

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defines five essential design aspects that should create attractive spaces as a whole. With the desired consequence, you like to move through them – on foot or by bike – and like to stay in them. Aspects include imagery, spatial boundaries, human scale, transparency, and complexity. A place is highly pictorial when certain physical elements and their arrangement require attention, arouse feelings, and leave a lasting impression. Room boundaries create a visual orientation and thus determine the purpose of the room. People like to relax in small gardens or parks, for example, while avoiding large spaces in the city. Transparency refers to the degree.

The word complexity describes the most critical aspect. Complexity implies the visual diversity of a place and its physical environment. The Highline Park in “Big Apple” combines these five design aspects. The former elevated railway is now a linear park, a varied place to relax, and a vibrant meeting place. City dwellers like to climb numerous stairs and incorporate them into their daily activities and sports programs. Because once you arrive at the top, you have a unique view of the metropolis. Numerous events make the place attractive even for those who don’t like exercise.

How much time it takes to walk from A to B is difficult to estimate from conventional road maps. Before one is on the road too long, it is better to decide car or the train. Therefore, the Spanish city of Monteverdi offers a map that shows the distance between two destinations and the time it takes to walk. The bicycle is one of the most important modes of transport in Copenhagen. To offer its cycling residents even more road safety, the city is building “bicycle highways.” These fast routes are free of parked or even moving cars and attractive green spaces that connect individual quarters.

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