While the cities themselves may be new, the
idea behind them isn’t, says Eran Ben-Joseph, PhD,
professor and head of the department of urban
studies and planning at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Whereas most cities develop organically over time,
the practice of building new ones from scratch
became common after World War II in countries
like China, England, Japan and Russia, where they
were primarily government initiatives.
“What sets these new and future cities apart, however, is that sustainability and ecological technology
are being incorporated into them, and while they
often have government involvement, they tend to
come from the private sector,” Dr. Ben-Joseph says.
Before this bold new future can get built, the cities’
project sponsors first must make the same decision
facing any construction project: location. A city set
slightly apart from, yet still close to, other urban
hubs has proved to be the ideal.
The US$35 billion new city of Songdo Inter-
national Business District (IBD), South Korea is
within the metropolis of Incheon and near Seoul.
Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, a US$18
billion project, is just 11 miles ( 17 kilometers) out-
side the capital of Abu Dhabi. In India, the city of
Today, just over half of the world’s 7. 2 billion people
live in urban areas. By 2050, that’s projected to soar
to two-thirds of 9. 6 billion people, according to the
To prepare for that tremendous urban growth,
project leaders in both the public and private sectors
are taking action—from rebuilding existing cities to
constructing entirely new ones. These cities of the
future will accommodate unprecedented populations
with projects that extend far beyond new buildings.
The initiatives also run the full gamut of infrastructure that the millions of new residents will need, such
as power grids, water management, waste removal,
public transit and educational facilities. To support
long-term growth, these city projects, often comprising public-private partnerships, also must entail
state-of-the-art sustainability and connectivity.
“We are going to have to think very differently
about how we build cities, particularly in the devel-
oping countries that are urbanizing so fast, so these
cities give us an example,” says Joan Fitzgerald, PhD,
professor of urban and public policy at Northeast-
ern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. “They
point us in the right direction in terms of how we
can totally rethink how cities look and are built.”
Almost 90 percent of urban growth will be con-
centrated in Africa and Asia, while just three coun-
tries—China, India and Nigeria—will account for 37
percent of the projected city surge by 2050.
The world’s cities are
feeling the squeeze.