It begins with two birds in a maple tree rooted atop a glass building. The camera pulls quickly back, passes below a monorail, ascends, and pans to capture a strangely tranquil, computer-generated cityscape. Birds chirp. Popular Science magazine has never been short on creativity, and this, their urban vision of the future—“the Green Mega City”—is no exception.
“By 2030,” the splash page announces, “five billion souls will be living in urban areas, up from 3.3 billion today.” Accommodating this ballooning population without losing sight of environmental sustainability will require radical innovation from designers, engineers, and architects. The Future City website offers a glimpse of how this innovation might look. The centerpiece of the website is an animated slideshow that presents a vision of a city in the year 2030: driverless buses with magnetic navigation sail past wind turbines on highway medians; ultra-efficient desalination plants pump water to “bubble houses,” domed residences with membranous exteriors that filter rainwater and act as super-insulants; electric pod cars are pulled from clusters like shopping carts. These visions of innovation come with links to information on contemporary cities—both how they function effectively and how they continue to face major sustainability challenges—and a game, reminiscent of old-school Frogger, designed to educate players about the merits of public transportation.
The Future City explores what our cities could and, arguably, should be. It’s a tech-centric envisioning exercise that suggests a blueprint for redesigning the New Yorks, Chicagos, and Beijings of today into the green cities of tomorrow.