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Responsive Megastructures: Growing Future Cities for Global Challenges

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Publication date30/08/2021
Host publicationRapid Cities - Responsive Architectures
EditorsAbdellatif Qamhaieh
Place of PublicationDubai
PublisherArchitecture Media Politics Society
Number of pages11
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameAMPS Proceedings Series
ISSN (Electronic)2398-9467


From the mid-twentieth century the primary drivers for cities were industrialization and globalization, as urban development sought to maximize productivity and access to labour and resources along with connectivity to markets. More recently, these drivers have been augmented and, in some contexts, replaced by those that emphasize people and their environment over profit. As the manifold anthropogenic impacts of cities present increasingly urgent and major global challenges, it is clear we need a new vision for collective life.

This paper therefore examines the development of fast-paced future cities throughout history and, in particular, the dominant technological thrust that characterizes them. As we move further into the twenty-first century, the emergence of new socially engaged visions for future cities that are coupled with environmental concerns suggest a positive shift away from those futures driven primarily technological expectation. We then explore these alternatives by identifying those visions which suggest social futures and global futures. Despite their initial promise, our research has detected an ongoing convergence of visions for future cities rather than radical alternatives. In an era of rapid transformation and global uncertainties it is evident we need to forge new pathways for the design and delivery of habitats for collective life.

We conclude our paper by presenting a prototype of a responsive megastructure. Conceived as a ‘living material eco-system’, this responsive megastructure anticipates and is receptive to fluctuating demands by sharing resources (e.g. material, energy, spatial, financial). We explain how matter can be programmed through ‘tuneable environments’ so various shapes, patterns and structures can be grown. In doing so, we present a new vision for megastructures, where matter can be aggregated and scaled to grow future cities, that can embody the complexities of urban life in heterogeneous contexts around the world and respond to their situation and future challenges.