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Designing future cities

Figure 1: Planet City 2021 (Liam Young, 2021)


Even in ancient times, scientists and engineers played an important role in society but also in politics. The population invests a lot of money to make our knowledge possible. Therefore, it is our duty to use what we have gained. Paradoxically, we often encounter resistance from parts of the population (Prof. Konrad Nübel, 2021). This is precisely where it is important to remain steadfast and to pass on the new findings to the population with good communication and perhaps sometimes a bit of emphasis. Our social reputation, many years of training and experience can help here.

The Challenge

The task has been clearly outlined for many years. We have 17 defined sustainability goals. Each one has been well discussed and further elaborated by many publications, so that we also know in detail the interrelationships (“Sustainable Development Goals,” 2021c; “THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development,” 2021a). One of the most complex tasks we must cope with is to transform our cities and communities into sustainable systems that influence our eco-system as positively as possible. In doing so, we need to consider countless areas of action: housing, buildings, mobility, accessibility, consumption, waste, sinks, energy, climate adaptation, governance, citizenship, resilience, water (“Sustainable Development Goals,” 2021c). But even if all areas can be fulfilled well, in carrying out ideas and improvements we come up against current owners, politicians and representatives who may not have our level of knowledge and thus may not be able to comprehend our motives at all. Everyone works hard for their money and then is supposed to invest in something they know nothing about. They know neither whether the investment is worthwhile, nor what possible dangers might arise if they do not act (Prof. Mark Michaeli, 2021). So, we have to communicate our expert knowledge in the planning process in a comprehensible way. Then to take on board the experience and needs of the people in each individual building project, in order to finally build the cities of the future with our tools.


As general tool principles can be very useful. In the building sector, for example the following principles can help to make the entire building process more sustainable for the future: It should be built human centered; humans should be empowered to participate. Or another example: Agile and accelerated planning processes should actively interact with governments and co-created community governance structures (Prof. Konrad Nübel, 2021).

In the process itself, we have numerous specialized experts to support us, providing architects and planners with the necessary details as linking nodes. One team of experts are the residents on site. Because it is important to understand and accept that every settlement functions differently and that there are always unknowns in the complexity of life. It is therefore important to constantly keep one's knowledge up to date, to always take up and also use the residents and their individual experiences and needs as one of the many tools at our disposal(Prof. Mark Michaeli, 2021).

Another core tool for planners are their plans and visualizations. Today we use digital tools and programs for it. Meanwhile we have a number of file formats available for the purpose of program-data-exchange and a growing number of programs are able to communicate with each other in real time across the globe. These emerging digital models or building twins, together with countless visualization options, help us to speed up the planning process. During meetings, clients can conduct digital walk-throughs, directly compare materials in the building with each other, and the effects of planning can be reproduced in real time. Be it analyses of life cycle assessments, air flows or solar radiation. In many cases, for example in timber construction, the plans are then passed on directly to production machines and manufacturing can be carried out with the highest precision. In operation, the models then help to further optimize and control the building technology. In addition, all the materials used are precisely documented for the future and can provide accurate predictions of material yield in the event of building alterations or even demolition. Indispensable for the future and and the imperative of circular economy (Prof. Frank Petzold, 2021).

Figure 2: Hundertwasser’s approach

Landscapes serve us as a kind of template for adapting the planned structures to their surroundings. The existing identity of the place should be preserved and supported where possible. It can help to understand landscape not only as natural, because in reality almost all landscapes are strongly influenced by humans. High-rise buildings and roads are just as much part of the landscape as trees and streams. Landscapes are very complex and are subject to constant change to continue to exist. For example, an abandoned industrial area can become a cherished nature and event park without destroying its industrial character. For every city, green infrastructure is becoming increasingly important to ensure the well-being of its inhabitants. Urban landscapes will therefore develop and provide more and more natural spaces. The more these are interconnected, the more effectively their benefits unfold. The urban landscape thus develops evenly and the relationships between areas can consolidate and develop. For planners it is useful to demonstrate the economic benefits of green services in order to obtain the necessary space for green infra-structure. Otherwise, the mere existence and biodiversity could be eliminated from the plan (Udo Weilacher, 2015).

The Act

Friedensreich Hundertwasser has been preaching the effects and benefits of plants and natural spaces for people for decades. Using products that were even less developed at the time, he built buildings that were not only surrounded by plants but were even enlived by them. He took the first step away from anthropocentric building. For Hundertwasser, man is only one living being among many. Today we understand the advantages of green buildings and living structures better and can use the right plants even under extreme conditions of high-rise buildings (Prof. Ferdinand Ludwig, 2021). Hundertwasser not only preached, but he also actually did a lot of things. His buildings can be found all over the world and they have a very lasting influence on architecture and the consciousness of people. Even then, he understood and implemented the essence of a city. In all his buildings there are communal green and open spaces, which always blend into the surroundings in a constructive disorder together with the building. His projects were mostly financed collectively and were almost always dependent on the active help of volunteers and residents. Naturally, they were also allowed to shape and decide. In doing so, he always dreamed of the residents also enjoying certain "property rights", such as the “Fensterrecht”. Despite his very specific architecture, he always pursued very pragmatic goals and saw people as part of a simple cycle that absolutely had to be closed again. The humus toilet was one of these approaches. Cost-effective, simple and purposeful, but not yet socially realizable (Hundertwasser, 2018; Prof. Benedikt Boucsein). He always encouraged people to act on their own. It was important to him that his execution was only one of many possibilities and that only a variety of solutions would lead to the goal. With a trowel in our hands and paint on our faces, we can be really close to the people. Our highly technological world offers us the opportunity to take time to engage more and more with reality. We may not plan so many buildings, but maybe the city of the future. Here, in addition to wonderful technologies and models, we can perhaps sometimes feel the hard work in our bones and the sparkling smiles of the future inhabitants in our hearts.

References THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (2021a, December 3). Retrieved from Hundertwasser, F. (2018).Architektur. Für ein natur- und menschengerechteres Bauen. Köln: Taschen. Liam Young (2021b, December 3). Retrieved from Prof. Benedikt Boucsein. Essence of a City: Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Prof. Ferdinand Ludwig (2021, December 2). New directions in urban green: Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Prof. Frank Petzold (2021, December 2). Digital Revolution: Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Prof. Konrad Nübel (2021, December 2). Construction Management: Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Prof. Mark Michaeli (2021, December 2). Let's make the Sustainable City: Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Prof. Udo Weilacher (2021, December 2). Landscape - a term, a concept, a law? Nachhaltige Architektur, Stadt- und Landschaftsplanung. Retrieved from Sustainable Development Goals (2021c, December 3). Retrieved from Udo Weilacher (2015). Grüne Infrastruktur und Landschaftsarchitektur/ Green Infrastructure and Landscape Architecture. Retrieved from


Figure 2: Scribbr (2019). Academic dictionaries and encyclopedias (2015, April 30). Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Retrieved from

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