From Technology to How We Interact with Others.

By Angie Hanke

From technology to how we interact with others, our society has seen more change in the past five years than it has in the previous twenty-five. And that means our cities are changing too. As a futurist, Tim Longhurst’s job is to answer two questions: What’s going on out there in the world and what are the possibilities? He shared his insights about what makes a great space – or indeed a great city – at the Woods Bagot 2015 Developers Conference.

People and experiences make great spaces

In the heart of San Francisco lies the vibrant San Francisco Skate Club, which looks like a skate club but doubles as a learning center for kids who are struggling with read­ing and writing. Not only does the space offer learning programs; it offers fantastic skate boarding activities that bring club members together over a shared hobby. It is a thriving and successful place because it offers a comfort­able environment, free from the pressures of traditional learning spaces.

In Brisbane, Australia, little-known Glen Espresso offers a unique way to buy coffee. A one-man coffee cart, it has a notepad for customers to write their order in and an ‘hon­esty box’ for payment. It may not be a groundbreaking idea but it offers a straightforwardness that is rare nowa­days. Positive interactions are created through an environ­ment of trust and simplicity. 

What we can learn from both of these examples is that thinking outside the box, or changing the norm, can help engage people and create better overall experiences – perhaps even contributing to greater livability within our cities? 

Creating the most vibrant city in the world

Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is a festival designed to create a city from scratch, using ten principles based around community, gifting, inclusion, expression and self-reliance. ‘Black Rock City’ becomes a thriving metropolis of color, activity, music and artistic expression, yet it disappears after a week with no trace and no impact on the environment. Everything brought to the festival is shared with others, cleaned up and then taken away. It may be a city that only exists for seven days a year but with such a sense of eco-awareness, celebration and par­ticipation, it could well be the most vibrant and thriving city in the world. It could also tell us more about the principles of a successful city than any place before it. 

Finding a better way

Technology has ensured that, for the first time ever, we are all connected – seven billion of us across the globe. That means there are more people available to help us and shift the way we do things than ever before. The most impor­tant question to ask is: “Is there a better way?” Seeking and exploring new ideas ourselves and through others can lead to a better understanding of what’s possible within our society and within our cities. After all, people who are improving the world for others generally won’t have any great power to do so – they might just be one, humble person with a great idea.