Planning Tomorrow’s Smart City

Design‭ / ‬Alicia Carpousis, Jimmy Jian, Jin Lu
Visualization /‬‭ ‬‬Jimmy Jian
Projection‭ / ‬Jin Lu
Prints / Jimmy Jian, Alicia Carpousis

Planing Tomorrow’s Smart City is an exhibition project that challenges people’s view on the upcoming trends of smart city. This 5-week group project explores the exhibition format as a design project to translate research, on a given topic, into material for discussion, provocation, promotion and exploration. The exhibition was held in Royal College of Art in October, 2019.

Sidewalk Labs is a sister company of google that is currently working on a model of a Smart City for Toronto’s Waterfront Urban regeneration plan. This project will be built by 2027. Sidewalk Labs is explaining that this is a first experimental project, opening the possibility for other smart cities based on this smart city model to be built all around the world.

The development plan of this regeneration project seems to be mainly technological and profit oriented. Groups such as “Block Sidewalk” are concerned with questions around citizens rights (privacy) and ask the question whether the government and our public infrastructure should be related to private corporations that have a level of technical expertise that average citizens and government cannot follow in order to maintain the right policies. We have seen in the past (New York Link) similar corporate development in public environments and the “Black box” effect it creates, masking the underlaying uses of data. But beyond questions of data usage, for groups such as “Block Sidewalk” the first problem is that before even understanding and questioning the impact of a smart city there was no democratic debate about whether the revitalization of the quay should be done through a smart city project at all. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate private and public discourses around public infrastructure. In the United States corporations are taking over institutions and the state is losing its say in urban development.

Urban regeneration questions around public infrastructure need to remain within the public debate in order to preserve social justice, democratic representation and avoid a solely profit oriented governance.

By showing four extreme urban plans on each side of the political spectrum, we enable people to rethink about what really matter to them, and start situating themselves on the compass and see how this is related to the technical infrastructure that they may wish or not to see.