June 16, 2021

The Future in Lanes and Everyday Life

We used to rely on the front covers of cheap sci-fi paperbacks for images of the future. The cities were always gleaming, brand new and, yes, there were the flying cars.  Today, thanks to video games, CGI and free downloadable programs, portrayals of the future are do-it-yourself.

But the place I like to look for images of the possible future are what the design industries – architecture, urban planning, engineering and real estate – think it might actually be.  For that we go to their renderings, sometimes fanciful, sometimes serious, increasingly sophisticated.

Here’s one by Vincent Callebout for an imagined Paris:

Closer to home, for an actual Oakridge:


The renderings worth taking most seriously, though, are those that incorporate existing technology not quite ready for prime time or yet allowable in our cities – drones, robots, micromobility – especially when introduced casually into promotional videos that just assume they’ll be a fact of everyday life.

Here’s a vision in Fast Company for how New York, Barcelona-like, could create new public spaces in its already jam-packed urban grid, as conceived by Eran Chen, founder of the New York architecture firm ODA:

ODA’s proposal, revealed here for the first time, focuses on the heavily commercial Flower District, on the edge of Chelsea, where flower sellers take up the majority of the ground floor real estate. With most of their sales action at or near the sidewalk, the deep buildings filling those lots aren’t used to their full potential. “They have 100-foot depths that nobody knows what to do with,” Chen says. “Cutting it short and creating another facade at the back, creating public engagement or seating in return for incentives for the owners, to me, is a no brainer.”


Do you see the drone in the pic above (and maybe the flying duck, who knows)?  The video below has several light touches of an imminent future set in a possibly transformed urban environment quite achievable today.  It’s likely, though, that the former will arrive before the latter:

(For video, click through to article.)

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  1. We could do the same here with some of Vancouver’s grubby lanes, following the example of the New York proposal.

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