“Eco-illogical” urban planning or how the cities of the future should not be

Paper supports everything”. This popular quote is attributed to Carlos V in a context that has nothing to do with the current one but, given the fact that all urban planning projects are built on a blank page, it turns out to be ideal when talks about architecture.

We are surrounded by megalomaniacal works that intend to go down in history one way or another, even as part of the index of a malpractice manual. It seems that transcending would have been an end in itself. Perhaps linked to a biological condition, we live prisoners of a quest for immortality which, far from springing from a source, is more like a sculpture of a fountain in the middle of a roundabout.

As paper supports everything, the owners of the means of production decided to redouble their rationality to find new and bizarre solutions to things that already worked. Without addressing reality or a specific need, they intoxicate us with knowledge itself, ignoring that practice makes perfect and that we have documented practices for thousands of years. Just as natural selection does with species, techniques become more refined and any attempt to circumvent this process is doomed to failure.

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Ancient civilizations and urban planning

In antiquity, civilizations settled in places conducive to the development of the most daily activities, where the benefits of the orography and the climate made survival more affordable. In an attempt to give impetus to our origin, we managed to blur the link between the environment and the ecosystem; lifting portions of land into the sea, piercing deserts, containing oceans and inhabiting ice caps.

It’s not something new. Historical monuments, such as the city of Venice, are now the delight of foreigners and curious people who want to change cars for gondolas, before talking about the new Atlantis. Far from setting a precedent, the marketing of tourists with Nikon necklaces has motivated the blossoming of desert roses: showcase cities where the avant-garde of the absurd is promoted.

Dubai, a “futuristic” city

The first was Dubai, an oil-tinged money laundering tutorial. A failed experiment that got swallowed up. A place that was already inhospitable, now transformed into a setting for dystopian films from 2049. A city from which tons of waste leave daily in tank trucks like a processionary for lack of an adequate sanitation system.

This, when the access roads to the city are not under the dunes trying to recover what was theirs. Looking at the sea is not more encouraging. In it are dying portions of land that look like an envelope of coffee dissolved in what little water there was. Nurtured with assisted breathing, an example survives today of how the aspirations of a few lead to the condemnation of a few others.

Whoever does it pays, and petrodollars do it well. There were so many of them that they decided this wouldn’t be the last sci-fi adventure. Disguised as a social experiment whose purpose was none other than to wash the $22,000 million face of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates, it was decided to build Masdar. Located between Abu Dhabi International Airport and its urban center, it appears more like a showcase than a functional city.

A city without pollution

The objective was based on the creation of a new city, free of polluting emissions in its construction and its implementation. This time we are ignoring the funding sources that are sinking this Noah’s ark towards sustainability, even before putting it back on the water. In this case, disguised as globalization and progress, under the orders of the English architect Norman Foster; they laid the theoretical foundations of what urban planning should be: paying attention to the general and the particular. Without leaving the slightest doubt to spontaneity and free from the need to respect anyone or anything; because the arid land does not defend itself and “no one” can complain.

So much so that, since there were no casualties and social assistance seemed like a zero-sum game, they decided to make life difficult for the people who started building on the sand in poor conditions. of pseudo-slavery. Far, of course, from the European cities which once again talk about who should do what.

Reality

The reality of this settlement, which is not a city, is that today, 15 years after its beginning, only 15% of what was initially planned is still standing. The few tourists who come to observe what could have been, find none of the extras in the promotional videos, living at the cutting edge of technology in a maelstrom of multiculturalism. Nor will they see futuristic transport or zero emissions. Nor the nature and wildlife mixed in with the daily lives of university students and shopkeepers. Not because they don’t know how to coexist, simply because they don’t exist.

In its place, the only residential building built there houses the luckiest workers. Maybe that’s why there is no public transport either. Of the hundred stops initially proposed, there are two, more to say that they are there than for their real function. Like their autonomous electric capsules, so autonomous that they themselves decided not to work and to remain forever in the window. Neither shops, nor anything in short that resembles what we were planning one day. As happened with Brazilia, playing to imagine the future can lead to destroying it. The cars Nostradamus of the 20th century saw flying; they will disappear before you even lift the wheels off the ground.

Neom a madness of futuristic urban planning

the line, Dubai, architecture, sustainability, futuristic cities

The last grace is called Neom. This time an experience of their Saudi neighbors who seem jealous of the attention Qatar or the Emirates receive from their Western colleagues. A sort of international crowdfunding—estimated at one billion euros—which offers to resell itself on the basis of makes and quackery as effective regulation, a paradigm of the architecture of the future. And nothing more. And nothing more illogical.

To be fair, there is some logic to their ordering. Proof of this are the 170 km of straight lines that make up its “morphology” and which seem to draw the line between common sense and megalomania. It looks like someone took too seriously the fact that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, forgetting that it’s easier to just bring them closer. The same person who talks about a zero-emission city having been financed by fossil fuels. The same that is committed to having the most efficient transport in the world to connect nothing to anywhere. The one who subsidizes the housing of its future citizens is the one who shows the lack of confidence in his own project. In short, someone who has projected from a palace a city that will not live to suffer.

In the absence of tangible results, this new project seems destined to be another of the wrecks that the sand will put back in its place. It’s fun to think that future civilizations will discover remnants of what we do and that in some way they will serve as validation in their progress. Assuming of course that if these humans of tomorrow exist, it is because we decided to radically transform our egocentric anthropocentrism and realized that we are no better than nothing.

Is it more important to transcend than to progress?

The numbers don’t lie. They are the consequence of operations impervious to interpretation. It is useless to agree with them. To disagree is to show our ignorance. With each thing we build, we redefine our trajectory and it seems to collide with the function that nature had prepared.

As long as it remains more important to transcend than to progress, we wait for the next occurrence. We will realize the consequences once we explore the assumptions we have stored away for years in the form of scientific papers, unpunished complaints and messages of relief in puppet peaks. Looking up, tracking down the meteorite that will end what we know, not realizing the real enemy is rising in our home.

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