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Cities of the future to undergo radical changes in their urban fabric

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Urban design has been forever changed by the impact of COVID-19 after populations around the world were forced to work and live within the same space. This calls for different kinds of cities in the future.

Architects and designers predict that increased comfort, efficiency and quality of living spaces, as well as environmental changes, will be taken into account in the way cities are designed going forward.

“COVID-19 will accelerate change,” said Sumaya Dabbagh, founder of Dabbagh Architects, during Day One of Cityscape Summit 2020. “Technology will really be pushed to the forefront, and sustainability – which has not been a priority – will also be accelerated for the best. I see a silver lining in this pandemic.”

COVID-19 is said to have affected how buildings are designed, while digitalisation has changed the way we work and interact with each other. As a result, convenience has been replaced with comfort.

According to Andy Shaw, Chair of RIBA Gulf Chapter and Managing Partner of AMA, the pandemic has shown a misallocation of resources. 

“COVID-19 has made apparent the importance of where and how you live, and how much space you have,” he said. “This misallocation of resources has not been discussed too much – there were lots of empty buildings. People realise their space is important and some people really suffered, so I hope globally, people will learn how to better allocate the space and resources we have.”

With residents increasingly becoming aware of the quality of the spaces they live in, Dabbagh foresees many will begin to demand a better quality of space, and developers will have to act accordingly. Residents are also projected to move towards larger urban spaces.

In office design, more efficiency and flexibility are expected, with only core teams that require physical interaction to be present. 

Alida Bata, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Heriot Watt University, spoke of a post-consumer state and an experienced-focused space. 

“Your mobile phone will be an extension of your hand,” she said. “We are becoming dematerialised – decoration and aesthetics become less important, and identity and a sense of belonging become a driving force of a project. We need to see how we can use architecture as a mediator for people and experiences.”

Ultimately, community spaces have grown in importance since the pandemic, and developers will need to reflect that in the urban fabric of a city. The UAE was said to be young and small enough to enact changes rapidly, including embracing the new technologies of driverless cars, reducing cars on the road, bringing the working space closer to homes and ensuring walkability.

“The technology is there for all of these things,” Dabbagh said. “It is just about pushing it forward to create those cities that really are much more pleasant to be in.”

She predicts a move towards a greener, more sustainable city in the next five years, with a bigger focus on the local industry. More 3D printing products are also expected, along with using timber in a move to rethink cities’ climate focus.

 

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