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The city of the future: what does it look like?

Article-The city of the future: what does it look like?

District 2020.jpg
Global real estate industry experts discuss the rise of smart cities and share exclusive insights into the region’s latest reuse and regeneration projects.

With technology advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, there is now more data available than ever before about the ways in which we live our lives. More commonly, this data is being collected and employed by both governments and private organisations across the globe to develop the new cities of the future.

Blazing the trail for the creation of smart cities, several countries in the Middle East are already using technology to enhance the design and construction of cities, and to improve the quality of life of residents. Among the most advanced and emerging smart cities in existence today, Singapore and Dubai are often regarded as two notable front-runners.

Speaking live at the Cityscape Global Summit 2021, the industry’s leading experts came together today in a panel discussion to explore how smart cities are emerging and to discuss practical examples of notable reuse and regeneration projects in the region.


From easing traffic flows in and out of cities to making refuse collection more efficient, data generated from the everyday activities of city residents, users, and visitors can be used to improve peoples’ quality of life and assist in urban planning and design.

So, what exactly constitutes a smart city?

“A smart city is a city that is intuitive and responsive to its residents, one that makes their lives easier and makes it easier to work, live and grow,” Franco Atassi, CEO of Smart Infrastructure, Siemens Middle East said.

Still a relatively young concept, the true meaning of what it is to be a smart city is continuously evolving, as technology and the capabilities of what is possible progress.


Destined to become one of the first small-scale smart cities in the region, District 2020, the legacy regeneration project of Expo 2020 Dubai will transform the existing technological infrastructure of the Expo site into a mixed-use community for living, dining, shopping, working, and more.

“We want to enable residents to live a smart, quality life without constantly seeing the tech working in the background … it’s important that we have a high standard technological infrastructure in place that will also enable the smart city to grow,” Nadimeh Mehra, Vice President, District 2020, Expo 2020 Dubai said when asked about the aims of the project.

Transitioning the event site’s many pavilions, structures, green and recreational areas into residential, commercial, leisure, F&B and retail sites, a key objective for District 2020 is to ensure people are able to live and work sustainably and co-collaboratively.

Powered by a single management system which controls 130 building across the site, technology will be used extensively to collect and analyse data so that buildings can be operated at the most efficient level possible.

In terms of promoting the wellbeing and happiness of residents, District 2020 will include 36,000 square metres of green spaces, as well as a 5-kilometre running track and 10-kilometre cycle path.

“As developers, we need to look at the things we build to ensure the improved quality of life of the residents living in our buildings,” Mehra added.



Also embarking on their own smart city project, Qatar’s regeneration project, the Heart of Doha, is set to be the world’s first smart and sustainable downtown regeneration project.

“Our goal is that [in future] the project can be used as a template for developing new urban living and smart communities, that can be transported across the world,” Eng. Aya Nafi, Architect and Urban Planner, Jacobs explained.

“Smart cities are a legacy to the next generation … [the challenge] for designers is to add a new dimension to the future city without losing the sense of community and identity of the city,” she added.


With a wider range of plans and opportunities for smart cities emerging globally, there is much evidence to suggest that the technological transformation of the traditional city is already well underway.

As urban populations rise, the availably of resources decrease, and environmental issues become more pressing, the role the technology plays in urban planning will only gain importance in the coming years.

“Digitisation is key and [developers] must pursue ESG principles in order to protect the resources that we currently have … at the end of the day, smart really means sustainable,” Atassi said.

In terms of what developers, architects and urban planners can do to facilitate a successful transition from traditional to smart cities, being receptive to the demands of customers and focussing on ensuring that ESG factors and cyber security considerations are at the heart of the discussion will be key.


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