Designing Future Cities (published in ISOCARP Review 12)

Check out this terrific article about Future City written by Jim Reilly of Future City's Philadelphia region and published by the International Society of City and Regional Planners.


If ideas about “Cities we have vs Cities we need” are to be realized, then we need to insure that the next generation of talented students pursue careers in the planning, architectural and engineering professions.

Future City is one of several activities of DiscoverE (formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation) to encourage students to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Started in 1993, this privately funded competition is open to all public, private and home schooled pupils in grades 6 to 8. It challenges student teams to seek mentoring from engineering and planning professionals and then to conceptualize, plan and build a scale model of a new city with a horizon year a century into the future. In addition, a design theme is assigned each year. The 2015-2016 theme of “Waste Not, Want Not” was intended to stimulate the design of cities with innovative waste management systems.

The competition occurs during the school year. Participation in the competition is some- times incorporated into regular classroom ac- tivities, and in other cases is extracurricular, which means that students and teachers/men- tors invest extra hours, similar to the participation in team sports. During the four month-long competition period, teams are guided to follow these steps:

1. Identification and understanding of the problem;
2. Brainstorming ideas;
3. Concept design of the city developed using Sim City software;
4. Test and evaluate the initial design and refine/redesign as needed (using the Sim City software environment);
5. Build a scale model of their future city using recycled materials;
6. Prepare and submit a 1,500 word description of their city; and finally,
7. Orally present the model to a team of judges. Additionally, student teams are required to use project management skills to guide their work during this process.

Judging is organized by regions with the one top regional finalist team from each region forwarded to compete in the national competition in Washington, DC over President’s Day weekend. All judging is done by professional engineers, architects and planners.

The following are two of the many excellent projects presented during the Philadelphia Regional competition. The first, prepared by the St Cecilia’s School team, envisions an ocean-based city developed to recycle plastic waste from the Pacific. The second, prepared by the Great Valley Middle School team, describes a future colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Both display the enthusiasm, inventiveness and high quality which typified all of the presentations at the regional competition

Download the full article here.

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