Futures Lab Russia, July 2021, invited Integral City to imagine cities in 100 years. This series of blogs comprises the lecture that was offered by Marilyn Hamilton PhD, Founder of Integral Cities.

MH: Can you give us some guidance for designing whole new cities?

Designing New Cities

Gaia: Keeping in mind the challenges of bringing new lenses to the development of existing cities, let’s consider how to design Neo-Cities? This may become especially relevant in the next century if we set out to right-size cities and create life conditions for creating new cities.

Questions for Neo-Cities as Human Hives

We need to ask designers, investors and developers questions about their intentions:

  • How is a Neo-City a logical next step for your development (vs villages and communities)?
  • If the Neo-City assumes that it is possible to create a specialized habitat for humans with select interests:
    • How will Neo-Cities learn from the Masdar or Dubai effect – where construction and maintenance workers cannot afford to live there?
    • How do Neo-Cities administer themselves democratically?
    • How do the voices of non-elite workers and residents get equally heard with those of the elite?
    • Do Neo-Cities risk developing caste systems (internally or in comparison to external cities)?

Internal Requirements of Neo-Cities

MH: Thinking about the Neo-Cities is undeniably exciting, especially when they seem to be really designed with the external requirements of the human hive in mind.

But, when viewing the ghost cities in China which have been built and stand virtually empty without residents, I am curious if designers of Neo-Cities have considered any of the internal requirements of the human hive, such as:

  • Considering that humans go through a developmental cycle, how have they built into the design of the city, the fact that we all start out at a basic developmental stage and must learn our way through a series of such stages?
  • Do the designers recognize vertical development in themselves? Have they made allowances for continuous learning and the need for the city to change over time? (DeKay, 2011)
  • What happens if assumptions about the city’s environment (both internal and external) are drastically altered by events not under the designer’s control (e.g., natural disasters, or man-made invasions)?
  • How do Neo-Cities defend themselves from external invaders such as envy, greed, power-plays, pandemics?
  • What is the right relationship of Neo-Cities to other Neo-Cities and Traditional, Modern, Post-Modern Cities?

Neo-Cities Need Neo-Civics

Gaia: Good questions. With Neo-Cities on the drawing boards – and even before Investor Boards, I wonder if the investors will consider similar aspects of investing in cities as they do in entrepreneurial start-ups, especially remembering the importance of the organizational team?  (In the last year alone, I have encountered intentions for creating new city projects in the USA, Canada, UK, Spain, Russia, Costa Rica, Japan).

In entrepreneurial ventures the quality of the people generally outweighs the cleverest of ideas or the most unusual patents. I suggest the same considerations for team quality ought to be true of Neo-Cities. But how will that be done? Here are more questions to consider:

  • Will there be an application process for citizens? Will the investors form a recruitment team for desirable citizens?
  • What criteria will they use to choose the initial citizens?
  • Will the criteria hold the same seeds of disaster that many an intentional community has sown?
  • How will the recruiters separate their own biases from the needs of the Neo-City?
  • How will the designers build in the appropriate form of governance? Will they design the first stage and then expect neo-politicians to take over the subsequent stages of developing governance – like condominium/strata corporations in 2021?
  • Will the state become involved in setting standards for Neo-Cities?
  • Will Neo-Cities exempt themselves from state interference through economic separation of banking and transactional exchanges? Will they design themselves for Earth/Social Justice balance with the wisdom of the new economics (like Donut Economics)?
  • Does a Neo-City need a neo-civics? Would that evolve out of Integral City’s 4 Voices and 4 Roles???
  • Might the Integral City 4 Voices provide the stem-cells for such a neo-civics?