Space for uncertainty: About tomorrow‘s infrastructure

In order to shape the future in a world that is moving faster and faster, it may be time to say goodbye to the idea of fixed current and target states and create space for development. This way, more flexible urban structures and more sustainable products could emerge.

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  • Text: Florian Czak
    Co-Author: Franziska Warnke

    For a long time in the 20th century, the car-friendly city was considered to be the urban structural model of the future. Today, people in many places are trying to detach the fixation from the car – there are more sustainable, space-efficient and simply more humanistic models of mobility. But while societal needs have evolved organically, huge investments and sophisticated strategies are now required to develop and overcome car-centric infrastructures accordingly.

    The urban transport turnaround of the 21st century often places the bicycle at the centre of its considerations, following the example of mobile pioneer cities like Utrecht or Copenhagen. The advantages over automobiles are obvious: it is more environmentally friendly, space-saving and healthier to move through the city on a bicycle. And yet it is not necessarily the logical answer to the mobility question, because the one answer cannot exist in view of the increasing differentiation of the market. We cannot certainly predict how our relationship to mobility will develop in the future. Moreover, infrastructural concepts cannot be copied – they should always be oriented towards local social needs and developments.

    The world is more dynamic than ever before and our society is in a constant state of change – a city primarily consists of the people who live in it. Just as utopias became more dynamic and flexible in the course of industrialisation, future plans for the digital age must create even more space for the uncertain – that thing we do not know about today, while it could already be an important part of our lives tomorrow.

    Shared Spaces reflect this dynamic thinking in the form of a traffic concept: streets on which every kind of locomotion has equal rights – a new and yet somehow quite old idea. Car, scooter and bicycle riders as well as pedestrians and everyone else who exists and will exist meet at eye level. "Right before left" is the only rule to follow. After the concept was tested in smaller cities, it could soon be applied in larger cities as well – it turned out to be not only safer, but also more time-efficient. Shared spaces could therefore represent an antifragile approach to urban transport planning: a mobility platform that leaves room for means of transport that cannot be planned for today because we do not yet know them.

    As shapers of the future and innovators, this philosophy is of course also of great importance to us as a design studio. Concerning the rapid technological progress and the transformation of social needs, it is important to give products the opportunity to develop themselves further – also in order to meet our sustainability demands and to extend the product life cycle in contrast to the acceleration of our world. Is it time for a new, more organic approach to shaping the future? Possibly, in the end, this way a challenge could become an opportunity.

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    Franziska Warnke Communication Manager
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    M +49 173 7294632