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From housing to creativity centres, city design trends to take note of

Trends in city design are evolving, not least because of a global pandemic

There will be less housing to buy. In a country like Ireland you can’t rent all your life, it’s based on ownership of property. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

There will be less housing to buy. In a country like Ireland you can’t rent all your life, it’s based on ownership of property. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

Trends in city design are evolving, not least because of a global pandemic. Lorcan Sirr, senior lecturer in TU Dublin, explains some to take note of.

Centres for creativity

Huge numbers of people move to cities every year; they are centres of creativity but also places where really desperate people go. I’m thinking of Africa here. Cities are where the action is and will be. Companies don’t want to be located in rural areas – cities develop momentum around themselves which is why we have the likes of Facebook and Twitter setting up close to each other and they do things like swap staff.

They are the places creative industries want to set up, particularly in Ireland. The days when we could plonk factories in towns around the country in Ireland are dying out. A lot of the companies we are trying to attract want to go to cities. They want the bright young things and those people want expensive city cappuccinos and public transport. There are more opportunities for jobs, well paid or not well paid, in cities.

Data analytics

Data analytics will become very important – who is doing what, where, what are emissions like, who is using what service. All that information will become critical in managing cities and running cities will become more challenging. We don’t do it particularly well in Dublin. We don’t gather enough data. In Zaragoza, Spain, for example, they have a counter on the side of roads to count cars. We haven’t gotten to that stage yet but the whole collecting of data helps to manage cities better. Data should and will become open source.

Mobility

In cities around the globe, this will be seen as a seamless service, with users not having to use multiple tickets, apps, maps and so on. It won’t matter to users if it’s Uber, Irish Rail or the Dart that they are using – it will be one app, one ticket, one map and so on. Again, data is important here. Freiburg and London do this well. We’re so late to cities and never had an industrial revolution so we have never developed an urban ethos in terms of managing cities. We still have a heavy-handed engineering solution approach and don’t have the culture of lord mayors, or any meaningful city governance in our cities.

Housing

Housing will become increasingly financialised. This means we are going to see more involvement from private funds buying up property to rent to city inhabitants. There will be less housing to buy. In a country like Ireland you can’t rent all your life, it’s based on ownership of property. For a public sector worker like me, my salary is going to go down by 40 per cent upon retirement but the idea is that I don’t have a mortgage to pay. There is a cohort of people renting, but this is storing up problems. Home ownership is a buffer for the State – it means they have to support fewer people in retirement as they have their own homes but no mortgages.

We will see an increase in rent in urban area. The corollary of this will also be a decision for a substantial cohort to prioritise quality of life over urban living, and hence heading for the hills to work remotely or do things like brew beer, open coffee shops or do online consultations for whatever business they are in. They will decide they don’t want to live in a city any more. For example, you can still be a journalist but live in Co Clare and work remotely. In cities, if working from home, you need more space but homes are not pandemic-proof buildings and you don’t find the space needed in cities.