After a time working on projects for cities like Hong Kong or Shenzhen trying; mainly, to understand its scale and its way of working, is possible to get to the conclusion that in terms of mobility, density and even architectural typology, the terms used until now to define a city are becoming obsolete.
We are in front of something different, which stopped being a city, at least just one, to become a multi-nucleus network, a new concept, a syncytium.
Syncytium is a term used in biology to define a multi-nuclear cell resulting from the fusion of several uni-nuclear cells with reabsorption of the corresponding membranes. I have selected this term because I find it very descriptive, even suitable for its similar pronunciation with the word city. I think that explains in a much more graphically the situation than the terms City 2.0 or Smartcity, since neither the city has been updated to add “2.0” to his name nor has become “smart”.
It has evolved into something different from what it was, but without losing what it was. The city has been integrated in a membrane, in a network, a network that enables many benefits but where is necessary to rethink many issues. As Saskia Sassen said in a recent interview in a Spanish newspaper, “cities will become more important than states, the axis Washington-New York-Chicago or Hong Kong-Shanghai-Pekin will be stronger than the United States or China”, something that I agree with.
The future of our societies is eminently urban, these groups of cities continue to grow, multiplying and absorbing nucleus, and making their connections stronger.
This is something that could turn into beneficial for the future population, because the generation of large and compact cores improves the efficiency of energy use, creates close connections between its users and maximize the opportunities to produce and transport resources.
There are many issues to be addressed regarding these syncytiums. Their multi-core organization, the hierarchy of movement, their connections and ways of transport through its different components, the architectural style that would define them or the configuration of public spaces.
But it is, above all, a great opportunity. It allows to apply principles of Urban Agriculture and generate natural areas between their nucleus (that need to get more compact) admitting a way of life and business traditionally scattered (and therefore less energy efficient).
It also would accommodate the Spontaneous city. It is important to involve the citizens; it would avoid the mistakes of the great masterplans and would give each part of the syncytium a local identity.
The generation of these large concentrations of population is a fact, so the best we can do is to boost their strengths and opportunities. Enhance the model over the “sprawl”, which consumes more land, resources and energy.
These syncytiums must go beyond concepts associated with “city” as concrete, pollution, crime or injustice and believe it is possible to add others such as agriculture, nature, coexistence, mixture and efficiency.