Will Future Cities be Linear?

What do you think of these sketches of a future city? I think it could cut energy use, save lots of countryside and offer a great lifestyle.

The linear city from the air
The linear city from the air
City central street showing transport and deliveries
City central street showing transport and deliveries

Every home is close to the countryside. There are restaurants galore. Millions of job opportunities within 30 minutes commuting time. A wide range of sports can be played or watched. There are plays, concerts and cinemas. There is a choice of schools, universities, hospitals, museums, art galleries all within easy reach.

The disabled, the old, children and cyclists can travel safely. Trains are used for travel along the city, moving walkways aid walking across the city. All services, and all deliveries are electrically powered and underground.

A roof and triple glazed walls protect the whole city and keep it at the right temperature. It is easier to control the temperature of the whole city than many individual homes because the external surface is very much smaller. There is no fuel poverty because homes do not need to be individually heated. There is no sweltering heat either if the city is built in the tropics.

The city could be built up to 20 storeys high and perhaps 2 kilometres (1 and a quarter miles) wide. At that scale it could provide homes for millions of people. It would have added attraction if an existing, fast growing city was at one end of the line.

The linear city offers a new alternative. A life that combines a place in the country with the buzz of a major city. A place where a family could be brought up. There is no need for a car, except perhaps for occasional trips at weekends when one can be hired.

The city duplicates the dynamism of similar linear cities like Manhattan or Hong Kong, and by keeping things compact it leaves the environment available for all to enjoy.

Best of all, energy use on cars and heating/cooling will be a fraction of their current level. Follow this link. The red column on the left estimates individual energy use in the UK. Other developed countries will be similar. You can see that cars and heating/cooling represent a good chunk of the way we currently use energy. The linear city could be a big part of a sustainable future, especially with a couple of billion more people to house on the planet by 2050.

I hope the pictures tell the story. I really struggled with some of these, and nearly gave in and used Powerpoint. Sketching is more fun, and I’ve put in for a course starting in January!

The roof controls the city temperature
The roof controls the city temperature
Why linear cities beat urban sprawl
Why linear cities beat urban sprawl

Why can’t this be done now? It can, and to an extent it is. There is however a big leap from a suburban world to living in close company in a city. People still aspire to leave the cities for the suburbs. The city presented here may not seem attractive until the fuel price rises  to the point where individual homes and cars become unaffordable.

I’ll probably enter this concept into a competition in early 2014 to see if it gains any support there. But I’m not hopeful, I think that its time has not yet come.

What do you think? Would you live here? Let me know your views by clicking on the poll or posting comments.

I’ve done a page with a little more information on linear cities in the ‘Background and Assumptions’ section.

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4 thoughts on “Will Future Cities be Linear?

  1. I am your worst sort of customer for this being someone who would struggle to live in New York and wants a nice garden and space for 3 cars. However, I get that it makes logical sense on lots of levels and that one day I might be forced to eat my views. But for now, the “leap too far” for me which makes it ahead of its time rather than easy to contemplate is I think two things; 1) the roof and 2) the result of that which is all buildings are the same height – (which means to me boring, no architectural interest). The wonderful thing about Manhattan is both the architecture which is fascinating and different, and the outdoorsy-ness of it. Everyone looks sort of fit and healthy and walks about a lot.
    I know if I don’t get some fresh air each day I go loopy – but not as loopy as my kids do. So the thought that I’d have to wait for Big Brother to decide when to open the roof (effectively open my window) to give me and my kids some fresh air, or else make a special trip to the country to get some, (admittedly not far, but it’s not just part of a stroll back from the shop), is more than a little bit freaky. Now maybe there’s clever things to make it not feel like an air-conditioned environment, but I think that’s too much of a leap for someone to grasp when you’re pitching this as an idea.
    So I reckon, hide the roof, and make the buildings interesting. Incorporate and show more visibly a river. Now you’ve got New York built along the M4 corridor. Now you’re talking.
    OK it’s not quite as green, but it’s a lot greener than 5 gazillion detached houses, and it sounds like it might be sellable if I were an estate agent.
    Finally, I recall listening to a totally brilliant programme on R4 a couple of years ago about a green city being built in the desert – UAE possibly, or Qatar – and the engineers who had designed it. It had lots of ancient ideas about natural aircon using building the buildings with good airflow – it was using a huge amount less energy from aircon due to the designs; it had buildings the optimum distance apart to keep the shade in and the heat out – stuff like that. It also sounded a nice place to live.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I must confess it looks very dull, a bit like an Iron Curtain housing estate. I think I was rather focussed on trying to get the sketch right and a simple shape is easier to draw. Another problem with a high level roof is that it’s hard to bridge wide streets and open spaces, so the streets end up being rather uniform. I think I’ll have a re-sketch soon and see whether I can make it look more interesting and still keep it reasonably cosy.

    1. He’s dead right. There is a key decision in the new cities – will they be designed to prioritise cars or people? It tends to be one or the other because there is only so much surface area available.

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