Arup predict a future of smart, interactive, conscious cities

by Kim Megson | 01 Mar 2016

Josef Hargrave, an associate with Arup’s global Foresight + Research + Innovation team, has predicted that the cities of the future will “identify, understand, manage and solve social, environmental and economic shifts and shocks”.

Hargrave outlined his vision at Conscious Cities, a conference organised today (1 March) in London to explore the relationship between neuroscience and architecture.

He imagined a future where sensors embedded throughout cities will be able to do everything from sending us updates warning about traffic jams and available parking spots, to automatically changing our living environments depending on our mood and protecting us from extreme weather.

“It will be a technological revolution that can shape our environment and influence the personality of cities,” he said. "Giving city consciousness allows more people to make conscious decisions themselves during their day to day life."

In the conference’s keynote speech, architect Sarah Robinson said: “‘We’ve scarcely scraped the surface of conscious cities. We can no longer think of buildings as objects – they are active agents of our survival and there are simple ways we can enhance the experience of the built environment. We must respond to constraint and opportunities of human context and human physiology.”

Later neuroscientist Hugo Spiers and academic Panos Mavros showed how advances in technology such as EEG brain scanning can emotionally map our reactions to environments in terms of excitement, frustration and engagement, particularly in response to stimuli such as sound, air pollution and light. They argued that this knowledge has major repercussions on the development of smart applications to improve built environments.

The conference then moved on from the question of how conscious cities can be developed to debate if they should be developed at all. Several speakers and participants raised concerns about the ethical and privacy issues surrounding mass collection of our data.

Ruari Glynn, director of British studio Interactive Architecture Lab, asked: “How do conscious cities take knowledge and use it in the right way? What is right and who decides? We have to be careful. We shouldn’t dehumanise consciousness, even if our ambitions are noble.”

Juliette Morgan, the head of property at Tech City UK, added: “Can walls forget what they’ve heard in offices? What happens to that data? Ultimately ethics is for philosophers, poets and artists to commentate on and question – it's not a binary debate.”

The one-day conference was organised by London’s Museum of Architecture and THECUBE – a collective of scientists, engineers, designers, technologists, artists, futurists and anthropologists.

By bringing together neuroscientists, architects, engineers, planners and developers, the event aimed to show how professionals can use research in neuroscience to design better spaces and cities for the future.

Arup predict a future of conscious cities 
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Architecture and neuroscience – Conscious Cities conference will explore the connection

Josef Hargrave, an associate with Arup’s global Foresight + Research + Innovation team, has predicted that the cities of the future will “identify, understand, manage and solve social, environmental and economic shifts and shocks”. Hargrave outlined his vision at Conscious Cities, a conference organised today (1 March) in London to explore the relationship between neuroscience and architecture. He imagined a future where sensors embedded throughout cities will be able to
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The Conscious Cities conference showed how research in neuroscience applies to urban design / Conscious Cities
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