Could a new city and a mile-high tower prevent natural disasters in Tokyo?

Next Tokyo. Image: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates.

Tokyo is a low-lying city with a long stretch of coastline, due to the shape of Tokyo Bay. This means that, thanks to climate change and its accompanying typhoons, earthquakes and floods, parts of  the city could be in trouble in coming years.

So architects and engineers have been coming up with ways solutions to these future crisis. The solutions which immediately spring to mind include flood barriers, or even trying to raise the ground level at the city's edges.

But one group has come forward with a slightly more complex plan: build an entirely new city on reclaimed islands in the bay to defend against floods. 

If that weren't complex enough, the proposal, dubbed Next Tokyo, would include a mile high skyscraper to house half a million residents, which, in order to supply the upper floors with water, would harvest moisture from the clouds. Oh, and it would also contain cable-free elevators which go sideways as well as up and down. Simple. 

The city's transport needs would be served by a hyperloop: a transport system which fires pods around a closed loop, developed Elon Musk, which, at time of writing, still just a concept.

The proposal, Next Tokyo 2045, comes jointly from Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, an architecture firm, and Leslie E Robertson Associates, a structural engineering firm. Here's a rendering of the city:

The city would stretch across Tokyo bay in a series of hexagonal configurations in order to act as an ocean barrier: 

It would also be part of a larger land reclamation effort, to be carried out over time throughout the bay (the different colours indicate different phases of reclamation):

The idea was submitted as a research paper to the Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat in 2015, and isn't likely to become an immediate reality: unsurprising, given that it contains phrases like "cloud harvesting as a water source". But given that many major cities are on the water, and the water levels are going to continue to rise, we need as many suggestions as we can get. 

All images: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates.


In Quito this week, the world is meeting to discuss the future of its cities

The 'La Compania' church, in the historical centre of Quito, is illuminated during a light show held to open the UN's Habitat III Conference. Image: Getty.

As the global population grows from seven to nearly ten billion by 2050, we will need to build the equivalent of a city of 1m people every five days to house them.

The world already has ten cities with more than 20m inhabitants, including Tokyo (37m), Beijing (21m), Jakarta (30m) and New Delhi (25m). Out of the 7bn people in the world, 6.7bn live with pollution above WHO clean air standards.

And by 2050, around 12m people from 23 cities in East Asia alone will be at risk from coastal inundation. Planning for climate change will be critical to minimise risk to these areas.

These are just some of the stark facts about our global urban future.

With these issues in mind, up to 50,000 participants have gathered in Quito this week to discuss a New Urban Agenda at Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.

The adoption of the agenda will set standards for sustainable development with a strong emphasis on social inclusion, cultural diversity, urban prosperity, urban governance, urban spatial development, and integrated urban planning including climate change.

From Paris to Quito

The Paris agreement on climate change will come into effect in November 2016. Cities will be at the heart of achieving its aim to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Planning for a low-carbon and resilient urban future is now our greatest global challenge. It is critical to achieving emission reduction targets and planning cities for climate change.

After all, cities produce 76 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions and account for 75 per cent of energy use worldwide.

The focus is now on implementing the Paris agreement; that is where the New Urban Agenda, proposed for agreement at UN Habitat III, comes into play. Key issues being discussed include affordable housing, urban transport, gender equity, empowerment of women and girls, poverty, and hunger in all its forms. Involving communities in the future and design of cities is essential. Better urban governance of our growing cities and urban regions is a core theme.

Observing the range of activities here at Habitat III, it is impressive to see the significant engagement of the private sector as well as governments and NGOs. This mix of partnerships is vital if we are to make positive change in the planning of our cities. Global companies are present as well as local consultancies. They can clearly see there is a market for them in more sustainable futures: that brings great hope for the future.

The scientists are less happy, and are seeking greater engagement in future discussions. The latest issue of Nature comments that “scientists must have a say in the future of cities”, and argues that they should have been more involved in the Habitat III processes. Clearly, better connecting scientists with planners with communities is important in finding sustainable solutions.

A key component in improving city planning is sharing knowledge and expertise. Cities are often connected through global urban networks such as C40, a network of megacities advocating for action on climate change, and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

Another important strategy being presented is improving the sharing of knowledge and expertise between “like climate regions”. It is equally important to improve communication of the major urban challenges with wider audiences. Researchers with the United Nations University have also developed an art strategy as part of the preparatory process for Habitat III, with the intention of stimulating thought and discussion on health and well-being in cities.

The overall message from UN Habitat III is that the sustainable planning and design of our cities and human settlements is fundamental to improving the health and well being of our urban communities and acting on climate change. Through that, we tackle the stark facts of urban pollution, our response to climate change, and the future liveability of our cities.

Our moment to act

We are living in a unique time for cities, with multiple UN agendas coming together at once: the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement, Sendai Framework for Risk Reduction and the Small Island Developing States Partnerships Framework.

National urban policies are seen as crucial to implementation of all these agreements. As the New Urban Agenda states:

the persistence of multiple forms of poverty, growing inequalities, and environmental degradation remain among the major obstacles to sustainable development worldwide.

Through better urban governance, we can make significant inroads to address the ongoing barriers to achieving more sustainable cities. The proposed agenda particularly highlights transportation and mobility as a priority to support action.

Habitat III offers an opportunity to raise global understanding of the enormous challenges facing cities, and a platform for nations to collaborate in developing more sustainable urban futures. This will require considerable effort from everyone.The Conversation

Barbara Norman is chair of urban and regional planning at the University of CanberraJohn Colin Reid is a visual artist, attached to Australian National University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.