New Century Cities Seminar
September – December 2004
The Center for Real Estate, the City Design and Development Group and Smart Cities at the MIT Media Lab co-sponsored a faculty-student seminar, which consisted of six seminar sessions held from September through December 2004. The core group included more than five faculty members, ten students and a teaching assistant. Additional faculty visitors from various MIT departments and visiting speakers contributed frequently throughout the semester bringing real-world examples and theoretical insights to the table. The sessions covered urban design and placemaking, SENSEable city technologies, social value creation, real estate value. The following summary provides a brief overview of this exploratory effort to kick-off the New Century City research initiative.
The seminar framed a very complex problem, namely the interconnections among real estate development, digital technology and urban design. While the link between technologies and urban form is an important question (and has been for a long time) for planners and designers, the relationship to development processes seems understudied. And because development is how city form actually changes, this seminar posed the question to the group about how these areas are related.
A Semesters Work
The group identified two types of case studies. On the one hand, there is a series of mega-projects taking place around the world that are precipitating the digital future of urbanism and city building both in terms of economic development strategies and physical design. On the other hand, many smaller examples of technologies or initiatives can be identified everywhere that indicate how some of these changes will take place incrementally. Looking at these two different types of case studies provides an "in" to the topic which is still in need of further definition.
Connecting Real Estate, Design and Digital Technology
The greatest challenge has resulted from integrating the three aspects of the problem identified above. The sessions were structured to address each area separately and in reference to the other two nodes:
Some of the findings that result from our discussions connect these three areas:
- Location: The meaning of location in real estate and design seems to have changed. Have we reached the stage where we need to discuss "location++"? How will livability impact how location is valued in the future?
- Value: The notion of value seems to be changing in two ways, which require new types of indicators in real estate: (1) Developers seem to be shifting towards becoming economic development agents. In essence, they are heavily involved in shaping the face of high value-added communities. (2) The demand for places that have value and meaning beyond pure financial feasibility seems to be increasing.
- Community: There is a definite need for developers and city designers to understand how communities form and communicate in space in order to develop the types of desirable places we envision.
- Winners/Losers: Developing new real estate products does not imply better values. We need to be aware whose identity is being portrayed and develop better mechanisms for managing the development process to ensure more diverse identities are embodies in place.
- No to homogenization: It seems that places are not becoming more uniform but instead certain places are trying to differentiate themselves more heavily. Certain factors reinforce the potential for differentiation and technology is only one way to reinforce these distinctions.
If anything, the seminar showed us that further research in this direction needs to be conducted. Some of the remaining questions are:
What does the technology really do? Looming over all these results is Goldberger's rant in "Disconnected Urbanism" that we are losing our sense of place as a result of mobile technologies. For him, place means nothing when people are able to communicate with a distant friend from a very specific location because the meaning of the personâ™s present location is reduced. How can we counter these simplistic accusations against technology?
What are the key live-work trends that need to inform future-oriented real estate development?
How are developers going to capitalize on these findings?
Who are the winners and losers? What are the social and community effects of these transformations?
Several student research papers resulted from the seminar. The research papers developed over the course of the semester cover a wide range as the list of titles below shows. Selected papers are available upon request (you may email the students directly or Susanne Seitinger at email@example.com):
|Daniel Berryfirstname.lastname@example.org||The Point and the Field: MIT's Evolving Campus in Perspective|
|Luis Canizoemail@example.com||Digital Mile Zaragoza (Spain): New Partnerships for future Century Cities|
|Whitney J. Foutzfirstname.lastname@example.org||Working in the New Century City: New Patterns for Living|
|Karen (Jia Ying) Huemail@example.com||The MIT Wireless Museum Project: Context-Aware Technology & Community Identity|
|Mark C. K. Lufirstname.lastname@example.org||Residential Development in MIT's New Century City: Aligning Incentives and Creating Value|
|Kathleen A. McCabeemail@example.com||Managing and Enliveing New Century Cities: Business Improvement Districts as a 21st Century City Strategy|
|Shilpa Mehtafirstname.lastname@example.org||Smart Places: Digitally Mediated Architectural Spaces|
|Alison E. Novakemail@example.com||Landmark San Jose - Silicon Valley: Using Digital Technology to Create a Physical Locus for City Identity|
|Gena M. Pedittofirstname.lastname@example.org||I Want Candy: Public Expression, Media, and Space in Lobby 10|
|Sean D. Sacksemail@example.com||Double Bottom Line Real Estate Equity: A Good Funding Source For New Century City Projects?|
Seminar Syllabus: CDD DUSP - Media Lab Joint Faculty-Student Seminar Syllabus (pdf, 132K)
Students and faculty worked with a website where all the readings and other resources were placed. This website is intended primarily for participating members from the MIT community.
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