Future of Cities

Future of Cities is a Research Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design that pursues physical, digital and social innovation through the development of alternative models of urbanization framed within the context of technologically-enhanced cities.

Future of Cities specifically embraces the Smart[er] Citizens Program: a multi-tier, multi-year academic collaboration between the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University, USA, and the University of Bergamo (UNIBG), Italy. The Program involves interdisciplinary research and a related teaching component, and is conceived of as an extensive collaboration between students and faculty from both universities.

Smart[er] Citizens addresses the emerging areas of Smart[er] Learning and Smart[er] Health, exploring the new opportunities offered by innovative technologies for the redefinition of learning environments and the enhancement of healthcare systems. The Research Project investigates – both theoretically and practically – how new models of networks, enhanced immersive and interactive spaces, and novel computational technologies can contribute to address pressing questions of learning and healthcare through the lens of the design of smart architectures, infrastructures and ultimately artifacts, as well as technologically retrofitting or repurposing our built environments.

Future of Cities is an integral part of the GSD’s Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab (REAL).


Responsive Learning Environments

Why do we have to rethink the design of spatial learning environments today? Approaches for teaching and learning have long reflected prevalent cultural, social and economic values and attitudes in society. The supporting technologies – once chalkboards and physical labs – now embrace digital media, cloud computing, and a gamut of digital devices that allow access to digital resources anywhere and anytime. Pedagogies reflect the available tools and methods, but the design of the physical learning environments has been slow to adapt to a digital age and its new forms of learning. Contemporary physical learning environments – classroom, library, labs – should be conceived to support forward looking contemporary pedagogical approaches, thus incorporate the means and methods available at the time. But information technology and its related instructional technologies are often difficult at best to implement in schools that have been built for a purely analog mode of teaching. The design of the high school system provides a unique opportunity to prototype innovative technologically responsive learning environments that can lead as a model of innovation into the future.



Digital Cities
Sponsored by Humana

Digital Cities’ research mission is to provide a research platform to envision, investigate and develop solutions for tomorrow’s societies by uniting innovation in technology and design in a strategic context. We are interested in the convergence of several design/ technology-related fields to analyze and address challenges in the near to distant future, from micro to macro-scale.

Situated within the Harvard community, DCS’s research builds on bringing together minds of academia, industry and policy to explore, envision and co-create future solutions in harmony with economic, environmental and societal goals.




Smart Cities:  Urban Integrated Networked Solutions

In its current state, the vision of a smart city is very much fostered by a technologically enhanced worldview of the urban condition, whereas traditional and modern communication infrastructure, mainly the transport and ICT infrastructures, fuel sustainable urban growth and the quality of urban life. Smart cities are envisioned as wired and ICT-driven cities, saturated with embedded sensors, actuators, digital screens, hand-held devices and smart phones and all sorts of embedded and situated computing devices, with connectivity as the source of their growth and the driver of their effective performance, where all social classes benefit from the technological integrations of their urban fabric. Taking to account this technology-driven view of our smart city frenzied world, the Smart Cities: An Introduction to Urban Integrated Networked Solutions course offered at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (Fall 2012) is organized around four dimensions: (1) a literature review of Smart Cities, (2) an analytical case study of proposed or practiced smart city solutions, (3) a rigorous cataloging of urban problems that can be addressed by smart city inspired solutions, and finally, (4) a hands-on approach towards envisioning, proposing, designing, developing, and prototypical implementation of ITC-driven, networked and integrated solutions to the cataloged urban problems.The Smart[er]Cities wiki is an online platform used for documentation of the work-in-progress and final outcome of the course in digital format and as an open-source document. The theoretical framework of the course is very much based on multiple papers co-authored by Nashid Nabian and Carlo Ratti (Director of MIT SENSEable City Lab) on the very same subject.

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The research, directed by Nashid Nabian, is partially funded by University Of Bergamo. The idea generation and prototypical implementation of proposed platforms will target the problem areas identified during the site visit to City of Bergam. In this collaboration, graduate researchers from the University of Bergamo and the Harvard GSD have created working groups to identify problem areas, cataloguing the possible solutions and providing visions for research-driven design projects. The outcome of this collaborative exercise will be integrated to an ongoing initiative at the University of Bergamo titled CITTA’ 2.(035), which is focused on the smartened-up vision of the Bergamo region for the year 2035. Smart City Symposium, Scheduled to be held at the Harvard GSD on December 3rd, will be the venue to showcase the outcome of the first phase of this collaborative research.




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