With more than half the world's people now living in cities and some 1,000 megacities with populations over 10 million now being planned or under construction, the "rules" of urban development are shifting dramatically. To address this paradigm shift, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created the Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) to rethink urbanism and start anew. Key to CAU's approach: interdisciplinary teams of researchers from more than 22 labs across MIT.
CAU will develop a new kind of urbanist, one who can innovate in the spaces between traditional disciplinary silos through collaborative research in the following interrelated areas:
Health + Urbanism: CAU is undertaking a multiyear effort to improve urban health by integrating an understanding of broad environmental factors into design and planning. The work will focus on projects in three U.S. cities that can be implemented within 10 years. Collaborating with public health experts and health care industries, CAU will develop innovative templates that make a measurable improvement to urban health metrics.
Climate Adaptation Urbanism: Today our cities, especially highly populated coastal cities, are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. CAU will seek deeper understanding of these risks for the purpose of designing new templates for adaptation, protective infrastructures, environmental design, and even relocation strategies.
Technology + Urbanism: New insights from big data, the design of new building networks and systems, and the emergence of smarter cities – wired with mechanisms for info-gathering and feedback – will all continue to shape our neighborhoods and greater metropolitan areas. CAU will test the long-term consequences, benefits, and second-order effects of such technologies on urban form and space while considering socio-economic and cultural consequences.
Autonomous Urbanism: These research projects address urban needs and pressures that are not yet ready to be funded by the commercial marketplace. CAU's approach does not espouse a singular dogma regarding what is good or bad for a city. Two such projects are underway: The African Urbanism Project investigates a model by which large-scale agriculture coupled with education centers may offer an alternative to the status quo of slum development. Test sites have been selected in West Africa. The Durable Suburbias Project explores retrofitting approaches to the state of American suburbia, including new uses for big-box stores, infrastructural modifications, watershed management, and the legal frameworks associated with these new strategies.
CAU is conducting innovative basic research; serving as a thought leader by convening scholars for biannual conferences; creating educational spaces that enable collaboration to solve complex urban problems; and translating research into real-world projects through collaboration with practitioners.