"The Future of Cities:
Development Scenarios
in Crisis Time"
Discussion panel "The Future of Cities: Development Scenarios in Crisis Time" as part of the program for implementing innovations in cities and preparing for the SYNCHRO SPACE IV urban hackathon.
On 15 May 2020, we discussed issues important for cities and society with prominent innovators and experts:

  • Valerii Pekar — entrepreneur, lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla and Lviv Business Schools, co-founder of the civic platform Nova Kraina

  • Andrii Dligach — Founder and CEO of Advanter Group, Doctor of Economics, strategist, futurologist, member of the Board of Directors of the Digital Transformation Institute. Member of the Board of Directors of SingularityU Kyiv, CEO, Luniter troubleshooting. Co-founder of the Board business community

  • Kostyantyn Kolesnikov — consultant on territory development, conceptologist, marketer. Coordinator of the Kyiv Strategic Community, member of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine and co-founder of Urbosophia and Wise City Game

  • Alla Petrenko-Lysak — PhD in Sociology, Associate Professor at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, expert in sociology of space, sociology of technology and electronic communication

  • Julian Chaplinskyy — architect, urban planner. Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Regional Development in 2019, Chief Architect of Lviv 2015-2019

  • Yevhen Nayshtetik — biomedical scientist, advisor to the head of the Ministry of Health in 2019. Founder of Platform 20k, President of Planexta Inc, Managing Partner of Lorton Investments Sp. z o. o.
The panel was moderated by Alissa Ban'kovska, founder and CEO of SYNCHRO SPACE, an incubator of innovative solutions for cities, leader of Startup-in-Residence UA, an acceleration programme from TechUkraine, and co-founder of the Ukrainian Smart City Digital Expo 2020.


How does the pandemic affect urban development?
What new challenges are cities facing?
We need to rethink urbanism and understand that the vertical cities and residential complexes that have been built recently are completely incapable to protect us.
Social density significantly increases risks and reduces resilience in case of an epidemiological, man-made, or military threat. In this situation, human losses can be maximum. Therefore, social distancing is justified and effective.
Today, we see projects of autonomous urban settlements emerging and urbanism being rethought. Even more, densification will affect our lives and everyday life. Because if we want to live like Hong Kong, we need to get used to wearing a mask as our everyday attribute. If we would like to live like Shanghai, we need to accept the restrictions on our rights and freedoms. And understand that our digital routes are a way of identification, which is sufficient even in the lack of personal data. Otherwise, we need to rethink urbanism and understand that the vertical cities and residential complexes that have been built recently are completely incapable of protecting us.
How should urban planners and architects respond to the new conditions?
It is necessary to develop cycling, improve public transport and increase the number of pedestrian areas. And the number of floors and population density should be in harmony with the streets.
At first glance, it seems that a car-centric master plan will be more effective for cities. After all, it's safer and easier to quarantine in your car than in public transport. But this is far from the case. Many European cities have taken advantage of the situation and created hundreds of kilometers of bicycle paths and pedestrian zones.

We must improve the city's urban culture and not lose the opportunity. We need to develop cycling, improve public transport, and increase the number of pedestrian zones. The number of floors and population density should be in harmony with the streets. An urgent problem is the lack of urban institutions that could monitor the urban situation using real data.
What changes can we already see in the social structure of the city, and what other consequences can be predicted?
There have been no dramatic changes in the cities over the last period. There were no hunger riots. However, there were some protests related to the functioning of small businesses. We will see real social changes in a few years," says Alla Petrenko-Lysak. Interest in finding easy investments and quick profits has increased.

Several "interest" groups have formed:

  • A group of fear, self-hypnosis and self-prediction
  • a group of activists-transformers
  • the group of initiators, based on trust, cooperation, collaboration, and supporting the transformation group
  • the rest - go with the flow
Will these changes become catalysts for transformations in the urban environment, urban services, and the structure of city governance?
How exactly?
A city's capacity depends on the ratio of residents to citizens. For example, Kyiv has a lot of residents, but very few citizens.
Cooperation and collaboration are crucial, as well as rethinking our lifestyles in light of climate change and the environment. We need to think ahead and take into account current trends:

  • Decentralization and de-urbanization - large settlements will shrink, and small ones will grow.
  • Infrastructure is truly decentralized and connected - a new model based on the principles of the life cycle and reasonable necessity
  • Physical and social distancing - planning the organization of space with voids, reserves, and green areas.
  • Development of mobile and local services (neighborhood, house) related to health, education, and everyday life.
  • Publicity and openness, and, as a result, a reconsideration of the common neighborhood. First of all, at the micro level: co-ownership, collective responsibility
  • Development of the demand for naturalness: pomp and consumerism are becoming a thing of the past
  • Demand for an adaptive environment and models of behavior, and interaction with such an environment, will be fulfilled through gamification
  • Development of virtual cities as a reflection of existing ones - it's more about smart cities
  • Creation of citizens' parties as a rethinking of urban policies
The pandemic is affecting the development of state supervision and control mechanisms, which have both positive and negative consequences. How will the trends of Total Surveillance and Civil Liberties affect the development?
Every major crisis does not create new trends but only accelerates those that have been accumulating, gaining strength, and emerging before the crisis. That's good news. Observing them, we can predict the future and see where we are heading. And those who follow trends win. It can be applied to people, companies, cities, and countries. Those who cling to the past or try to turn back are sinking.

For example, the remote work trend will affect the housing functionality, the size of offices, and road congestion. Housing will change for the convenience of work. And housing that does not meet the needs of the future will become much cheaper, and vice versa. The partial appearance of people in the office will significantly reduce the need for large office space. A 3-in-1 city, district, and house where you can live, work, and have fun creates an absolute demand for the design of housing, cities, and public spaces.
It is important to understand the causes of this crisis. It has nothing to do with the pandemic. Moreover, it is not even just an economic crisis. Social practices have changed. The world is not driven by technology or the pandemic, but by changes in social practices.
How have social practices changed, and how does this affect our cities?
Fears control us, but they do not shape the underlying trends. The changes in the city's structure were already in place before the crisis. For example, in Kyiv, the city center attractiveness has declined. And shopping centers are no longer so attractive to people.

We will move around more and stop being tied to real estate or a determined territory. It leaves us with no opportunity to respond to the pandemic challenges and to realize our vision of a free and exciting life. Real estate sharing in a new format will gain popularity. Flexible shopping centers, restaurants, and easily transforming offices will benefit. For example, they will represent one concept in the morning and another in the evening.
Is it easier for small cities to adapt to changes?
There is little difference depending on the size of the cities. It's harder to reach an agreement and more complicated to align interests in large cities. In a small city, communications are shorter and there are fewer players. So some small cities often have a head start on larger ones. A large city, in turn, has more resources. But the key indicator is the strength and cohesion of local communities. A culture of dialogue in cities allows for much faster development. A great example of such a culture is the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

It's crucial if the community can take responsibility for the city development. The local community is the prominent creator of the city. Therefore, it is not necessary to build a system of districts but to raise the city structure from the bottom up. The phase transition destroys old structures, and hierarchies stop working and only get in the way. The capacity of a city depends on the ratio of residents to citizens. In Kyiv, there are many residents, but very few citizens.
What scenarios do you see for urban development in the current crisis?
Governments, corporations, or secret societies do not decide where the world will go, but each person makes their own small choices. And the choice of billions of people will determine which of these two tracks the world will take.
The future is not predetermined. There are inevitable trends: remote work, digitalization, biotechnology, the "washout" of the middle class, increased anxiety and health concerns. And there are variable trends. It means that both trends are well-defined, and we don't know which will win. Here are some examples:

  • Globalization versus protectionism: on the one hand, globalization has gained strength, and the coronavirus knows no borders. On the other hand, we see closed borders, barbed wire, and no air traffic, and each country is fighting for itself.
  • Social cohesion and social distance: on the one hand, we think about ourselves and the safety of our loved ones, and on the other hand, volunteering is growing, and we care about those at risk.
  • Total surveillance and freedom: on the one hand, people are being monitored, and on the other hand, civil freedom is one of the biggest trends in recent years.
  • More responsible consumption, because we are on the verge of an eco-catastrophy. At the same time, all central banks are flooding the planet with money that needs to be spent to launch the economy.
The world is at these forks, and we don't know how it will be. It is not governments, corporations, or secret societies that decide where the world will go, but each person makes their own small choices. And the choice of billions of people will determine which of these two tracks the world will take. Therefore, we have to be aware and understand that the choice of 1,000 people or one city will decide where the world will turn.
Will the current situation stop globalization? Or will we continue to move towards big cities, acquisitions, and agglomeration development?
The vast majority of global cities are such precisely because they are located in the territories of accelerated development countries. Whether they will continue to grow is not certain. But the trend of decentralization will prevail, and it is about governance. The territory will be a territory of continuous development, including parks and infrastructure because there is a concept of environment. For example, why is the innovation economy developing in Silicon Valley? Because it is an environment where people gather in one place not through Zoom, but in bars, shops, and pubs.

Cities will change, getting flatter and more centralized. But in these territories, people will pay with currencies that have been produced by states. It will have judicial systems and regulatory things that are established by states, not by the cities themselves.
The margin will be created by technologies that are not created by a single team but in collaboration with various organizational structures that may not be in the same country.
What will be the development of urban infrastructure under the scenarios of globalization or protectionism?
Local authorities should have more power to manage and create particular "game rules". The city itself should decide on transport interchanges and the typology of housing mixed with work and leisure functions.
Local authorities should be allowed to change planning laws. Because in Ukraine, state building codes and restrictions are still written for the whole country. And this is a mistake. After all, the scale of Lviv or Chernivtsi cannot be compared to Dnipro.
Each city has its peculiarities and traditions. Local authorities should have more opportunities to manage and create their own "rules of the game". The city should decide on transport interchanges and the typology of housing mixed with work and leisure functions. Currently, there are no State Building Standards for such housing. And it will take several years to create it at the state level. It's more effective to develop such norms by local people who know their city and what the effect will be. Of course, we need to resolve such issues through local discussions.

Now is the time for maximum decentralization. People need to act locally. The practice of certain communities shows, that if you let people go as much as possible, they will manage themselves and live better than before.
What will happen to the investment attractiveness of cities?
For the last 5 years, the city of Paris has been the most attractive from the investors' point of view. Despite the riots, metro stops, size, and popularity," says Andriy Dligach.

"Two things are most important for investors: infrastructure and the availability of people with sufficient modern competence related to the new economy. The level of education, healthcare, crime, and democratization are dominant factors for investors. But trust in the city is crucial because investors are also people.

They are attracted not only by ratings but also by the fact that you can come to a city where it is interesting and pleasant to live. Some ratings determine the quality of life in a city. In Ukraine, Kyiv is the most attractive city for living and investors. According to various ratings, we are in the 150th to 200th place.

Cities need to create urban communities that can influence and invest. And for every investor, business security and transparent legislation are crucial.
How to build communication that will contribute to
to the city development?
Communication is a strategy, and statements are tactical actions. Non-tactical communications make a mess. Urban space should become a real space of communication.
The influence of community connections forms the trends. And it is crucial to understand the meaning of communication. The main thing in communication is how many of us communicate, what language we speak, and how well we can encode and decode the meanings we are trying to convey to each other. Business and government have their own "languages", and the language of competition unites them. Society and communities have their own "languages" and different communication scenarios.

Moderation is crucial for communication. Communication is necessary, it needs to be taught and learned, and most importantly, not avoided. After all, communication is a strategy, while statements are tactical actions. But non-tactical communications make a mess. Urban space should become a space of communication. Contact interactions are not just a trend now, they are in demand.

Now it's time when theories about hybrid spaces may emerge: a village with urban elements or megacities with cities. New ideas and tactics for protecting socially vulnerable groups will emerge. Socially responsible businesses will start looking for new ways to be considered good for the tax authorities, their reputation, and their reputation.

The wars will be refreshed - the skills and abilities to conflict will be refreshed, because there will be new reasons to find out who is better. Expert wars will begin: who will be better at constructing and selling their views and assessments? Virtual communications are becoming real, in the sense that they are no longer distinguished as a special form of interaction. It will become important to verify a person's trustworthiness, how "real" they are in terms of their personality, and whether they are a digital imitation of a person.
What is the strategic planning horizon in the current situation?
"City air makes you free" - the difference between a city and a village is that the city makes you free, while the village does not. After all, where there is only production, no cognition, education and training, there is no freedom. If there is nothing but production in a city, it is not a city.
It is much easier to say what will happen in 2 weeks or 30 years than to say what will happen in a year. There is a failure of medium-term predictions. Much depends on where the big trends will take us in 2-3 decades. In the current environment, we need to start by planning the lives of communities and then decide what to do with the environment we live in. The more people with strategic thinking in the city, the better. And new strategic planning systems will be born in the course of the current crisis.

"City air makes you free" - the difference between the city and the countryside is that the city makes you free, while the countryside does not. After all, where there is only production, no cognition, education, and training, there is no freedom. If there is nothing but production in a city, it is not a city. What is the strategic planning horizon in the current environment?
Author of the article: Yana Kononova
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