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PODCAST: Cities of the future

04:30pm November 23 2018

Carlo Ratti of Massachusetts Institute of Technology speaks at a conference in Munich, Germany in 2012. (Getty)

An MIT professor and global leader in city design says people should embrace “good density”, arguing efficient use of space fostered greater human interaction and growth in new digital-inspired industries.

Amid rising debate about how strong population growth was affecting Australia’s major cities and the economy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Carlo Ratti told Westpac Wire long-term planning decisions and policymaking were becoming more important in the digital age, and better data and new technologies could assist the process.

“The issue of density… there’s a lot of misunderstanding,” said Ratti, who was in Australia working on Victorian-based projects, citing how Barcelona and New York have about the same density.

Listen to Siobhan Toohill's full interview with Carlo Ratti.


“Barcelona uses space in a much more efficient way because it’s made of courtyards while if you think about New York it’s made of towers…and that’s a less effective way to use the ground.

“(But) if we manage to get good density (it) can be very good for cities. It can help us to live more sustainably but also in a more sociable way. There’s more human friction and human friction is what cities are about.”

Ratti – who runs the MIT Senseable City Lab, which in 2009 developed the “Copenhagen Wheel” that helped pioneer the rise of e-bikes – cited how the rise of the “sharing economy” across the likes of cars and bicycles was putting greater focus on the planning of parking spots versus pick-up and drop-off areas. He noted people in the US use cars 5 per cent of the time.

Earlier this year, Deloitte found that slicing Sydneysiders’ commute to work could provide a $3.5 billion a year kick to the economy. It formed part of the “ImagineSydney” series as part of the state government’s plan for three “30-minute cities” by 2056.

To plan ahead, Ratti says cities must learn from other cities due to their different focuses, citing Melbourne’s focus on efficient use of land for some time, Singapore’s experimentation around mobility and Milan’s efforts to bring nature back to the city.

He added that while 5G would be evolutionary than revolutionary, it would be important for the rise of autonomous mobility, and assist the flow of data and connectivity.

Siobhan is Westpac's Chief Sustainability Officer. Her role covers sustainability governance which includes areas such as climate change and human rights policies. A pioneer in corporate sustainability in Australia, Siobhan is passionate about capacity of business to create positive impact, building on her early career in design.

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