Ideas to shape the future of urban spaces

May 10, 2024

Our Future Cities CEO, Rashiq Fataar shared his advice and ideas during the session Putting People First: Shaping the Urban Spaces of Tomorrow at the Smart City Expo Doha.

The session explored the concept of people-centric urban design, where the well-being and needs of residents take centre stage in shaping cities that are more liveable, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of their residents.

Here are a few of the ideas shared:

1. Engage Youth to Get a Glimpse into the Future

Youth and younger professionals offer fresh perspectives on how urban spaces are used today and envisioned for the future. Their connection to trends and technology provides valuable insights into societal shifts and future needs.

Make time for frequent informal conversations with young people, be they students or younger professionals. Hearing what they are listening to and reading about, and the trends and cultures shaping their daily life can provide useful insights.

2. Learn from Emerging Cultures, Practices, and Traditions

Urban spaces of tomorrow can evolve by drawing from emerging cultures, heritage, and past practices. By embedding these elements creatively, cities can create people-centric public spaces that resonate deeply with their communities.

There is no need to rush. Give yourself time to get to know new cultures and traditions, and over time factor these into the design of spaces.

In Bellville, we studied how cultures, practices and traditions shaped how people use and engage with public space

3. Code-in Wellbeing Across All Our Daily Urban Spaces

Embed well-being into every facet of daily life and engagement with urban space—the last mile home, the commuting experience, where you work and socialise. Orchestrate urban spaces to foster well-being throughout the entirety of public life, thereby promoting the health of the entire city

We often see health and well-being as separate from our daily lives. The experience of moving around the city, the taxi interchange and spaces around our workplaces are all areas in which interventions to create kinder, calmer and more nurturing spaces can have big impacts on the quality of life of city-dwellers.

AZ Berman Road in Mitchells Plain functions as a hazardous freeway, dividing the neighbourhood and undermining the well-being of its residents, especially children.

4. Allow for Informality, Adaptability, and Spontaneity
We often talk of communities shaping or having power in shaping their surroundings, but is this true? Think about how far urban spaces can be shaped, moulded and adapted by its users. Have we fully investigated this? And within this are we leaving space for informality and spontaneity or are we trying to curate “perfect” experiences.

How many spaces allow people to play music, gather, move objects around, and engage?

5. Mix It Up! Bring Different Uses, Users, Services, and Functions Together
People are like oxygen to urban spaces. But let’s go beyond “mixed-use” and overlap functions, services, programming and users across the time of the day, to make buildings and places a part of the vibrancy of urban spaces.

The CITYLIFT plan considered residential, civic and cultural uses as key to ensuring we go beyond traditional mixed-use programming and created a neighbourhood in the process.

6. Placemaking to Start, Good Design to Last

Placemaking and tactical urbanism, have a big role to play in activating spaces and people, and capturing the imagination. However, design is more patient, and permanent, lasting changes, require bold and decisive action.

Full Session Description:

The urban spaces we inhabit profoundly influence our lives, so the essence of their design should prioritize the well-being and aspirations of its residents, providing a set of crucial elements like walkable neighborhoods, inclusive public spaces, sustainable architecture, equitable planning, and adaptive environments. During this session, we will explore the concept of people-centric urban design, where the well-being and needs of residents take center stage in shaping cities that are more livable, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of their residents.

Rashiq Fataar
Rouen Smit
37 Parliament Street
Church Square
Cape Town City Centre
Cape Town, 8000
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