The title City of the Future has recently turned into something of a buzz word in itself. It is also a cathegory in which almost all european cities compete fevershly. The big dream is a mystical bridge between a glorious past and a dynamic future, but what is that bridge and how to build it seems to still be a trade secret.
In the 16th century Antwerp rose to the status of the richest city on Earth, accounting for more than 40% of the world trade. Profitable economy and perceptive politics put the city forward and used the financial fortunes to foster culture, arts, crafts and among them also architecture. With a shining past like this, today the city reaches for a new title – “city of tomorrow”. When a bridge steps that high at the beginning, where does it lead to? Since its Golden Age Antwerp has suffered some setbacks, but today seems to be a different day.
The way Antwerp introduces future and tomorrow is by deeply understanding the place and role of the city today. Antwerp presents to its citizens an unprecedented amount of research on topics, usually regarded by authorities as uninteresting for the public, but nevertheless essential to the understanding of a city. Before investing in creating the city of tomorrow, Antwerp invests in understanding the city of today and the progression of the daily routines or big changes through the years that evoked the current status. This, put into perspective, the city is viewed and presented extensively to the public as a multitude of systems, which are interdependent and fragile. Ranging from food supply chains and sewage and waste management to merchandise, development of local businesses and education – all layers of the city life are vividly connected with each other. With a series of public awareness programs and admission-free exhibitions in the local museums, supported by professional and creative use of interactive and graphic design, Antwerp prepares not only a city of tomorrow, but also a generation of forward looking and thinking citizens.
Complementary to the extensive research and education work, the city of Antwerp implements a series of micro interventions in the urban environment, which might seem cosmetic, but together they work towards a larger impact. With programs such as The Red Carpet or The 20th Century Belt, the city triggers the imagination of its citizens and empowers them, thus paving its way towards a bright tomorrow.
Antwerp is setting an inspiring example for a sensitive approach with a deep understanding for the fragile substance that a city is.
“Antwerp city of tomorrow: The Renewal of Urban Renewal”, Patricia De Somer, 2016