An organic approach to city design, or: Getting out of the way

When asked about the role of design in creating sustainable and liveable cities, Director of MIT Media Lab Joi Ito says:

Imagining the future does not work anymore. There is an arrogance among certain categories of designers, architects and urban planners that we can predict the outcome of our actions. (…) [But] when the system becomes so complex that you cannot predict it anymore, then design becomes something fundamentally very different. Where you can no longer design the outcome.

Rather than the traditional top-down approach to city-planning, Joi Ito advocates a more organic approach that empowers, enables and amplifies the positive innovations across the city:

As the cost of innovation goes down, innovation starts to happen on the edges. You can see technological innovations coming from artists and students, which have developed into big companies today. Some experience is useful, but a lot of the experience people have right now does not apply in the same way.

He continues:

I think that you are going to have complex networks of unpredictable innovations that are going to happen in the most unlikely places.

It looks a lot more like creating an environment and supporting a kind of evolutionary diversity of innovation, rather than trying to design some monolithic system. It is really more organic.

The way I like to talk about it is to empower and enable nature, rather than trying to control it, which is sort of what we have been trying to do in the past.

A lot of it is getting out of the way.

Read more in a great article on Grasp.