At a time when more than half of the world’s population is living in cities, any solution for dealing with the effects of climate change and the end of a development based on fossil fuels has to take city planning into account. The exhibition “Post-Oil City: The History of the City’s Future,” as well as the accompanying catalogue edited by ARCH+, present innovative projects in Asia, Africa, and America that address urgent questions: How will the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy affect the process of urban planning and the city? How will the use of renewable energies affect urban metabolism and the politics of sustainability and mobility?
“Post-Oil City” is as much about the future as it is about the past. As indicated by the exhibition’s subtitle— “The History of the City’s Future”—every vision of the future is based on a vision of the past. By contrasting 11 current projects in the field of sustainable urban planning with 9 past ones, the exhibition aims to show that many of today’s developments have their roots in the urban utopias of mid-20th-century modernism. Today, urban planners are returning to these concepts and adapting them to the challenges posed by climate change, a limited supply of fossil fuels, economic recession, and global systemic crisis.
Urban planning provides a laboratory for social as well as ecological change. Some experiments discussed in “Post-Oil City” are Masdar City (Abu Dhabi), Xeritown (Dubai), and the NEST project in Ethiopia. Other examples of urban experimentation featured in the exhibition modify existing structures: creating a public transportation system in Curitiba’s inner city, renaturalizing New York’s High Line, and building a network of electric cars with battery switch stations in Israel. Raoul Bunschoten and his team at CHORA—a London architectural firm at the cutting edge of urban design—are currently pursuing several interactive projects giving communities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait the chance to directly experience new measures in urban design and energy production. Though different in method and scope, the projects presented in “Post-Oil City” all have something in common: they exemplify the combination of reason, innovation, and exibility that we’ll need to make our cities and planet sustainable for the future.