What Should Cities Be Like in 2050?

National Geographic gave us a dream assignment. Here’s how our urban design team tackled it.

Cross-sectional rendering of SOM’s speculative Future City, developed with National Geographic for the April 2019 “Cities” issue. © SOM
Recent covers of National Geographic show the magazine’s focus on issues affecting the health of our planet.

How far in the future are we talking about?

This led us to develop the idea of “biomorphic urbanism,” which places ecological systems and human-centered design as the most important drivers of city form.

What are the key ideas behind the Future City’s design?

A diagram from Ebenezer Howard’s book, “Garden Cities of To-morrow”
Drawing of Tony Garnier’s “Une Cité Industrielle”

How did SOM develop the ideas and concepts for the Future City?

The Future City includes ideas adopted from real-world projects, such as this sketch proposal for a resilient hydrological network for Seagull Island, located in the Pearl River Delta near Guangzhou, China. © SOM

Where is this Future City located?

Given the likelihood of sea level rise, why is the Future City on the coastline?

The Future City will be an assemblage of mixed-use “urban hubs,” such as the one shown here. © SOM

What’s an “urban hub,” and what role does it play in the future of urbanization?

How can these concepts be applied to existing cities?

The cover of National Geographic’s “Cities” issue


We are a collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners building a better future. To learn more, visit www.som.com.

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