Harvard Deans’ Design Challenge: Urban Life 2030

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The Deans’ Design Challenge: Urban Life 2030 seeks proposals that envision order of magnitude improvements to the liveability of our cities by 2030.

The world’s urban population is forecasted to grow by about 50% in the next 15 years, inducing a monumental transformation in the lives of our city dwellers. Most of this urbanization will occur in less developed regions, where new population density will compound the effects of existing problems of transportation, safety, food, water, and inequality. And modern cities carry with them inherent challenges for all regions and economies, especially as the pace and scale of resource consumption intensifies.

The Deans’ Design Challenge: Urban Life 2030 calls upon Harvard students to apply their creativity to find collaborative, entrepreneurial, and sustainable solutions to best address the urban issues accompanying this population growth.

2014 Challenge Topics

Responsive Cities
City dwellers interact with their cities in more responsive and efficient ways than ever before by utilizing personal technology, automated transportation, smart grids, and adaptive materials. New technologies have also created new possibilities for community, culture, democracy, and the shared experience of the city. Can a responsive city be a city that is safer, cleaner, more healthy, more just, more satisfying and elevating?

We seek proposals to make cities operate better, while enriching individual lives with the support of existing digital infrastructures.

Urban Metabolisms
Every city is made up of complex networks of energy, water, and material flows. The current imbalance of resource input versus output puts great strains on the surrounding regions. Food, water, energy, and raw materials all create extended, even global geographies for cities. How can we organize these networks more effectively using long-term sustainable systems?

We seek proposals that simulate and adapt material and energy efficiency, transform waste into resources, and organize networks into sustainable systems.

The Future of Consumption
Urban economies rely on the production and consumption of goods. Could marrying the commercial function of the city—material waste, planned obsolescence, and the consumerization of ever-increasing domains of culture—with a new economic or cultural model designed for the next generation change the dynamics of consumption?

From new manufacturing methods to on-demand customization, we seek proposals for technologies that will change consumers, what is consumed, and act as a catalyst for consumption that is more culturally rich.

Aging in Place
Societies around the world are faced with the challenge of accommodating the needs of an increasingly older population. The United Nations predicts that the over-60 population will be as high as 30% in developed regions by 2030. This change in the population balance will be global and permanent, impacting all regions and cultures; integrating the demands of seniors, and helping them to stay connected, productive and happy will be a key challenge of the near and medium future. Similarly, helping the city’s younger population to re-adapt to this new population mix will be just as important.

We seek forward-thinking proposals reflecting solutions of all kinds–policies, technologies, and spaces– that reimagine the physical and social landscape connecting the young and elderly.



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