More than half the world’s population will live in towns by 2030 compared to only 10% in 1900. The 21st century will be urban. However the town of 2030 will bear little resemblance to that of the 20th century; it will be more and more spread out and multi-centric, diverse and fragmented, criss-crossed by networks and connected to the circuits for global exchange, autonomous in relation to nation states, preoccupied by its ecological footprint but also by social tensions in its heart; this is a town that has evolved considerably. Technology will play an important role in this mutation, whether it’s to help residents organise the complex interweaving of their relationships, employment and travel, to provide greater and greater flexibility in production and distribution, in real time and connected to multiple networks or to manage exchanges between citizens and, or sometimes against, the town’s authorities.
An historic urbanisation trend
60% of the world’s population will be urban by 2030. 5 billion people will live in megapoli and agglomerations, where populations are counted in deca-millions, and the average towns, which will often be engulfed by the bigger conurbations, spread throughout the world. The rate of this generalised urbanisation increased as developing countries became more powerful, with Asia in the lead: China will construct 400 new towns between now and 2020 for 300 million rural demanders, or victims, of the rural exodus. An event that already counts as one of history’s most spectacular migrations. 13 of the 20 largest agglomerations on earth will be found in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Between 1980 and 2000, Lagos (Nigeria), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Tianjin (China), Hyderabad (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) all entered the top 30 of the world’s largest cities. By 2010 Lagos will be the third largest city in the world, behind Tokyo and Bombay. Milan, Essen and London will no longer be in the top 30 cities of the world and New York, Osaka and Paris will be at the bottom of this list. There are two different types of urbanisation in the world. One is accelerating, recent and is based on demographic growth and the rural exodus, sometimes it’s planned by the political and administrative authorities (South East Asia, China…), sometimes it’s anarchic (Africa, Bangladesh…). The other is slowing, having reached a rural/urban equilibrium where the quality of life dominates and it’s becoming more and more extensive at the expense of the historical urban centres.