Urban Planning

Is the idea of the City of Telosa a mixture of both hype and practical foresight? : urbanplanning

“Telosa Webinar 2 – Sustainability & Our Environment: A New City Design” (October 27, 2022)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR2LIcoCGlQ (58m 41s)

It is easy to criticize an idea for depicting “flying cars” as a means of travel within a city. Any picture with one will easily attract derision if spread to a wide audience. But what if the image being painted depicted more than that. On the ground, people travel mainly as pedestrians, and the sides of roads aren’t lined with parked cars. Instead there are pedestrian paths and public transport. Imagine a city with a population density between that of San Francisco and Central Paris – without a history of single occupancy vehicles having already polluted the environment over many past decades.

It is easy to criticize an idea for depicting a “city in the desert”. Yet once upon a time, a city was built on an island in a middle of a giant lake called Lago de Texcoco. That city grew into a water-scarce region that we now know as Mexico City. Sustainability is not just about having enough resources to start with. Sustainability is also about effectively preserving resources no matter how little is left. It is easy to say “we’re sustainable” if we insist on living only places where nature has it made easy for us. Yet, what better place could there be to develop the competency of resource preservation than one where it is nature, and not pre-built human settlements, which poses the primary obstacle to sustainable development? Of course, I am not talking about colonizing Mars or Antarctica. There is such a thing as having too much of a challenge. A reasonable, yet difficult challenge would be building sustainably in deserts or arid plains in temperate latitudes. If you think that even deserts and arid plains are unreasonable places to build cities in, what would you have told the Dutch in the Netherlands, where the land is below sea level? Not everyone can live in the modern equivalent of Lago de Texcoco (or other “lands of plenty”) until such places can be created in abundance. Sometimes we must learn to thrive in far-from-ideal conditions. It is thriving that goes beyond sustainability. Going beyond sustainability is needed if we are to sprout the next “Lagos de Texcoco” over all the world.

Thought must be taken to maintain existing ecosystems, and even better, to develop dense ecosystems from sparse ones. These ecosystems help retain water in places where it might otherwise be lost. Another key to developing ecosystems is wind. Wind can be harnessed to facilitate passive cooling of structures that create habitable environments inclusive to other species. The orientation of water flows, wind flows, and of the sun itself in relation to the elements within a city can have a profound impact on whether that city could be considered “livable”.

The connectivity provided by a multitude of intersecting green belts would enable a dense biocenosis throughout the scope of development – enmeshed across the urban fabric of the city. Such biocenosis allows each citizen to access nature without leaving the city, and without isolating nature within the city from nature outside the city. Developing shade is one of the keys to developing such ecosystems in the desert. Imagine if the architecture incorporated shading elements through the entire infrastructure of the city. Such shade is easy to come by if the city is adequately dense, such that the space between buildings is not a “liminal space” but a livable space.

Such simple considerations are not new ideas, and yet a supposedly “futurist” proposal may incorporate such strategies, quietly, while others may scoff at the proposal simply because it also so happens to loudly depict “flying cars” which are in-fact nothing more than helicopters with extra features, rather than some distant fantasy of science fiction.

The bits of information you may have gathered of “Telosa” were likely from a few months ago – prior the more recent presentation titled “Sustainability & Our Environment: A New City Design”. If you watch the new presentation, you will see that there is a lot more to the idea that what has been passed around. Some of the material will seem familiar and will certainly not be unique to “Telosa”. However, the fact is that there exists a billionaire “with” a better idea of how to make a city than the ones conceived by the world’s richest man, or by the world’s richest family, though of course much of that credit belongs to a community* that has already developed around “Telosa”. The touted “inculsivity” of the project may actually be key for the idea to be greater than the man who happens to stand behind it, lest he stand in the way of it.

* Disclaimer: I’m not actually in that community. I’m simply a distant onlooker that tends to give “new ideas” more than a passing glance.

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