2012 forecast: urbanism - Issue 49 - Magazine | Monocle

thumbnail text

The face of modern India


Property developers in Mumbai are ploughing €1.4bn into the city’s last major swathe of undeveloped land, as part of a wider plan to move the main business district northward. The city’s centre is currently near the southern edge, making the daily commute for millions of workers extremely difficult.

Upmarket high-rise apartment buildings, offices and retail space will go up on the 23-acre plot in Wadala, a suburb in the centre of the island city. Developers will also dedicate 15 acres to much-needed parks and greenery. “It’s the ideal spot for the creation of a new city centre, given its prime location at the junction of the monorail, metro rail, the new eastern freeway and the existing eastern express highway,” says Kiran Waghmare, managing director of the developers, the Lodha Group.

The group won the right to develop the space in Mumbai’s biggest ever land deal at auction last year, bidding €550m for the right to lease the land for 65 years. One blueprint called for a 101-storey tower but the building had to be scrapped over concerns that civil ­aviation authorities would reject the plan.

Urban planners’ wish list for Mumbai:

  1. Transport: Build a subway network. Construction on three underground lines has begun.
  2. Mainland connection: Link South Mumbai and New Mumbai with a bridge. Direct access would reduce congestion and radically change the city.
  3. Green belt: Reclaim land for a continuous park along the western waterfront.

(Courtesy of Rahul Kadri, urban planning professional and director of Kadri Consultants)


William Fain

Urban designer

Los Angeles

William Fain, partner at LA-based architecture and urban design firm Johnson Fain, discusses the plan for a new urban zone now being built in central China, along the Jin Jiang River in Chengdu. The firm previously designed Beijing’s main business district.

What urban planning challenges does Chengdu face?
It’s expanding so rapidly. There was a time when it was absorbing about one million people a year. There’s been enormous absorption of farmland and relocation and conservation issues are on the minds of authorities.

What thoughts went into the plan for the new district?
The environment, history, the loss of farmland, bringing jobs to where people are instead of forcing them to migrate to the city centre. We had to show them they needed to do something other than obliterate everything.

How did you make the new zone more liveable?
The Chinese are impressed with American car-based urbanisation. We’re trying to concentrate development around existing villages. We’ve also encouraged food tourism. People leave the farms for the city; this is one way to bring people back to the farms.

How fast did you have to work?
Fast enough to stay ahead of the road builders – they were coming down the valley.

Second life

Portugal — TECH

How smart can you make a city if you build it from scratch? Living PlanIT, a US venture led by former Microsoft executive Steve Lewis, will soon break ground on a community it designed to work like a computer operating system.

Dubbed PlanIT Valley, the 17 sq km site in Paredes, northern Portugal, will rely on network-connected sensors to monitor everything from electricity and water use to traffic flow. Real-time data from sensors will help improve energy use at schools and offices and clear congestion along routes used by emergency vehicles.

About 10,000 residents are expected to move in by the second half of 2013, and another 215,000 by 2015. Living PlanIT executive vice president, Shaie Selzer, says people will control hi-tech systems, not vice versa. “People will create the community in their own way.”


766million - Estimated population growth globally 2010—2020
95% - Global population growth (2010—2020) in cities
82.5% - Global population growth (2010—2020) in cities located in developing countries

Branching out

Japan — TREES

Tree planting in cities is about to get a lot more scientific. Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory, funded by Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, are developing a computer simulator that analyses the effect of greenery on temperature. Toyota hopes to take the guesswork out of adding trees and shrubbery by measuring how much each new sapling contributes to shade and water evaporation in an area and lowering temperatures. Toyota says the technology, useful for home- builders and urban planners, could be on the market by late 2012.

Greener cities

South Africa — ECO

South Africa could soon have more energy-efficient cities. In November, it began requiring all new buildings – schools, homes and offices – to have solar water heaters or heat pumps, improved insulation and higher-grade ventilation systems. Tougher green-building laws will be phased in over the next decade. That should ease a dependence on the country’s smoke-belching coal power stations.

Park life


In IBM’s ranking of the world’s worst cities for parking, China and India have few equals. IBM looked at the time taken to find a parking space and the number of tickets issued. Top five: New Delhi, Bangalore, Beijing, Moscow and Shenzhen.

Share on:

X (formerly Twitter)




Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • The Atlantic Shift