Design the meaning: why are we where we are?

Places and areas with identity and meaning are becoming more important in the smart city. Through technology and digitization, we can be everywhere and therefore meaningful places determine where we want to be. Places that respond to the need for authenticity and our preferences for the experience.

Thanks to the internet, everything is always possible everywhere and that makes us flexible. But we are not in multiple places at the same time. We are only in one place: the place where we are most fond of. Because if I can be everywhere, then I am in a place that appeals to me, where I find life the most pleasant or where I can gain a special experience. I want to be where I like to be.

Not only the quality of the place and the intended experience determine my intended behaviour (journey and stay), but the scan that the internet can make in real-time spatial situations. Due to the presence of the internet and our virtual connection with the location, we are always able to zoom in on places of our preference and, if desired, to switch quickly from the preferred location.

The attraction of the place of our preference contains a double message. Places and areas that score highly because of their authenticity, historical significance, use and/or experience value and are easily found, are rapidly increasing on preferred lists of travel and holiday destinations. The same values ​​that attract visitors are under pressure from the large numbers of visitors that are attracted to those values.

Places and areas that lack authenticity and special opportunities for behaviour and experience are a challenge in urban planning. This is a happy message for designers: the tasks in the (smart) city and the spatial renewal in the living environment are given top priority. That makes good design more important than ever. It is up to designers to make choices, to safeguard the main points of the program and beauty, and to materialize the requirements and wishes of stakeholders (residents, entrepreneurs, users). Designers have been doing this for centuries. Because of the global need to develop green, healthy and inclusive cities, there is only a greater need for it. As said, it’s a happy message.

This is a pre-publication of the book “A smart city, this is how you do it – Connected, flexible and meaningful: make the real future city”. With theory in the form of essays. And few practical examples of how our regions, cities and villages have already changed. Want to read more? Go to this page to order the book for free.

The original version of the book is in Dutch, click here to order the original edition. From this book is made an English summary. In the English version, we focus on trends.