The Futures of Cities
Smart Cities - Highlights of MCBW

The results of studies conducted by the United Nations indicate that by 2050 approximately 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in conurbations. Living conditions will be cramped and loud, housing will be stuffy and unaffordable, and people will be aggressive and/or lonely. Even though the challenges are enormous, more and more designers are confronting them and developing innovative solutions that will benefit people and the environment by improving mobility and the cities of tomorrow. New concepts for electro-motorization, home delivery using drones, and carsharing are only some examples. Designers are presenting wholesome architecture and are planting vertical gardens. Why not transform flat roofs into private gardens? Wasteland, walls, or neglected median strips on roads are turned into flower or vegetables beds. Concepts are being proposed for neighborhood gardens, integrative gardens, and kindergartens to become places for experiencing community and nature in the midst of the city – including all the true-to-life consequences.

The downsides to living in urban areas are well known: Gridlock on the roads, air pollution, housing shortages, cultural differences between the indigent and the affluent. What spaces in cities can safely provide room for diversity? Where can diverse opinions and sustainable dialog find room to evolve?

In many cases design is both the solution and the great hope. Design creates and adds value. Design develops true-to-life perspectives and drives sustainability. The six themes of MCBW 2021 will illuminate how design can help shape the future. One of these themes is The Future of Cities.


The development of digital information technologies has changed the way urban spaces are planned and communicated externally. Digital visualization plays an important role including enabling people to imagine the future of cities. The goal is to offer residents and the general public a highly detailed picture of what will be constructed in the surrounding area. Virtual reality (a digital copy of reality) and augmented reality (a fusion of digital and analog experiences) provide companies and clients with an opportunity to explore the future of cities now. In an online lecture offered during MCBW, representatives of the global architecture and urban planning firm SBA will introduce two projects that make big data as well as digital city and climate models tangible for the public.



The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes that have affected our everyday lives in many ways. Social distancing, working from home, and/or keeping calm can be easier to do in a rural setting than in the city. Skyrocketing real-estate prices and scarce housing in major cities are only two factors that make living away from conurbations all the more compelling. At the same time, requirements regarding the design of rural areas are increasing. Is there such a thing as rural design? Is designing rural spaces different from designing urban spaces? What can design and architecture effectuate in rural areas? What options for working creatively do rural areas offer designers? The Rural Design Days taking place during MCBW will include a variety of digital lectures, exhibitions, and workshops about design by and for rural locales.



Who doesn’t miss traveling? Due to the pandemic, taking city trips, the perfect little escape from daily routine, is impossible for the time being. What does not work in reality, however, can be done virtually: The Bavarian metropolis of Munich features an array of sites waiting to be explored visually and the city’s less touristy areas, in particular, are worth seeing. Any city’s infrastructure, for example, has a substantial impact on its economy. A virtual city tour hosted by the Retail Performance Company focuses on retail. How can parking garages double as urban hubs? What ways exist for flagship stores to display the convenience services of comprehensive omni-channel management in combination with brand experience? The virtual tour will take participants to selected stations where they will be provided with insight into the future of retail and into new options for customer journeys.



Every evening during MCBW, a film will be streamed for 24 hours directly on the MCBW Website free of charge. Among them is City Dreamers, a suspense-packed movie made in 2018 which tells the story of four female architects who dedicate their work, their gift for observation, and their thoughts, to the cities of today and tomorrow. Architecture used to be a male-dominated field; women were not accepted into universities or architectural firms until the early 20th century. City Dreamers shows how the four trailblazers and their vision of a more humane urban environment gained access to the established men’s club and created the city of the future. However, architecture remains a men-only domain – for now. Representatives of the architects’ network NXT A – das junge Architektennetzwerk and of the New Monday job portal will give an online lecture about the future of the profession of architecture and will discuss ways to drive gender equality in the construction industry. Due to legal restrictions the movies are only available within Germany!



Gardens offer space to regroup with nature again; they connect topics concerning nutrition, the economy, social issues, art, and urban design. Gardens are testing grounds for future-related issues: What could cities look like and how can encounters be fostered? “Plants are characters. I present them on a stage and use them to compose,” says garden and landscape architect Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands about his artistic approach. Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf is an emphatic and meditative documentary about how our conventional ideas of nature, public spaces, and ultimately beauty, are being upended. Oudolf has radically redefined the nature of gardens. Thomas Piper captures Oudolf’s work in breathtaking pictures that show gardens from the artist’s perspective. The film, produced in 2017, will be presented by NXT A – das junge Architektennetzwerk and will be followed by a digital panel discussion streamed live from the MCBW FORUM.