This is part 3 of a three part post called The City is the Office, by Andrew Laing, Director of Strategy for DEGW North America. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

At both the Worktech and Festival of Ideas for the New City conferences, the new city of Songdo in South Korea was cited as an example of the smart city movement.  New kinds of technology are enabling more intelligent forms of urbanism. Yet it seems odd to me that given the sophistication of the technology, the physical architecture looks remarkably familiar.

Why would the provision of amazing new technological infrastructure not transform the architecture of the city? Is the idea that technology is a kind of invisible utility that merely services a conventional  architecture? Like some new kind of sewer system?

A brighter perspective on technology and architecture was brought up in a stimulating workshop led by David Benjamin of The Living  at the Festival of Ideas for the New City. His discussion of “If Buildings Could Talk” explored the potential of embedded technology to enable buildings to communicate, a kind of crossover between architecture, signage, and users. (There is now so much sensor data available, we don’t know what to do with it).

Could we use some of our technology to communicate how buildings are being used (or dare we say under-utilized)? Could users and owners share data, and see where spaces are available for them to use? Could such data be used to enable multi-use, multi-functional activities in buildings over time, increasing their usage, density, and multiplying the variety of activities in the city per square foot per hour? This suggests completely new relationships between space providers and users, perhaps not a bad thing.

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