Audi Urban Future Award 2012, Metropolis & Mobility Dialogue

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

© Maris Mezulis

a+u: What is your view on mobility in Tokyo?

Peter Schwarzenbauer (PS): From the presentation by Junya Ishigami today at Metropolis & Mobility Dialogue at the Audi Forum at Ingolstadt, it was surprising to learn that most buildings in Tokyo are scrapped and built again in 65 years. You would not imagine how such big city is completely regenerated over a period of generations. It is a dramatic change and dynamic shift in how the city could be reorganized for the future. I think Tokyo is quite different from the other five cities. Mobility in Tokyo has reached a high level by connecting mobility by cars, train and buses. But having said that, in Tokyo at least once I went on train cramped with people, very overloaded in my eyes. And for me being squeezed on a public train or public bus is not the quality of life that people deserve. If you come from the airport and go to downtown Tokyo at the wrong time, you are stuck in traffic just like in any other city. So there are still a huge opportunities to improve in every city around the world, including Tokyo. Mobility is a very difficult riddle for future cities. In many cases around the world, city planning could not sufficiently provide the infrastructure to house public transportation systems and different modes of mobility at the same time. Tokyo is one example, but we could draw lessons from the differences among six different cities from different continents, understanding how cities are made in relationship to mobility and try to see the possibility of improvement for future cities. This is exactly the reason why AUDI AG started this dialogue.

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

© CRIT

a+u: Is there a difference between transportation and a notion of mobility?

PS: I think my interpretation of transportation is that it is just bringing people from point A to B, whereas mobility is really on a different level of being able to be at the place determined by your necessity and desire. We are all busy, we get thousands of kinds of information daily. At the same time we need to be flexible enough to go where you need to be in fluid manner. But we have to organize the usage of automobiles better. If not, if you get stuck in traffic and you move 5 meters and you have to stop again. This is not pleasant. In our future vision, we could introduce automated driving in certain areas of major cities, so the time we spend in car can be used much more productively. When the car takes over its driving function – and technology-wise this is not a big issue, in fact it is better than human because most accidents are caused by human error and not by technological error – you can basically leave the car to do its job during rush hour, and you can use the time either to work, to watch a movie, or whatever you want to do on the road. So I think coming back to the quality of life, that time you spend in your car will be much more meaningful than today. 

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

a+u: Do you believe that the automobile can actually provide solutions and promote a better quality of life in the city of the future, which has to accommodate massive population growth?

PS: There is no black and white solution and the automobile alone can not bring the solution, but we can be more open to an integrated transportation system in the near future. We could choose an appropriate mode of mobility based on special needs with real-time information about traffic conditions. For example, you could get up in the morning and say, ‘Today I have to go from Shibuya to Tokyo,’ you push an app to see what the best option today is under current traffic conditions, weather conditions, whatever it is. And then this app tells you take your bike to X, go to the next station to Y, take the train to Z…. This is your best option today, and will cost you 260 yen. Or the next day, maybe because the conditions are different, take your car and drive directly to the place you have to go. This flexibility and openness in the system we can create in many world cities in the near future. Coming back to the question of the quality of life, surely architects are the ones closest to envisioning the quality of life for individuals, but also it is critical that city planners and mayors address this issue for cities to thrive and stay competitive. Why? Because the quality of life in a city can attract talented people to live there. New York City under Bloomberg did a lot of things to improve the quality of life in the city and attract an influx of talented people, and they keep creating new business. You will see a major competition among the big cities in the world to attract talented people. When this good cycle happens it is a win-win situation and I am positive that we can get architects, planners and politicians behind this whole effort of making the city efficient in the mode of mobility and transportation. 

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

a+u: What do you think about the challenges that new cities will face when everybody wants to own a car where a sense of ownership is associated with economic success but still you face traffic jams?

PS: This question is exactly why AUDI AG is committed to the Urban Future Summit. As an automobile maker we see this dilemma, and we are even trying to understand the nature of this problem in a longer perspective for the company to thrive over the next 100 years. How can we manage traffic while allowing the quality of life associated with car ownership? And you heard today’s presentation by Doreen Liu from the Pearl River delta China. She pointed out that 200 million people will move into the big cities in the next couple of years in the region, and if you go there now, there are already heavy traffic jams. But you cannot tell people, “Sorry, it’s too late and you can’t have a car. You can’t experience individual mobility.” If you look at China now, there are 29 cars for 1,000 inhabitants. In Europe and Japan, we have around 450 to 500 cars for 1,000 habitats. So even developed countries are exceeding limits and logically it is impossible to limit it in China. This is why we have to organize it better. We have to find solutions in order to prevent the collapse of traffic, which we are going to see if we don’t do anything. That is a difficult question. And as I said today, we don’t have the answer, but at least we are open to looking forward. 

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

JA+U : Audi Urban Future Award 2012

Ingolstadt,Germany 16 May 2012

The Audi Urban Future Initiative currently comprises four elements: the ‘Award’, the ‘Summit’, the ‘Insight Team’ and the ‘Research’.

The “Award” was founded as a biannual award in 2010, first presented to Jürgen Mayer H. for his outstanding concept of a networked city.

Participating Architects, Curators:

CRIT, Prasad Khanolkar / Mumbai, India
Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Ana Miljacki / Boston, USA
junya ishigami + associates, Taro Igarashi / Tokyo, Japan
NODE Architecture & Urbanism, Mi You / Pearl River Delta, China
Superpool, Memed Salih Erdener / Istanbul, Turky
Urban-Think Tank, Ligia Nobre / São Paulo, Brazil

Top image of São Paulo by Urban Think Tank