The dream of a better life in the city – unbroken.

At the beginning of the last century, when a person imagined the city of the future, as this little picture from the Hamburg Postcard Museum shows, the cities had a different appearance than today.

When this future fantasy of the Stollwerck series was born, many workers had to work up to 17 hours a day, their numerous children up to 12 hours. The money earned was only enough for food with luck. Most of the city’s inhabitants were in bad shape during this time. Many emigrated and tried their luck elsewhere. Great hopes often lay in emigration to America.

The first apartment buildings were built in the cities

Many people were now living in apartment buildings. In Berlin the first multi-storey apartment buildings have already been built.

The many children played in the narrow backyards on the street. The apartments were so hopelessly cramped that illness and death were permanent guests.

There has never been car traffic like today. The streets of the big cities were nevertheless busy: with carriages and horse-drawn carriages.

The cities with the highest number of inhabitants were Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden. At that time, London was with 3 million inhabitants the biggest city of Europe.

At that time most people lived in the countryside. However, more and more of them moved to the city in search of better living conditions and soon reversed this relationship.

Even today, cities are still a motor for interests, exchange, innovation, hope and conflict.

The advancing urbanization divides the world – into a small rural and a large urban population.

Cities are becoming the dividing line between different milieus. Due to the rise in the cost of living within cities, increasingly only high earners can afford housing.

Those who have less money are being pushed out of the city and into the countryside. Paradoxically, it is precisely the less affluent who have to bear high mobility costs – usually a car for each family member – as environmentally friendly mobility is reserved for cities.

Cities are the global living space of the future.

By 2050, the United Nations predicts that almost 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. “Quality of life” is the magic word for this trend, which is continuing unabated and will create an enormous imbalance in the global structure.

Metropolitan areas will be confronted with desolate landscapes, as people continue to be drawn to the metropolises in search of quality of life in the form of work, prosperity and self-realization.

Cities today are highly complex entities of layers and structures that are interwoven and mutually dependent. They are development centres and test laboratories, giving birth to megatrends.

In Germany, around 75 percent of the population lives in cities or conurbations. In 1800, about a hundred years before this picture was taken, it was only 25 percent.

Before industrialisation, the cities had the appearance of medieval centres of activity and have since grown into modern locations for production and logistics. As home for the creative class, they are still ranked number 1.

Continue building without land loss.

Moving into the city means immense challenges for the infrastructure and building stock. How to continue to build and offer the residents living space? More and more “redensification” is taking place, i.e. building on old stock because there is no more room for new buildings. There is talk of hybrid use – as in Tokyo – in which residential extensions are built on flat roofs, multi-storey car parks and buildings of all kinds.

The city as a voracious environmental burden

In terms of area, cities cover only two percent of the earth’s surface, but consume 75 percent of the energy required worldwide and produce 80 percent of all greenhouse gases.

The city as a place of collaboration – bottom up instead of top down.

More and more citizens who grew up with the Internet are living in cities. Sharing, exchanging and participating is part of their everyday life. The increasing networking of people also influences urban life. Assemblies, car-sharing models, urban gardening, co-working spaces are all urban ideas and models.

With less and less assets in the city coffers, the importance of the residents as active urban designers is becoming increasingly important. They are crowdfunders, found startups and launch cultural projects. In the process they become designers of their cities.

Cities with a lot of grey hair

For Germany, the Federal Statistical Office predicts that more than 30 percent of the total population will be 65 years and older by 2050. The city will have to adjust to this amount of old people who are demanding quality of life. Completely new supply and mobility concepts will emerge. The city will have to be designed in such a way that care and service will continue to be possible regardless of physical or mental impairment.

Silver flat-sharing communities

Nobody likes to be lonely! This is why completely new forms of housing will be established in the cities. Integrative homes for young and old, offering opportunities for exchange and contact. Flat-sharing communities of older people who support each other – many things are conceivable. One thing is certain: these old people do not want to retire. They are fitter than generations before them and are full of energy, even in old age, and still long for a life with substance. Already today, one can observe that they are becoming the target group for advertising.

So many years lie between urban past and urban future. The world has turned and changed. Some urban problems have been solved, new ones have been added and some are unsolved – such as cramped housing.

Living space and space – there is a lot of that in the country.

Against this background it is not surprising that there is the utopia of the village with the luminosity of a city.

Is this possible – rural life – with the quality of life and opportunities of a city? What are the prerequisites for a counter-trend to urbanisation?

What is necessary to attract creative and energetic people back – to the village?

Learn more about villages with “the luminosity of a city” – in my utopia collector – blog.


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