In 2021, Broadsheet teamed up with Melbourne-based think tank SOON Future Studies to create Future Cities a report based on global consumer data, research and statistics that takes a deep dive into what urban living will look like in the decades to come.
“Last year the themes of our report were smart, social and sustainable,” says Tully Walter, futures strategist at SOON. “This year our research has shown that conversations about what the future will look like in our cities are moving back to innate, biological and ancient drivers. That’s why we’ve chosen to focus the report on the themes of eat, play and love.”
The report – named after Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love – will be released in the coming weeks. It focuses on how two years of a global pandemic, and the climate crisis, have affected our lives. “Our beloved cities have been majorly disrupted,” says Walter. “Ultimately we’re coming back to what binds us together and looking for it where we live – whether it’s in cities, communities or parks.”
Ahead of the release of the report, we asked Walter to share the highlights from each category.
Unsurprisingly, the way we drink and dine in the future is likely to be dictated by the climate crisis. “In 2023 there will be approximately eight billion people on the planet,” says Walter. “We will need more food, but we’re also faced with the complexity of the climate crisis and resource scarcity.” SOON looked at global case studies and forecasts that predict how future food systems and technologies will change the way we drink and dine. “In the report we explore ideas like waste-to-plate dining, upcycled ingredients and the cultivation of new proteins like insects,” says Tully. “We also looked at global case studies and inspiration for embedding circularity into our cities – think restaurant furniture crafted from food waste.” The report also explores how the world is “experience hungry”, naming food cooked in molten lava and robot smoothie stations as the types of things we can expect to see more of.
“We were staggered by the recent insight that 45 per cent of people have not felt true happiness for more than two years,” says Walter. To counter this, SOON predicts a resurgence in nature and childlike activities. The report also highlights recent research into the transformative effects that “mass gatherings” like festivals can have on a person’s social connection and wellbeing. Cities like Copenhagen – which consistently makes the “most liveable” list – are being studied so we can understand what exactly it is that makes the population there so happy. “After a seismic shift to the status quo during the pandemic, what was important to us five years ago has now profoundly changed,” says Walter. “That childhood urge to ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ usually fades with age, but in rediscovering the joys of wide-eyed discovery and sensorial wonder, we can uplift our mood and minds.”
Last year’s report – published right after Australia’s last lockdown – noted that 54 per cent of participants felt their friendship group had shrunk over the last year, with younger people feeling more affected than their older counterparts. This year’s report tells a similar story, with 40 per cent of people saying they feel isolated at work. “We can expect to see our cities reimagined with a sense of compassion,” says Walter. “From neurodivergent design to playlists that support dementia, the gradual detachment from Western-centric and ableist thinking is making its way into design, education and technology.” In terms of love and dating: “What was important to us five years ago has now profoundly changed,” says Walter. “New values from emerging generations are shaping our priorities and preferences. For instance, 86 per cent of [people] were more likely to go on a second date with someone who mentioned they attend therapy on the first date.” New dating apps – like Desti, where users can use profiles to highlight what destinations they want to experience on a first date – are emerging, too.
Join this year’s Future Cities presentation online on Tuesday, November 8. See more details and book tickets